Mitigating disaster risk and downtime for hospitals

In July 2018, Blount Memorial Hospital in Tennessee had a nightmare experience. Their electronic health records (EHR) system was offline for three days. During that time, 90 doctors were unable to access patient records.

Appointments were canceled. People didn’t receive care.

When the whole thing was said and done, the hospital’s board of directors made the decision to invest in a $30,000 backup system to ensure nothing like that would ever happen again.

What’s at risk

Hospitals and other medical services businesses are in a unique position when it comes to disaster recovery and downtime readiness. This isn’t just a matter of lost profits, damage to your reputation, or inconvenience for your employees and customers. The health and wellness of people are at stake.

As a result, every kind of medical services provider has an obligation to go above and beyond to mitigate the risk of downtime and prepare for possible disasters.

Practical measures

In advising these businesses about disaster recovery, the core of our standard advice is the same for hospitals, physician practices and other medical businesses. Prepare. Don’t just wait for disaster to strike. Have a plan.

When it comes to the medical industry, there are specific forms of preparation that are uniquely important. Below are some of the things medical providers should do to lower the risk of downtime and prepare for outages.

Expect downtime

First and foremost, let go of any expectation that downtime won’t happen to you. Your hospital isn’t exempt. Your office isn’t the exception. Downtime happens to just about every business. It can (and will) happen to yours.

That’s an important step in preparation because you won’t take a disaster recovery and downtime plan seriously if you think you’ll never have to use it.

Create a communications plan

A communications plan is essential for any disaster recovery plan. Your doctors and staff need to know whom to contact, how communications will be conducted, which channels will be used for what purpose, and what communication activity is most essential in the event of downtime.

Be specific. Spell out exactly who should be in contact with whom, and make sure everyone knows the plan well ahead of time. Update it when you have changes in your system, your policies and in your personnel, if appropriate.

Develop a downtime toolkit

Downtime toolkits “contain paper copies of clinical documents and procedures to follow when their EHR is not available.” A downtime toolkit may also include a read-only database of patient records as an emergency backup system.

This is a critical resource, but one that absolutely requires the help of an IT consultant. A doctor’s office that deals in non-emergency care may not need a full downtime toolkit, but every hospital should have some kind of system for continuing to provide healthcare, even if the entire local network goes offline.

Consider an on-site fallback generator

On-site generators can help in situations where a power outage is to blame for downtime. However, power outages are only one of several things that can take an IT network offline. While an on-site generator certainly makes sense (particularly for critical care facilities), this alone will not protect your hospital from every form of downtime.

Perform downtime drills

EHR simulation drills will give you an idea of how prepared your hospital’s staff are, and they will give your staff a chance to understand and experience what to expect when the real thing strikes.

As a recent article in EHR Intelligence notes, “Strategizing to fill gaps in care that crop up during EHR downtime simulations can help to reduce the risk of slowdowns, delays, threats to patient harm, or billing problems during real instances of EHR downtime.”

Enlist some help

Finally, no hospital should be without professional help when it comes to downtime readiness and a disaster recovery plan. If your in-house IT department isn’t fully prepared to take on this crucial task, find an IT consultant with experience supporting the healthcare industry to help you and your team.

With the right preparation, downtime won’t stop your hospital or medical practice from providing the care your patients rely on.

Must-have features of video conferencing for UC

Quality video conferencing solutions are essential for most modern-day offices. Web conferencing keeps remote team members engaged, enables seamless collaboration, and connects your business on a more personal basis with partners and clients over the internet.

So, if you’re in the market for an online meeting platform, let’s discuss the six top must-have features.

1. Easy document sharing

Whether you’re chatting with a team member or meeting with a potential client, easy, in-built document sharing is a must. You shouldn’t have to resort to emailing an agenda, presentation, or brochure.

It’s also worth looking for flexible document sharing features as there may be times when you want to share a document with a select segment of video conference participants.

2. Flexible chat

All web conferencing software offers some sort of chat, giving attendees the ability to type messages, share links, and collaborate effectively. But some lack the flexibility to enable specific types of chat. For example, you may wish to send private messages to individual attendees, or you may need to moderate chat messages before they are visible to all participants.

