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For this episode of Ecoffee with Experts, Matt Fraser chats with Ron Horner, Founder and President of Horner Consulting and Publishing. Ron sets forth the essentials for organizations to plan ahead of time and set up data backup solutions to fight unprecedented situations. Watch now for some great insights.
Finding the right fit for your organization may take some homework, but don’t worry about being the expert. You can ultimately benefit from bringing in experts like all other companies.
Thank you for having me.
I think no matter what size business you have, it’s very important. More so for the small business, you’re talking about a shop that’s only a single person. If there’s any way they can find ways to automate their processes or ensure their data is protected and secured.
We certainly talked about backup and recovery. There’s also security that we have to consider concerning ourselves with, making sure that nobody is breaking into our computers, nobody’s tapping information from us, that type of thing. And just overall, current maintenance in a way. I always hear, hey, my computers are running slow. What can I do? So having that agreement with somebody to come in, whether remotely or on-site, to look at your systems and see what’s happening. Maybe some things need to be cleaned up and improved. That way, you can focus as the business owner on making your business great instead of having one more thing to worry about, meaning your computer systems.
I think sometimes they are. But, again, most small businesses are single-person shops, maybe two people at most. And they’re juggling so many things in the air that IT, computers, and technology are the last things they’re thinking about. They’re just thinking about keeping their doors open, making their sales and whatnot, and ensuring they have what they need to conduct business. So a lot of times, they’re looking at technology to make things better or to make sure that the technology they do have is working to their expectations fall short.
Well, I think the more obvious would be in the networking circles and finding out who does IT in your area. So, it could be another mom-and-pop shop that happens to specialize in technology, or maybe it is a small firm that they could get connected with and try to make sure that they take care of all of their technology needs. So I think, for the most part, that’s a good way to start. So you have to do a little homework to ensure that the IT entity is a good fit for you and that they’re willing to sit down with you to understand your business from the technology standpoint and can be there for you when you need them.
I think the one I have come across lately, and this is not a slam against social media. I’m on social media, and I enjoy being there. And it’s a great way to communicate with new and current clients. So many believe that if I have a presence on Facebook, for example, that’s all my internet needs. And the fact of the matter is that Facebook is very dynamic. For instance, if something changes on Facebook, that can take you out of the game as far as being on the internet. I firmly believe that if you have your website, you can control the content and never worry about it going away. That’s one less thing you have to worry about. It’s your 24/7 advertisement. But you can still have the luxury of communicating with your clients, new and old, through other social media means, whether it’s Facebook, Instagram, or what you have. So that’s the one thing that I run into a lot. So for more computer needs, the thing that I run into a lot is, that I’ll be at an event or somewhere, and some people have businesses that I know, and instead of getting into a formalized situation, it’s the doctor syndrome. I know you’re a doctor, so I’m going to come to you and say; Hey, I’ve got pain right here. Can you help me out? Can you diagnose it on the spot? I have people that come up to me and say, hey, my computers are running slow, or this is going on, or I need to install this particular piece of software. Can you help me figure it out? Instead of getting into a formalized agreement, we can say – Okay, I will be your IT organization. I will come in and do whatever you need me to do, and in a fashion that you don’t have to worry about. You let me know what you need, and we’ll take care of it under a service or service level agreement. And then, that way, you’re secure in the knowledge that your technology is being taken care of. But unfortunately, the big companies, the medium-sized companies, they all have IT departments that take care of that stuff. Whereas the small purveyor than the small business, they don’t have that. And a lot of times, they wind up going to friends, relatives, or people that they know as opposed to having that agreement, hooking up with an IT agency and saying, Hey, this is going on, or the agency saying, Hey, I’m detecting something’s going on, I would like to come in and take a look at it.
Well, when you first decide that you want to go into this direction, bring that person or that company in and have them look over your business and see what areas they can take care of currently. Key things for me are backup, recovery, and security. If it’s a situation where computers are running slow, the network is running slow, that’s not a regular occurrence, but more so, making sure that your data is protected. So, what procedures are required if you have to back to a backup? At the same time, make sure the bad guys can’t get into your data?
