In the first part of my blog I looked at how you can utilise backups, recovery and alternative power supplies to keep your organisation going in a crisis.
In this second part, I'll be looking at the role email, the cloud, remote access and internet connectivity play in keep you up and running.
If your server is offline for a period of time, it is often not just your documents which are affected.
It's common for businesses to host their emails on an in-house Microsoft Exchange server. This is great because it gives users fast, secure emails as well as additional features such as synced contacts and shared calendars. One downside is that it needs your server to be online to send and receive emails. If the server is offline for any amount of time because of a power failure, hardware problem or internet issues, any emails sent to your company will not be delivered and are likely to be lost. If your Exchange server is offline for an extended period of time this can lead to a considerable amount of lost emails, some of which my lead to lost business and revenue.
Protect your emails
Multiple Exchange servers
Larger companies often opt to have multiple Exchange servers and multiple internet lines. This provides protection from internet failures and hardware issues, however you would need multiple offices to protect from disasters such as flooding and fire. This type of solution can be very expensive and is more suited to enterprise organisations.
Smaller companies might want to host their emails in the cloud, using services such as Microsoft Office 365. This gives you all the features of an in-house Exchange server e.g. shared calendars and contacts, but all data would be stored on a number of 3rd party servers providing protection from hardware issues and damage to offices. However, users would still need access to the internet to use their emails.
You could purchase an MX backup service which would work alongside your in-house Exchange server. This works by checking the connection to your server and if a connection to your server cannot be established, emails will be stored on secure 3rd party server. Emails will be held here until your server comes back online, at which point they will be redelivered and will arrive in your inbox as normal. It is also possible to access these emails via a web console whilst your server is offline. It's easy to implement, doesn't involve any downtime and ensures that your business doesn't lose critical emails if your network has any problems.
I've already mentioned the Cloud, but it's not just hosting emails where it comes in handy! More and more businesses are moving their whole business to the cloud, and one of the key benefits is the ability to store business-critical documents.
Documents can be shared with users as needed and accessed in the same way as local documents, and are backed up regularly. Your most-used software can be hosted online with solutions such as Office Web Apps and Sage Online. A cloud setup is an excellent way to secure your business from theft, hardware failure, natural disaster and office damage, and as long as users have access to the internet it can be business as usual. For this to be effective on a day-to-day basis, you need to ensure that your internet connection is both fast and robust.
It's not always problems with equipment that stop a business from functioning. Often the systems are up and running, but the people just can't make it to the office! If you can provide them with access to their important resources from home, it means the day isn't wasted and they can work as normal.
Providing users with remote access can be done either via remote web access, allowing them to access emails and shared documents from a webpage, or through a Virtual Private Network (VPN). A VPN connection can allow a user's computer to connect to the network in exactly the same way as if it was in the office.
A terminal server can also be utilised for work from inside the office and can be a really good, all-round solution because it allows users to access all company resources, including software, through a remote connection.
All of these solutions provide the flexibility to work remotely, whether you're stuck at home due to heavy snow or simply working from a customer's site.
Internet has become as essential as electricity for many organisations, but many still do not have a fast, reliable internet connection.
When it comes to ensuring your internet connection is reliable and suitable for your business there are two main options. You may opt to supplement your main line with a backup connection. This line can be used to load-balance your internet traffic and also to provide a secondary route for emails and network traffic in the event that your main line goes offline. This can often be a relatively inexpensive option which gives you an extra level of redundancy, however as these lines are likely to come from the same broadband exchange they can often both be affected by any service issues.
The alternative is to purchase a business class line with a fixed Service Level Agreement (SLA). If you have a dedicated line straight to your premises, the SLA response time is usually very quick and there is often financial compensation if problems persist and business is lost. There are a number of broadband options which will provide a fast and robust solution.
With more and more organisations relying on IT for a large part of their activity, the cost of any downtime can be significant. However, I hope you can see that there are a number of solutions which can be put in to protect your organisation from disaster. As with all ‘insurance', it's important to implement this before it's too late and if you need any advice about any of these solutions then please do get in touch.