3. Practical reporting tools

Practical reporting tools can give you access to the information you need (such as attendance and typed messages) to optimize your web conferencing practices. Even better, you should be able to export this data to your file sharing platform, a Microsoft Excel format or your CRM system.  

4. Desktop sharing

Screen sharing is an essential part of video conferencing, but it’s not as simple as mirroring your desktop. There are three key factors to consider:

  • Speed. Oftentimes, desktop sharing results in a drastic slowdown of your computer’s performance and can impact the quality and reliability of the video conference.
  • Power. Desktop sharing shouldn’t use up too much of your computer’s CPU, as this can also drastically reduce the quality and experience of your presentation.
  • Accessible. Desktop sharing should pass through most firewalls.

5. No software installs required

If you’re looking to work with an individual or group outside of your team, make it easy and convenient for remote collaborators and attendees to connect via video conferencing.

To do this, opt for a video conferencing platform that allows others to connect in minimal steps. For example, many platforms offer a browser-based option, so outside parties don’t need to download any software onto their devices.

6. Reliability

Reliability is perhaps the most important feature of any web conferencing solution. Regardless of tools and capabilities, if the platform you choose is unable to offer near 100% uptime and automatic correction of connectivity issues, it just isn’t worth it. 

Near-enough isn’t good enough when it comes to video conferencing. After all, what would you do if your video dropped out halfway through an important meeting or webinar?

Bonus tips for finding the right video conferencing solution for your business

Now that you know which features to keep an eye out for, here are some additional tips to ensure the video conferencing solution you choose meets your business needs. Your managed IT services provider can help you work through these tips.

1. How many participants will you be hosting?

Consider how many participants you will likely be hosting on a regular basis. Some services offer a cheaper rate for a web conferencing solution with a smaller attendee capacity. Other services specialize in large groups and options vary accordingly. If you don’t consider the number of participants you’ll be hosting, you could end up paying for features you don’t need or missing the ones you don’t have.

2. What types of meetings will you be hosting?

Do you need video conferencing software to connect remote team members to the central office? Or, do you need video conferencing software to host larger-scale webinars, Q&A forums, or sales presentations? If you host a variety of meeting types, look for a conferencing solution that can cater to all of these needs.

3. Is mobile experience important?

If it’s your remote team you are trying to connect, chances are that mobile compatibility is important. What’s more, if host regular webinars, offering your presentation on mobile could increase your attendance rate.

Benefits of superior business continuity management and how to enhance it

Having a business continuity plan isn’t an option, it’s a necessity. If disaster strikes, you have to get back up and running as soon as possible. As a small business, you can’t afford downtime or its negative impact on your operations and your customers.

That’s why business continuity management is critical. It looks beyond dealing with the emergency itself—whether that’s a natural disaster or cyberattack—and takes into account what is required to get everything up and running again. Business continuity management is more than just a risk management process and data backup, it’s part of having a sustainable, reliable and thriving business.

Benefits of a superior business continuity management plan

Let’s look at some of the key benefits of having a superior business continuity plan.

Reducing financial risk

Consider this—according to a recent survey, 80% of businesses require a guaranteed uptime of 99.99% from their cloud service vendors. This correlates to about an hour of downtime annually, which can cost a business as much as $260,000. The further you can minimize any downtime, the less risk you run of losing money.

Preserving your reputation

Your reputation is on the line. In addition to operating losses, repeated occurrences of downtime can cause erosion of your brand. Your customers and partners could lose confidence in your ability to serve them, damaging your business relationships and referrals.

Delivering on expectations for recovery

With a comprehensive business continuity plan, you can also enable the recovery of mission-critical systems in the agreed timeframe. This sets expectations for your staff, your customers, and others. Having this well documented puts a threshold on what’s an acceptable timeframe to get back up and going. According to a recent ransomware report, 96% of businesses with a plan in place fully recover operations.

