All posts by SystemsNet Administrator

A Practical Approach to Disaster Recovery

DRP Disaster Recovery Plan written in a notebook

Disaster Recovery is a serious matter and will save your business when an event occurs.

Many computer users tend to resolve issues and glitches as they come. That works fine for some people and circumstances but for the more productivity-oriented environments such as businesses, there needs to be a plan to resolve issues as soon as they come. Otherwise, monetary loss looms. Businesses that heavily rely on computers should outsource the repair and maintenance of them to professionals — especially data preservation and restoration in the events of breakdowns. Disaster recovery typically involves restoring backed up data, but it also encompasses quick restoration of devices with the correct configuration so that business continuity is good with as little interruption as possible. Generally, the more time a computer or computer network is out of order, the more money that will be lost — as the old adage goes, “Time is money!” Some business managers and owners have a tendency to attempt to save money by outsourcing as little as possible to professionals. This can be an extremely stressful situation — businesses alone have caveats that can cause excessive stress, but to attempt to manage the repair, maintenance, and data backup on top of that can completely usurp the joy out of owning or operating a business, as well as risk unintentional damage to computer systems — unintentional damage can be caused by attempting repairs without sufficient knowledge — and that of consequences of the outcome. Disaster recovery in highly productive environments should be left to professionals and below there are a few points to keep in mind when starting or running a business that relies heavily on one or more computers.

Starting Up

Whether the business has been booming for a while or things are just getting started, keeping the office computer-repertoire as simple as possible is a cornerstone. Seeking purchasing decisions from well-informed IT professionals is recommended and will generally turn out based on the needs of the business. Purchasing appropriate hardware will make it easier to mitigate times of disaster such as when computers are stolen, fires break out, vandalism occurs, or computers breakdown. If a business has been going for a while, downgrading certain types of products could help disaster mitigation as well as save money, but these types of decisions should also be backed by educated personnel.

Smart Hiring Decisions

A search for quality professionals can be started on the internet. Criteria to measure the quality of a service provider might include the number of years in business, whether professionals are certified, reviews, and affordability. Quality criteria are not limited to what’s listed here, but they’re a good place to start. Disaster recovery is a critical type of service that should not be downplayed whereby cheap and easy service is retained by the business in need of it. Professional services that are cheap and relatively easy to retain might be better suited for quick-fixes, but not for disaster recovery — it’s a branch of IT that needs to be properly planned and not applied only when something bad happens — without a sound recovery plan, a business will eventually be “dead in the water.”

Testing It Out

Once a disaster recovery plan has been implemented, it should be monitored closely to see what should go and what should stay. Working closely with a disaster recovery service is key while carrying out day-to-day operations — anything unusual or not functioning as intended should be reported as soon as possible unless it’s monitored remotely by the disaster recovery service. With knowledgeable IT professionals working behind the scene, the prognosis of disaster is good.

SystemsNet is a multifaceted IT service provider with years of experience and expertise on staff qualified to carry out disaster recovery. Please contact us.

5 Tips to Increase Your IT Help Desk Inquiry Efficiency

IT Help Desk Inquiry Efficiency Concept

How efficient is your internal help desk?

The usefulness of your IT help desk isn’t just in the software you use or the skilled technicians solving problems. It’s also in how your employees approach their problems that need solutions. If you really want to increase both the efficiency and effectiveness of your IT help desk, part of that formula is helping your staff ask questions efficiently and learn to solve more common or basic problems on their own.

Here are five highly effective ways to increase the inquiry efficiency of your IT help desk.

1) Include Live Chat and Ticketed Inquiries

Traditional help desks function with ticketed inquiries. Employees send an email or use a form to submit an asynchronous request for assistance with any information they have. This works well for off-hours or long-solve solutions, but it can actually slow down the solve on quick or surface-level problems. Live chat has been found to be more effective at high-speed and interactive IT support than email or phone because it allows both parties to ask and answer questions quickly, share files, and run troubleshooting tests in real time.

2) Build a Detailed Tech FAQ – Keep it Updated

Interestingly, you can also increase help desk efficiency by eliminating a percentage of inquiries made. The answer is simple: A really helpful and well-build FAQ. FAQs have evolved well beyond a list of question-and-answers into ‘help portals’ that assist the user in finding the answers to common and easy to solve problems.

For example, you probably don’t need as many IT help desk calls about troubleshooting printers or employee emails as your help desk handles. A good FAQ as your first line of defense can help employees quickly solve any problem that is already known and has only a few simple steps to try.

