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16 Ways to Be Prepared for Technology Failure19 Sep

Someday you are going to have to recover from a failed hard drive, stolen laptop, server failure, or some other permanent loss of your technology assets. It’s inevitable, so you might as well take steps today to minimize the impact.

Here are 16 ways you can make that experience as painless as possible:

Use redirected folders to store files on a server instead of local PCs and laptops
My laptop is setup so that my “My Documents” folder is actually stored on my server. All those files are synchronized locally, though. So I can work as normal when I’m not sitting at my desk. If anything happens to my laptop, I’m only at risk for losing those files I’ve created or changed since I last connected to my network.

Use thin client PCs or Terminal Services
If you have an environment that’s highly dependent on data entry or transaction processing, a thin client PC may work well for you. All the data and systems exist on the central server and not your PCs. So thin clients are cheap and easy to swap out if needed. Microsoft Terminal Services is another option to shift computing requirements your central server.

Backup PCs and laptops regularly
Even if you use redirected folders or Terminal Services, there may still be some files on your local PCs that you’ll want backed up. For example, Outlook doesn’t work well with the mailbox file redirected to a server. So every week, I still backup certain files to my server. I’ve got this scheduled so I never have to remember to do it.

Keep a spare PC or laptop available
If you’re doing a bulk order for your SMB, order one extra to have when it’s needed. If my laptop goes down, I’m going to be out of commission for a couple days. But when I upgrade my laptop next year, I’ll keep this one around as a spare.

Move business critical applications off your old PCs and servers
Every business has those old PCs sitting around that only do a couple very important things. If those things don’t happen, somebody (a client, customer, partner) is affected. Yet it’s never the right time to move those applications to more stable resources. Just suck it up and do it. You’ll sleep better at night.

Configure your server disks with RAID
This is a no brainer. When you order a server, make sure you’ve got some type of disk redundancy. There are many different ways to configure this. Get help from an expert on what makes the most sense for you.

Install virtualization software on your servers
Server virtualization allows you to run multiple servers on one physical box. Everything about the virtual server is stored in one big file. So if you back that file up, and your physical box gets destroyed, you can restore your virtual servers onto any other box and be back up running in no time. Check out the solutions from VMWare and Microsoft.

Use a remote offsite backup service
There are many options to backup your files to a server connected to the internet. If you just have a PC or two and no servers, XDrive or Carbonite could work well. If you’ve got more PCs and some servers to backup, checkout the options from iBackup. PC World did a review of 17 online backup services last year.

Purchase a tape backup system and make sure backup tapes are taken off site at least weekly (preferably daily)
An alternative to online backup is to get a tape backup system. These systems backup your servers and PCs on a scheduled basis. Then you can have the tapes stored off-site somewhere safe. If you’re highly transactional and generate a lot of data, daily is best. If you only take your backups off-site weekly, then have them run overnight during the week. Then you can grab the tape when you leave the next day instead of having the tape sit in the backup system over the weekend.

Maintain an inventory of technology assets (hardware and software)
If a laptop or other property is stolen, you’ll need to know details about the equipment for insurance purposes. But you’ll also need software installation CDs, serial numbers, license codes, etc. Having this information compiled in one place will make your recovery efforts much simpler.

Use hosted services where appropriate
If hosted services such as Salesforce or NetSuite fit your business, you’ll be much less impacted by local technology issues. You can begin work again anywhere you can get an internet connection.

Use server performance monitoring software
Network monitoring software such as OpManager can help you identify trouble spots before they become a big problem.

Automate server and PC maintenance
Use the built-in Windows Scheduler to schedule Disk Defragmenter, Disk Cleanup and Check Disk on your PC. It’s easy to do. Verify with your system administrator or Managed Service Provider that server maintenance occurs regularly.

Automate/streamline PC setup
If you purchase PCs regularly, having a standard PC setup is essential. No matter how good a person’s memory is, they’re not going to setup two PCs exactly the same. A network administrator I used to work with reduced the time to get a new PC up and running from 3 hours to 20 minutes. Not only was that faster, but when a PC needed to be rebuilt or replaced, the user was back up and running in minutes with a PC that looked exactly like what they had.

Partner with other firms for continuity planning
If you belong to a cooperative association of similar businesses, chances are that some of them are using the same core systems you do. Arrange an agreement to help each other out in the event of a major catastrophe. For example, your partner may allow you to restore your core systems to their servers temporarily while you arrange for more permanent hardware replacements.

Understand your vendor SLAs
Know what your warranties are and what service levels you can expect in an emergency. If you absolutely can’t wait 4 hours for a response when you have a problem, you need to pay more for support. And keep documentation on how to engage your vendors in the event of an emergency.

That’s my list. Some are simple, other require some technical assistance. But implementing the right mix can help make sure you won’t be scrambling when your next PC or server dies.

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