Complying with legal obligations

Another benefit is compliance with any legal or statutory obligations. Depending on your industry or the industries you serve, you may have to meet certain guidelines for business continuity. For example, financial firms have more and different regulations than other types of businesses.

Even if you are not legally obligated to meet certain standards, proving to stakeholders that you are running your business responsibly is vital to sustainability.

Offering a competitive edge

Not all your competitors will have the same robust continuity plan that you have. This could be something very important to your customers. Use this to your advantage as a strong differentiator that you have well-designed plan to deal with any disruption quickly and effectively.

How SMBs can build or enhance their business continuity plan

If you don’t have a plan, it’s time to work on one. If you do have one, it can be optimized. For help, contemplate these tips:

Business continuity is NOT the same as disaster recovery

Many companies use these terms interchangeably, but they aren’t the same. Disaster recovery focuses on restoring IT and technical operations. Business continuity is much more broad and detailed and usually includes IT disaster recovery. It outlines procedures and processes to preserve and restore business operations after a disaster, including facilities, communications, human resources, partners, customer service, and more. You need both types of plans ready to go.

Remember your plan should be fluid

Business continuity plans aren’t something you can create and then forget about. Many things will change that will need to be addressed or updated in your plan. You may add more infrastructure or need to comply with new laws. You should revisit your plan regularly to ensure it is still relevant to your current business model and customer commitments. As your company changes, it might be useful for an IT consultant to provide an assessment.

Test your business continuity plan

A plan is great on paper, but what about real life? You need to accommodate testing of your plan, which could include:

  • Table-top exercises: Your team goes through the plan looking for gaps
  • Structured walk-throughs: Every team member does a step-by-step review of what they would do and how to do it
  • Disaster simulation testing: Your team simulates an environment where a real disaster has occurred

Communicate your plan with all

A business continuity plan must be shared with all your employees. It needs to be discussed regularly so your entire team understands its importance.

If you’d like to optimize or build your business continuity plan, you may want help from an IT services and technology provider.

At ISG Technology, we have over seven decades of experience and serve a variety of industries with thousands of clients all over the world. Contact us today to see how we can serve you.

What is hosted PBX?

Hosted PBX systems are becoming popular solutions for many small to medium-sized businesses who want to stay competitive with advanced technology and the opportunities it provides.  Built, delivered and managed by a third-party service provider, hosted PBX is an IP-based telephony solution provisioned and accessed entirely through the Internet.

Basically, a hosted PBX takes your business communications system out of the office and into the cloud. So long as they can connect to the cloud, your employees – no matter where they are – can stay engaged and productive without physical limitations.

Unlike a traditional private branch exchange (PBX) phone system, which requires installation, ongoing maintenance, training, and costly hardware, a hosted PBX takes many of these issues off your shoulders and provides you with an easy to manage, user-friendly service with a wide range of features offering greater flexibility.

Let’s review some of the most valuable benefits for SMBs.

User-controlled settings

Hosted PBX systems provide online web portals where users configure their settings without relying on IT staff support or enduring complicated technical setup. Training time and costs are minimal with more user-friendly portals accessible from desktop computers and laptops as well as tablets and smartphones.

Scalability for multiple locations

If you are still supporting multiple locations with a legacy phone system, that means having to manage each location’s computer box individually, deal with limits on numbers of lines, and handle hardware maintenance for each location. It also means remote employees cannot use the same features available in-office.

Because the management of hosted PBX happens in the cloud, your business is free from the demands of a traditional phone system. You are also free to add or remove lines as needed for any location. As your business needs change and grow, your host PBX system grows with you, but at a lower overall cost.

Seamless collaboration

So long as there is a reliable connection to the cloud, remote or traveling employees can securely access services and features to maintain productivity without ever having to step into the office. Whether you need voice, video or web interaction, the same IP service quality and features keep you in touch and in step with your team and your customers.

Flexible features

Once upon a time, most businesses found it sufficient to have a phone situated in one location with a few standard features such as hold, transfer, conference, and speaker.