3) Equip Chatbots to Answer FAQ Questions

Of course, not everyone is apt at searching a FAQ or help portal for the answers they need. Others don’t have time to explore the interface. For your rushed employees, the key to streamlining quick IT services and access to the FAQ is a simple chatbots. Programmable chatbots can be ‘loaded up’ with answers to common questions. And a common question is a FAQ by any other name.

What this means is that not only can you provide a FAQ answer portal, you can also equip a chatbot assistant to listen for ‘FAQ’-like questions and give the standard answer. This will speed up early troubleshooting immensely. A Chatbot can also direct employees to a real live IT help desk member for questions that go beyond the scope of the FAQ.

4) Provide Micro-Learning on Common IT Solutions

You can even teach your employees to handle increasingly complex-yet-common fixes through the use of micro-learning modules. These ‘just-in-time’ lessons can walk employees through how to do complex fixes that your company may deal with on a regular basis. The best part about micro-learning lessons is that you can ask your IT help desk team to create or map them based on the questions they really do get and solve the most often. From there, employees can summon the lesson and walk themselves through common solves without having to call IT again.

5) Have Employees Mark Category and Urgency

Finally, for problems that can’t be handled through FAQ best-practices or a quick live chat, you want a superb ticket sorting procedure. Your IT help desk can do their job best when they know what each ticket is about, how much time it will take, and how urgent the solution is before they start. Which means your team needs to know how to convey this information when they submit a problem.

When possible, ask employees to mark the category, severity, and urgency of every support ticket they request from your IT help desk. The more detail you encourage to be shared, the better. This gives your IT team a clear place to start when they pick up the ticket, live or asynchronously.

Providing an IT help desk to your employees is an important step in streamlining any modern business. But the help desk doesn’t have to be on your permanent staff. Take advantage of internal streamlining techniques and the logistic advantage of outsourced IT professionals. For more information about how to make your IT help desk more efficient, contact us today.

How to Build a VOIP Kit for High-Quality Remote Calls

Close up of a business woman using a VOIP kit to connect to her team

Having a phone system with the right tools and features is key to a mobile workforce

When you work remotely, occasionally or every day, nothing matters more than communication. Staying in touch with your distant colleagues is the key to completing projects, attending meetings, and successfully collaborating. Fortunately, connecting is easier than it has ever been before. Between mobile devices and VOIP, you can connect to your team from almost anywhere in the world. But it’s a lot easier to do if you’re prepared.

Making your home office or favorite shared working space is a part of the course, but the true challenge is achieving easy calls when outside your comfort zone. How do you ensure good sound quality in a hotel room, on-site with your client, or on the road? The key is a well-packed VOIP kit that has everything you need to connect, hear, and be heard from almost anywhere in the world.

Here’s how to build one:

High-Speed Mobile Hotspot

The first thing you need is a mobile hotspot you can rely on. These transform cellphone network signal into a wifi network your devices can connect to. Not only does it ensure that you can connect from nearly anywhere, it also keeps you safe from honey-pot traps hackers set with free wifi networks. You won’t have to rely on hotel wifi, and you can connect anywhere your cellphone gets signal. With varying degrees of connection speed.

Soft Can Headphones or High-Quality Earbuds?

If you’re not in a sound-studio quality office prepared to filter audio, you’ll need some headphones so you can hear the conference without your mic sending feedback or echo. But the choice of headphones is highly personal. Some swear that large pillowy can-style headphones are the only way to hear the call clearly while many of us live with a pair of earbuds seemingly permanently attached.

For your kit, the difference matters only to you. Get a spare pair of your favorite type of headphones and pack them as part of your VOIP call travel kit.

Integral Microphone Headset

With a headset, you can transform any modern mobile device into a VOIP phone. All you need is earphones to hear and a microphone to be heard. That said, the microphone quality is important. Many can make do with a webcam or laptop that has an integral microphone, but the quality of how you sound is significantly improved with a real microphone on a headset positioned near your mouth. Be sure your headphones have a built-in mic that transmits in decent quality.

Camera-Bearing Laptop

VOIP platforms often include an option to make video calls, which can become popular depending on the team. If there’s a chance you’ll be called on to appear on video, you’ll want a laptop that has video capability. This is your first or last line solution to the video calls, giving you a place to start or a fall-back position if you choose to use additional cameras instead.

Separate Web Camera

You will probably also want to pack an external web camera, and don’t be shy about investing in some quality here. Your webcam will enable video call options that a laptop camera cannot. You can point it at items, paperwork, and other people without pointing your laptop. You can also upgrade your image or sound quality by choosing a camera with better capabilities than your laptop.

The separate web camera also gives you an alternative to the laptop camera should one or the other fail at an inopportune moment.