I go back to the big corporate concept of ensuring that your data is copied on a medium that can be transported away from your location. The fact that I can copy my Word documents onto a thumb drive and then leave the thumb drive sitting on my desk that happens to be saved three inches away from my computer doesn’t do me any good if the building burns down. If I make that copy and take that thumb drive home, it does me far better that way. Because I know I have the documents, or at least away from my brick-and-mortar office and business. And then if I have to recreate those documents or recover those documents, I know I’ve got the same drive at home, let me deal with replacing the computer, and then I’ll bring this thumb drive in and recopy all those documents back on to my new computer.
I think they’re fantastic. I use Google Drive myself, and I think they work very well and give you the ability to say, Okay, I want you to copy these folders at a certain time of day. And because Google’s off-site, it automatically puts them off-site. So if I need them, for some reason, I can always bring them back down. But have something scheduled on your computer that takes care of that copy, so you don’t even have to think about it.
I think that if you’re doing work on documents on Google’s turf, in a way, you’re using the Google tools. I like to have multiple copies of documents, or files in general, just because it’s a good safe way of knowing that somewhere in the mix, I’ve got a copy of that document. So, if you’re working directly on a document or a file, you should still duplicate it, even if it’s on your Google Drive, just to play it safe because you never know. And sometimes, there are too many moving parts, and it’s better to be safe and smart.
That could very well be a strategy. If that’s going to be the case, I would almost recommend that you have your personal computer do the heavy lifting. In other words, have your personal computer be the point of origin because you can still do updates and things using the Google tools that way. But make sure that you have the original, whether it brings it back from the Google Drive, and then have your computer and the one box applications, do that additional copy away from your computer off to their servers. So they don’t necessarily communicate together very well. So you’ve got to have that third party, in a sense, to take care of that for you.
I have one. I’m a big-time supporter. If you’re in a situation where you have to share data across offices or even within the same room, but multiple PCs and multiple devices and NASs work great for that, and you can get far more storage on a NAS than you would an actual regular PC.
I use the Seagate brand. They have a type of product called My cloud, which simulates a cloud-like environment in your home to the point where you can have it configured in such a way so that not only the PCs in your home have access to it but also mobile devices.
Well, I think the biggest thing is you’ve got to get the data away from you as far as possible. And I know there are technologies out there, Google Drive, Microsoft products, Azure, and even Amazon Web Services, that are now touting the ability to back up your files onto their servers. That way, you still have access to your data. But it’s away from you, in case something goes wrong. And the key thing is to get it into a safe place that nobody else can touch it but you. And if something terrible happens, you can always recover from it.
Well, I prefer to keep the NAS drive on the network you’re working with the most. Does that make any sense? And then, in terms of backing up, I would say, utilize Google Drive. Or there are also third-party backup services that will come in remotely through the internet at scheduled intervals, make copies of those files, and take them off-site to the internet.
I know the way I configure my NAS. When I go to my PC, I see the NAS as a separate drive. So it’s not necessarily a separate entity. Doing that makes it easier for the cloud application to pull those files from the NAS because it’s considered an additional drive to your PC. And you say, okay, cloud duplication application, I want you to take these files and copy them off onto the internet. Makes it very simple to deal with.
Oh. There are many options on what you can do to stay redundant and ensure that you always have access to your data and that there are copies of copies upon copies of data. You can have multiple Google accounts, the Google box or Google Drive, and another lockbox solution. So there are plenty of options to be able to do that.