Today, remaining competitive often demands the capability to communicate from a variety of locations and channels. A hosted PBX system allows employees to seamlessly make, receive and transfer calls across locations or devices, depending on the situation. Video conferencing can include any number of individuals with ease. Voicemail can be converted to email (or vice versa), allowing all communication information to flow to the channels that make the most sense for your team.

Automatic updates

It can be difficult to keep up with the frequent changes in business technology, not to mention knowing which most benefit your business. Rather than lose that edge, a hosted PBX will keep your communication system current and notify you of improvements to your VoIP phones and related devices.

Upgrades and updates are simple and often automatic. This means not having to engage busy or expensive IT and phone resources to maintain the best service available.

Business continuity

Accidents happen, as do natural disasters, equipment failures, and cyberattacks. Any of these scenarios could result in downtime when on-site hardware is damaged or compromised. Because a hosted PBX operates from secure and redundant data centers, you are far less likely to experience an interruption in business operation or communication due to loss of voice service.

When a physical phone, computer, or other portal device goes down, calls can be quickly rerouted to another device to ensure continuous service.

What to look for…

Look closely at your current capabilities and determine whether those meet your needs either currently or for your future plans.

Some options you will want to consider include:

  • Ability to convert voicemail to email
  • Videoconferencing
  • Ability to make and receive calls on any device in any location
  • Automatic upgrades
  • Ease of configuration
  • Low maintenance

Your first priority should be running and growing your business, not untangling your phone system. With a hosted PBX, you can enjoy high-quality, reliable service with a wide range of useful features while keeping your attention where it belongs.

What to cover in your business continuity plan

What would your company do to maintain operations after a disaster?  

This is an important question to consider, as FEMA states that between 40% and 60% of businesses never reopen after a disaster. Many businesses have a disaster recovery (DR) plan, but that’s not the same as a business continuity (BC) plan. Let’s look at how they’re different – and 6 items your BC plan must cover.

HPE Platinum Partner
Written in Partnership with Hewlett-Packard Enterprise

More than a disaster recovery plan

First things first: while a DR plan is crucial to maintaining data integrity, a BC plan is more than that. Disaster recovery is often integrated into business continuity, but a BC plan specifically looks at how your business will continue to serve its customers during recovery from a disaster or event.  

Know your data centers

Knowing your data centers is crucial. After all, not all disasters happen to a business’s operating location, especially if companies are heavily invested in cloud computing, offsite and virtual servers, and other factors. Make sure you’re aware of your data center’s disaster plan. Do they have multiple fuel providers in case of interruption? Are they geographically diverse so that one disaster won’t wipe out all of their data distribution? Do they have their own safe backups of information? How will they communicate with you in the event of a disaster?  

Knowing these details makes the transition during an issue much smoother.  

Have alternate locations ready

If your primary business location is flattened by a tornado or flooded by a hurricane, where will your employees report to work? Can your customer service reps work from home or other housing using VoIP while facilities are rebuilt? Will your cloud services remain sufficiently secure if your staff need to access them from less secure connections? Can you quickly rent a space in a less damaged area for your most crucial personnel? By building these answers into your BC plan, you will have an easier time responding to any problems.  

Have key information in separate storage facilities

Businesses should have insurance policies, numbers to call in case of disaster, and so forth. Make sure there are copies of these documents stored in multiple locations. Having them in your desk at work won’t be helpful if your building has been destroyed by an earthquake.

HPE Platinum Partner
Written in Partnership with Hewlett-Packard Enterprise

Identify key players and who can assume their roles

Remember the recent case when a cryptocurrency CEO died unexpectedly and took the passwords to his hard drives with him? Roughly $145 million of cryptocurrency disappeared with him since he had the only password to the relevant hard drive.  

Unfortunately, there are unexpected and sudden deaths in the business world. Part of your continuity plan should address key players in the company and consider who would assume their roles until a permanent decision was made. Don’t just assume that a VP can step into the CEO’s role without planning for who will take over the VP’s role as well.  