Mobile Charging Battery

Next, think about power SNAFUs you’ve experienced in the past. Sometimes, your best friend when telecommuting on the road is a portable charging battery. Something you can charge up at home or in a hotel room, then bring life back to a phone or laptop that has died right when you need it most. Or it can be used to keep your laptop alive longer off-grid when you have to hold a meeting from a place with no outlets. Just one portable battery in your go-bag can make a big difference when it’s needed.

For the truly rugged remote professionals, consider a solar-recharging portable battery. No outlets required.

Charging & Data Cables

Finally, don’t forget all the accouterments for all this mobile tech. You’ll need at least one charging cable for each one of your devices. At least these days, they can all share a few USB power ports instead of each having an individual power adapter. So remember your USB power strip just in case. Take your laptop power adapter, and whatever you need to charge the portable battery. We all know what it feels like to have everything you need but a power cord.

If you enjoy working remotely using the tools of today’s mobile workforce, you might as well the best tools for the job. By packing an effective VOIP call kit, you can optimize sound and signal quality no matter where you’re working from. For more on how to get the best VOIP performance possible, contact us today!

4 Situations Where You Want a Robust Backup Recovery Plan

Backup Recovery Plan on a laptop screen in office

Disaster recovery plans cover you for disaster situations and also simple file recovery

Businesses often underestimate just how important a backup recovery plan really is. Backup recovery plans are put together as an afterthought, a ‘just in case’ like wearing your helmet to bicycle up and down your home street. But believe it or not, there are actually tons of different situations where a great backup plan is important, useful, or even necessary to keep your business on it’s feet. In fact, you’ll probably wind up using our backups more frequently than your top-of-the-line virus detection software.

Because like that bicycle helmet, a good recovery plan can be the difference between business life and death when a disaster finally does come along. And you’ll be glad you were prepared. Let’s take a quick look at four different business circumstances where a backup recovery plan is vital. Circumstances that are surprisingly common in the wide business world.

1) A Software Update Fails and Corrupts All Your Data

Most of our software today updates automatically. We have it set up (or it sets itself up) to periodically check for updates, download them, and sell-install them in the dead of night when no one is using your computer work resources. This happens all the time and is something we’ve come to rely on. But not all updates work correctly. A single piece of misaligned data that was damaged in the download can wreck the entire update.

And worse, updating currently active business software means that one corrupted auto-update can put your entire business worth of stored internal data at risk. An automatic update can fail and corrupt some or every scrap of data stored inside the original un-updated version. With a comprehensive backup recovery plan, however, you can easily restore all your data and software from the version before the update, then manually handle the update a second time to make sure nothing goes wrong.

2) An Employee Mistake Accidentally Deletes an Entire Database

Employee mistakes happen. And sometimes, they are enormous business-ruining mistakes no matter how genuinely sorry the employee is or how understandable the mistake might be. It is possible in some businesses for a mis-click or accidental keypress can delete reams of priceless business or customer data. Usually by clearing a database table or column without realizing that they have done so.

In this situation, you don’t want to have to lay the entire disaster at one employee’s feet. Instead, with a backup and recovery plan, it should be simple to rescue your company by restoring the lost data. From there, you can manage employee discipline with a calm and even approach that is appropriate to the mistake, not the potential averted consequences.

3) Your Entire Company Network is Ransomware’d

Then, of course, there’s the ransomware and other network-wide malware attacks that freeze you out of your own system. Because you can’t trust hackers to respond honorably to a pay-off, it’s important to assume that any computer compromised by ransomware or similar is probably ‘dead’. In other words, it needs to be wiped to factory settings to eradicate the malware and then restored to a functional business state through backup recovery.

If you have backups of your workstation setup and/or your entire network, this is the time to bust them out. Wipe everything that could be infected and rebuild our on-site computer system back from the ground up. The better your backups and implementation are, the more completely and quickly you can recover from a widespread malware attack.

4) A Flash-Flood Drowns Your Office, Including Local Archives

Natural disasters are another unexpected way that your data could be threatened. Even with all the cloud services, most businesses have at least a few locally stored physical archives on local servers, disks, or drives. Some businesses have their computer systems still almost entirely on-site. But this puts ‘all your eggs in one basket’ in terms of physical risk to your office building.

As the last few years have proven, you can’t do much to predict when extreme weather is about to ravage your part of the country. And if your office is hit with flash floods, earthquakes or something as simple as a neighborhood fire, all your local files and computers could be destroyed. But with a robust set of cloud-stored backups, you can not only recover those local archives. You may be able to rebuild from scratch using your backups of the previous network and work stations.

Having a well-built and comprehensive backup structure and recovery plan is vital to business continuity and disaster recovery.  For more information about building the best backup recovery plan for your business, contact us today!