Again, I’m a big believer in Google. I tend to lean that way because I also have an Android. So if you have an Android nine times out of ten, you believe in Google. That’s the way I would go, mostly because I haven’t seen any other situations where they preferred something other than Google getting into a discussion. But the other thing is that we also have to speak; are we just copying files, or are we backing up our entire PC? If we are talking about backing up the entire PC, we may want to look into a solution where it is a true-to-life archival tool, and plenty is out there. Unfortunately, their names skip me right now. But some solutions will make a mirror image of your PC entirely and take it off-site where it’s copied over the internet. There are several solutions out there for that. So I also look at the volume situation of what you’re trying to backup, if you’re just backing up some files or several files, a Google Drive is not bad. So if you’re trying to mirror your entire PC, we have to look into a heavier-duty solution. But it’s still the same construct. So it’s just that you’re sending more volume of files and data over the internet.
The strategy I go with is something you alluded to, the incremental backup. Where we start, you take a full backup of your entire system. And then, from that point moving forward, all you’re doing is essentially backing up those files that have been touched since that full backup. So I would suggest doing a full backup once a month and then, during the month, do incremental backups. Then that way, you’ve always got that full backup, as I call it, you’ve always got your way home. But then, you’re only backing up those files that have been touched since the last full backup. So as far as tools go, the requirements I’ve had to fulfill have been more on the file level and not very much on the PC level. So I’m not sure of the tool sets that are available out there.
I’m sorry, I’m not.
It’s a hard road to go down because I know for myself, I have that packrat mentality of okay, I may not necessarily need it on my immediate computer, but I’d still like to have it someplace just in case I need to go back. I think we have to buy into the notion of, say, we don’t use a file for a certain period, and we tell the maintenance routines that go out to say, Okay, if I haven’t touched this file in six months, make it go away. That’s always an option. Or, if you want to have that packrat mentality and keep every file, picture, and whatnot, you can also do that. Unfortunately, though, eventually, it will hit the pocketbook because somebody somewhere is going to say, yeah, no, you need to buy just a little bit more space for the number of files you have out there. So you’re going to have to pay somewhere. So either you’re paying for the additional space or the time to delete the stuff you don’t use. So it’s just a matter of which area you’ll have to pay into.
I think the key thing is if you do that, that’s more syncing than anything else. I suggest you do a true-to-life backup scenario, don’t have that same backup or any other process, and delete anything. Because the core issue is that if you’re looking to create backups, it’s not so much that you’re keeping a file, document, picture, whatever, someplace else to be used elsewhere. You’re making that backup for recovery purposes. And you never want to delete from your recovery source. That’s one area. The other area is if you’re just putting files someplace. So say, it’s easy for me to take a picture on my phone and then go to my computer, go into Google Drive and pick up that same file that was synced from my phone. That’s a different method of use. So I think we have to make a clear distinction. Are we backing data for recovery purposes, or are we just simply copying our data to a third party somewhere, where I can access it later on through a different device?
Usually, with recovery, the idea is that, hopefully, you never have to. That means you’re lucky enough never to have any tragic situation. But if you have to recover data, the service you’re connected to will provide you with a means to make that recovery. If you have to recover a file and it happens to be on google drive somewhere. That’s easy enough. You log into Google, go into Google Drive, pick the file you want to download to your PC, and it will download it for you. It’s very simple. When you’re going into a backup service, there might be a few more hoops to jump through because they store the files. But that would have to be something you would work out with them when selecting that backup provider. They would give you a program to run that would potentially access your area within the massive hard drives or hard drives they have. And then, you would select whatever files you would need.
Thinking they don’t have to do it. Thinking that it’s not something I can think about right now. Whereas the reality is, it’s probably one of the first and most critical things to think about. Because you got to look at it from their perspective, they’re busy working their business. They’re busy trying to improve their business. They don’t necessarily have the time to worry about technology. But the problem is like with a business plan that every business should have, technology plays a part in them. So, if you’re in for a penny, you’re in for a pound. If you use a computer for your finances or other business, you must think about the what if. What if my computer decides to go nuts and shuts down? Or what happens if my brick-and-mortar burns down? Or there’s some other natural catastrophe that happens? How am I going to rebuild my business? And it has to be part of the thought process of – what if? And unfortunately, I find many small businesses that are not in the realm of discussion.