Engage in regular testing

The most crucial element of any business continuity plan is testing. Companies should start by addressing the plan on paper with all key players to identify any gaps or immediate concerns. Then, they should reality test the plan, addressing it again with any outside stakeholders. If changes are made, it should come back to the table for further discussion. Finally, live-testing a disaster recovery plan will identify any last minute weaknesses. It will also give stakeholders a sense of how a real event would proceed.  

Business continuity plans are crucial to the operation of a successful business. It is often assumed that disasters will happen to other companies; in reality, however, disasters happen to all businesses, sooner or later. What separates those that survive from those that do not is, quite simply, their preparedness.  

To get help designing or refining your business continuity plan, contact your managed services provider today. Power your enterprise with proven, industry-leading IT infrastructure solutions, products, and services with HPE. Find out more here.

The top 4 video conferencing solutions for small businesses

Technology continues to influence how we communicate and do business on a daily basis. Along with already established tools such as email and messaging apps, video conferencing is having a profound effect in meeting rooms across the world. Video conferencing is far more engaging than phone calls or text chat, with participants benefiting from eye contact, body language, and face-to-face interaction.

According to a Forbes Insights survey of over 300 global executives, 62 percent of participants thought video conferencing significantly improved the quality of communication when compared to other tools.

If you’re looking for a video conferencing solution for your SMB, there are lots of great options available, from simple free tools to commercial applications with cloud support, unified communications systems, and file sharing. Let’s take a look at four of the best solutions for small businesses.

1. Google Hangouts

Google Hangouts is a free and easy application aimed at business users. While it lacks many of the advanced features of other platforms, it integrates seamlessly into Gmail and supports group chat, video chat, and VoIP functionality for multiple participants. Perfect for casual conference calls, Hangouts can be used by up to 100 people for group chats and up to 10 people for video calls.

Google Hangouts is a native web-based solution that is divided into two main products: Hangouts Chat, which focuses on instant messaging with additional features, and Hangouts Meet, which focuses on video conferencing with machine learning for automatic scheduling. Hangouts is free for Google+ users, with a monthly subscription also available as part of the G Suite business package.

2. RingCentral Meetings

RingCentral Meetings is a cloud-based communications tool with a strong focus on video conferencing and team collaboration. Features of this platform include interactive screen sharing, one-click scheduling, and integration with big name products by Google and Microsoft among others. This advanced tool has online conference and screen sharing capabilities for up to 100 participants.

RingCentral Meetings can share files and set up tasks among members, with add-ons available for webinars, large meetings, and RingCentral rooms. You can transition between services with ease, including video, text chat, file sharing, web meetings, and other options. There is a free version of Meetings available for new and agile teams, along with Essentials and Advanced packages for growing businesses and large enterprises respectively.

3. Microsoft Teams

While Microsoft Teams might seem like a new product, it is based on the technology and legacy of the popular Skype for Business service. As one of the originators in this sector, Skype had the time and resources to refine its service for business users. Microsoft transformed this service into Teams, which benefits from the scope and security of the Microsoft banner and integrates seamlessly with existing Microsoft products in the Office 365 cloud-based suite.

Microsoft Teams enables text, audio, video, and web conferences, including large-scale live events. You can communicate and collaborate with anyone inside or outside your organization, and customize your workspace to meet your unique needs. Microsoft Teams is available as a free service, with Office 365 Business Premium and Office 365 Enterprise E3 subscription services also available if you need additional capacity.

4. Adobe Connect

This video conferencing solution is one of the more advanced and expensive options on the market. It’s also one of the most comprehensive, with Adobe Connect offering support for presentations, online training, web conferencing, learning modules, virtual classrooms, and desktop sharing. Unlike most other video conferencing services, Connect allows users to edit recorded videos, which is why it’s become such a useful tool in the education and training sector.

Adobe Connect enables custom layouts for a better user experience, giving you complete control over your content and how it’s delivered. From experience-driven learning through to persistent virtual rooms and custom applications, Connect offers so much more than standard video conferencing. While there is a free trial available for Adobe Connect, a monthly or annual subscription is needed to unlock key features.

According to a study by Transparency Market Research, the global video conferencing market is expected to be worth more than $10,500 million by 2026. There’s never been a better time to adopt these powerful tools for the benefit of your organization.

How to build a disaster management plan

Computers and IT systems are integral to every part of a business, with downtime and disruptions likely to cause productivity losses and economic damage. Whether it’s a natural event, a cyber attack, or simple human error, when disaster strikes, solutions are needed fast. In the context of IT, a disaster management plan is a set of strategies and procedures that attempt to restore hardware, software, and data in order to ensure fast and effective business recovery.

Benefits of a disaster management plan

An IT disaster management plan should always be developed to ensure fast and effective recovery. While data backup is an important part of this process, additional measures need to be taken to ensure compliance and the continuity of critical business systems. When implemented alongside a continuity plan using accurate information from a business impact analysis, disaster management has the ability to reduce data losses, minimize downtime, and promote a healthy business reputation.

Actionable steps to ensure containment and recovery

Managing an IT disaster is a complex and challenging task, with many issues to consider and lots on the line if something goes wrong. Success depends on organization and management before, during, and after the disaster takes place. While being able to react effectively to a situation is crucial, proactive measures are just as important. From carrying out a business impact analysis and documenting risk assessment through to containment and recovery, let’s take a look at the steps you need to take.

1. Business impact analysis

A comprehensive business impact analysis lies at the heart of every successful disaster management plan. It’s no use waiting until disaster strikes. An impact analysis will allow you to research the potential impact of disaster events. Businesses that understand how much they have to lose are much less likely to fail when a disruption occurs.

An analysis is responsible for identifying critical business functions, measuring impact events, and defining recovery strategies. Generally carried out before a risk assessment, this analysis defines critical systems and quantifies internal and external risks that may affect business data and processes.

2. Risk assessment

Once a business impact analysis has been conducted, it’s time to carry out an IT risk assessment. While these two processes are linked, a risk assessment is more concerned with describing potential threats and measuring their likely impact on business processes and resources. A business impact analysis defines your potential losses, and a risk assessment identifies and quantifies actual disaster events. Successful disaster management requires both of these steps, with businesses able to dedicate resources more effectively when they link specific disasters with specific outcomes.

3. Respond quickly and contain

While planning and organization are all well and good, action is more important than anything else when disaster strikes. Having the ability to respond quickly and effectively is critical before additional problems develop. Check on people first if a natural disaster strikes, review physical damage to computer and network resources, and ensure open communication channels at all times. The extent of data loss often depends on how quickly you respond and contain the threat.

4. Recover and minimize downtime

When the actual threat has been neutralized, it’s important to stay calm and recover quickly according to your established plan. It’s important to stay productive if possible, with some businesses able to carry out manual operations, communicate via telephone rather than computer, or initialize cloud-based backup solutions.

According to Wikibon, enterprise cloud spending is predicted to grow by 16 percent annually between 2016 and 2026. It’s important to distinguish between internal recovery and cloud-based recovery, and get access to critical business systems as quickly as possible. Downtime represents the most significant cost of disaster events, at an average of $5,600 per minute according to Gartner.

5. Protect your business reputation

An IT disaster has the potential to adversely affect your reputation, especially if it’s linked to cybercrime or network security breaches. It’s important to be proactive after a disruption event and do everything you can to protect your reputation. Regular and ongoing communication with customers and other stakeholders plays a big role at this stage, so keep people in the loop and be honest about the situation. With the right preparation and the ability to respond quickly when disaster occurs, any business can face their challenges head-on and emerge with something resembling a smile.

4 solid file sharing options for SMBs

Today’s businesses rely on digital files for storing and organizing almost all of their important information. In order to be truly useful, though, these files must be easily transferable. This is where file sharing solutions come into play.
Here’s what you should know about file sharing and some of the top solutions that can help your SMB effectively manage and share its files.

What is file sharing?