Unfortunately, many of them are out there. It’s the last thing they ever thought about. I lean towards the natural disaster side because I have come across businesses that say we’ve had a fire, whether in the room with the computer and the electronics or the entire building burns down. So they are trying to piece things back together. For the Insurance that having a backup strategy would have given them, it was the last thing on their mind, and they had a hard time rebuilding the business. I am thinking of this one example: they were a graphics design company. So everything was on their computers, and for some reason, they were busy doing their thing and running their business, but they never thought about – what if? Unfortunately, what if it hit them and it hit them hard. So they had many projects in the works that they had to redo in their entirety. Thinking of backups and things is incredibly important, especially if you are in the type of business where you are working heavily on computers to start with. So you are already halfway there. You have the files, and you are working on your computers. So it’s just an extra step to ensure all get back up.
I think so. It cast to the forefront the ability to communicate with others. Zoom meetings, if you will, or a lot more texting and communicating through the computer. Especially when you are talking about a group of people working together and sharing files, that has become so important. Before the pandemic, it was one of those topics in the ether and was interesting to work with. However, the ability to isolate oneself and work within a group made it very important.
Many times, when I hear about cyber issues within the small business communities, a lot speaks to email services or social media accounts getting hacked because communication is so critical that a business has with its clients, new or current. If that message is skewed in any way because of some foreign entity or somebody wanting to play a prank or something along those lines, it can hurt a big business time. So the free advice I give everybody, change your password. Whenever I hear about people getting hacked on Facebook, change your password. But what will I change it to? Make it long and smart, in other words, a collection of letters and numbers, little and big letters, and special characters. If somebody is going to try and break in, make them work for it.
There are several password management tools out and about, one of which I use is called key-pass. It’s been a great tool. What is nice about it is that you can store all your passwords and login into an encrypted database, and what’s even nicer is the biggest challenge about passwords is making them up. It will give you suggestions to make your passwords long and complicated.
What’s nice with key-pass is that not everything is stored within Windows. Instead, it is stored in an external database. So you can take that database and copy it to your google drive, for example. Whatever PC, computer, or mobile device, you can load a copy of key-pass on it, bring that file or database down to your phone or whatever the device is and open it using that copy of the key-pass software. It can be placed on a phone or PCs; all you need is the database and know how to get into it.
I lean towards Kaspersky for Internet security. They have improved it, and they have made it faster. I know my use, and working with clients will tell you immediately if it thinks anything is going sideways. It runs very fast. It runs in the background. It will communicate if you download a file and think it might be sketchy. It does all the necessary PC scans to ensure that what’s currently on your system doesn’t come through the internet. So if it happens to be that plug in a thumb drive or some other device, it will say – Hey, this is a good drive, or the files on this drive everything is good, go ahead and proceed, or it will tell there is a problem with the file, let me know if you want me to take care of it.
It goes back to the passwords. I’ll make sure your computers are secured. I’ll make sure the passwords are strong enough so they can’t be guessed. In other words, birthdays, names of children, and social security numbers are not the best move.
I think that a critical piece is an education. Ensure people understand how to use the tool and what to look for. Unfortunately, you can’t trust everything coming at you. Sometimes you have to say, look, it’s not always a good idea when you see the picture in the email to click on it. Sometimes you have to say – I don’t know where this came from. I didn’t ask for it. So I need to delete this guy.
That it doesn’t matter the size of the company you create or are a part of, whether it’s small, medium or big business, you should make sure that you have the resources you need. The technical resources are out there. It may require a little homework to find the perfect fit for your organization, but it is critical to ensure you utilize technology the best way you can and not worry about being the expert. Bringing the expert in like all these other companies can help you to ultimately have the same goals as you do to make your business great.
My website, hornerconsulting.com. It’s always out there and available. I’m always updating it, and I have a blog that I try to keep updated. I am also on social media, Facebook and Instagram. Of course, you can always check me out there too.
Thank you for having me.
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