While it can refer more generally to any method used to transfer digital files from one location to another, the term file sharing is usually applied to specific applications that run in the cloud. Cloud file sharing systems can be used to give authorized users remote access to files stored on cloud servers.
While cloud file sharing solutions are excellent for giving your employees easy access to important files and facilitating collaboration, they also have the potential to come with cybersecurity risks.
With less direct control over your company’s data and the risk of unsecured devices being used to access files, the use of these applications requires careful supervision to maintain cybersecurity. With strong encryption standards and adherence to a robust security policy, though, cloud file sharing can be perfectly safe.
For the next several years, it is expected that at least 95 percent of cloud security breaches will be directly caused by failures on the part of customers.

Four file sharing services to consider

There are many cloud file sharing services currently available, but a few stand out as the major service providers in the market. Following are four of the go-to services that SMB owners new to file sharing may want to consider.

Dropbox Business

With 300,000 business teams and 500 million total users, Dropbox is one of the most popular web services in existence today. Owing to its ease of use and user-friendly integration with device operating systems, Dropbox is a service preferred by many consumers and enterprise-level users alike.

Google Drive

Google’s answer to independent services like Dropbox, Google Drive is a file sharing service with nearly 1 billion users. Google drive offers large amounts of storage space for files at relatively low costs and integrates smoothly with a range of third-party applications, making it a good solution for businesses in need of a cloud file sharing service.
Drive also integrates with other Google products, allowing users to save files from services such as Gmail and Google Photos to their Drive accounts.

Microsoft OneDrive

Like Google, Microsoft has jumped into the cloud file sharing market with its OneDrive service. OneDrive interfaces seamlessly with the Windows operating system and comes standard as part of the latest versions.
Microsoft Office 365, a favorite suite of tools among enterprise-level businesses, is also integrated with OneDrive, allowing users to easily move files out of tools in the Office 365 suite and into storage in OneDrive.

ShareFile

Rounding out the list of the top file sharing options is ShareFile. With ShareFile, business users can protect their files with a range of security precautions that include 256-bit AES encryption, virus scanning and even a remote file deletion feature in the event a company device is lost or stolen.
Thanks to its 100GB maximum size, ShareFile is also a good solution for storing, sharing and accessing large files.

A final word

These are just some of the many file sharing options in the marketplace today. When using these services, it’s important to remain aware of possible cybersecurity vulnerabilities on your end.
Used correctly, though, these file sharing services can help your company remain secure, efficient and flexible in an increasingly data-driven business landscape.

The down & dirty guide on developing a backup strategy

People who run small businesses have a huge number of tasks to attend to every day, from hiring decisions to customer service to budget reviews. So, preparing for data loss can get lost in the shuffle.

After all, the notion that your company could lose all of its data might seem far-fetched, especially if you have defensive security precautions like antivirus software in place. You might conclude that your time is better spent focusing on products, services and day-to-day management duties.

However, data loss afflicts companies of all sizes, including those that seem secure. And, once your customer, employee or business information is compromised or lost, restoring it can be nearly impossible. Daily operations and transactions can immediately come to a standstill, and you could go out of business in a short period. In other words, disaster planning is critical.

There are quite a few scenarios that can lead to data loss, so understanding the most common ones is an important first step. Let’s look at a few.

Physical server destruction

A natural disaster like an earthquake or hurricane could demolish your server environment, wiping out your data in the process. Furthermore, even without a natural disaster, the building it’s located in could suffer a fire, flooding or roof collapse, damaging the hardware that carries your critical files and systems.

Ransomware

Ransomware is becoming more and more common. When malware strikes a company’s digital infrastructure, it encrypts all of its data, rendering that material unusable. To get the perpetrators to unencrypt the data, the business must pay a sizable ransom, most likely with a cryptocurrency. Even if the payment is made, however, there is no guarantee the criminals will make good on restoring the seized data.

Errors and malfunctions

Employee error is a major cause of data loss. It’s all too easy for a worker, especially someone who’s tired or whose mind is elsewhere, to accidentally delete or overwrite a crucial file. A staff member could also physically damage a file by, say, spilling coffee on a laptop, exposing a machine to a power surge, or dropping an important computer.
In addition, hardware can fail. Software can be corrupted. A system could crash. The power could go out before a certain file is saved. Even if you ultimately recovered your data after such an event, you’d still have to face a costly stretch of downtime.

Choosing a data backup strategy

With all of these dangers lurking, it’s good business practice to develop a data backup plan as soon as possible. Your backup data could be stored in the cloud, a vast system of secure virtual servers. And, as you’re sending your private information to the cloud, it can be encrypted to prevent outsiders from viewing it en route.

Another possibility is copying your data to onsite hard drives, which would remain locked in a climate-controlled, restricted-access storage facility. This option is economical and makes your data easily accessible, but you’d still have to worry about a natural disaster or other calamity striking your storage unit.

Of course, you don’t have to choose between these courses of action. The best strategy is to ensure redundant backups across different locations and methods, including the cloud and a secondary, on-premises server. Depending on your priorities and needs, you can update your approach based on latest trends in backup.

Moreover, you needn’t make this decision on your own. Instead, IT managed service providers can analyze your network and your business needs, walk you through your various options, ensure that your disaster plans don’t have any major flaws and help you determine the best backup solution for your company.

In the end, there are many reasons to develop a strategy for data backup, including regulatory compliance and simple peace of mind. The information you collect and curate over time makes all of your business operations possible. No entrepreneur should ever have to discover that, in an instant, it’s all disappeared.

Crafting the perfect voicemail greetings (examples inside!)

In a world of unified communications, video conferencing, bring-your-own-devices-to-work policies and other cutting-edge communications, the voicemail message remains essential. It’s a unique calling card.
If your greeting is engaging, callers are liable to be impressed, perhaps at a subconscious level. If, however, you come across as fuzzy or long-winded, you may plant seeds of doubt about your professionalism.
With that in mind, here are some tips and scripts for voicemail excellence. You might even make voicemail recording lessons part of your standard employee training.

Be concise

Make your message crisp and to the point. Say hello, and state your name, your business name and, if you want, your job title. Relay that you’re out of the office or away from your phone. If you choose, provide your email address or another company phone number for urgent requests.
Then request any information the caller should leave for you. Most likely, you’ll want the person’s name, phone number and their reason for calling.
You might give the caller an idea of when you’ll return the call, but you don’t have to. It would be worse to provide a time frame you aren’t able to meet, so don’t overpromise.

Be warm

It’s best to avoid a monotone. Although you’re presenting basic facts, try to sound genial and somewhat enthusiastic. As you’re reciting your message, you might smile and think of something that makes you happy – a recent skiing trip, for example – or pretend that you’re speaking to an old friend.

Be serious

Going for voicemail humor is rarely a good idea. To those who call you repeatedly, your message will quickly lose its charm. A caller with a different sense of humor may misunderstand you. And for someone calling you in an emergency, your attempt at wit could seem dreadfully out of place.

Speak clearly

Before you record your voicemail, practice your lines a few times so the words are familiar. Find a happy medium between rushed and drawn out. And, if you trip over your tongue as you record, just start over.
When you’re done, play your message back. Is each word audible? Better yet, ask a few colleagues or friends to listen to it if you are unsure. Can they hear everything you say easily? Do they have any other useful feedback?

Sample scripts

  1. Hello, you’ve reached Jim Jimby, vice president of customer success at Winning at Life Industries. I’ll be out of the office until [date returning]. Please leave your name, number and reason for calling at the beep, and I’ll be happy to return your call when I’m back. For anything urgent in my absence, please contact our main call center. Thank you!
  2. Hi, this is Sarah Sarahson at Awesome Technologies. If you leave me your name and phone number, I’ll get back to you as soon as possible. And, if you need assistance right away, please call our main helpline at 1-800-555-1234. Have a great day!
  3. Thanks for calling. This is Willie Williams at Sweat It Out Fitness. I’ll be away from my desk today but please feel free to leave a message with your name and number. You can also email me at Willie@hugemuscles.com. We look forward to serving you.

Whether your work phone is a mobile phone, a landline or a wearable, your voicemail recordings are important. If you can do relatively simple things like voicemail messages professionally, consumers will be more likely to consider trusting you with more important things – like securing their sensitive data. Every voicemail becomes part of your brand.