Data Backups

Where is My Backup Located?

You may not believe this at first, but geography can be essential to the integrity of computer systems. If your company experiences a local disaster, where you house your backup data becomes imperative. The following computer backup solutions illustrate the three location-specific types, each with pros and cons.

  1. On-Premise

Implementing an on-premise backup is a simple way to establish a local backup data repository. These backups are straightforward to put in place and can be saved to external hard drives, flash drives, tapes, or other electronic media. Computers can be programmed to back up files automatically or manually. We recommend systematizing the process and establishing a backup schedule that meets your company’s data recovery requirements.

  1. Offsite

Some businesses perform an offsite backup daily or weekly to a removable media device and then transport it to a separate location. It is important to store your data in more than one physical location should something happen at the primary office to compromise the integrity of the local backups. While this may seem arduous and time-intensive, offsite backups protect against theft, fire, or other natural disasters that could otherwise compromise your business.

  1. Cloud-Based

Utilizing a reliable internet connection, cloud-based services automatically back up data from your local systems to remote servers over secure, encrypted connections. Depending on the options selected and how they are configured, some cloud-based backup solutions can also be programmed to save a second copy of data to a local data repository. This gives a company the best of both worlds (on-premise and offsite through the cloud) and provides peace of mind that all of your digital data is safe and available in case anything happens to your computers.

Which of These Backup Solutions Is Right for You?

On-PremiseOffsiteCloud-Based
System RequirementsBackup host computer, backup software, external hard drive(s), tapes, or other electronic mediaBackup host computer, backup software, removable mediaSoftware subscription, reliable internet connection
Costs/FeesHigher initial out-of-pocket cost for backup software and backup mediaHigher initial out-of-pocket cost for backup software and removable backup media; Occasional purchases of additional removable media (depending on retention policy)Monthly fee varies based on number of machines to backup and amount of data
Time to ManageAfter initial setup, the system is programmed to back up files automatically but user monitoring is required to audit processManual backups can be performed anytimeAfter initial setup, the system is programmed to back up files automatically; Full monitoring available
Data AccessibilityOn-premise onlyMust be retrieved from offsite locationAvailable via secure credentials anywhere internet connection is available
Data EncryptionLimited by hardware and softwareLimited by hardware and softwareFull data encryption
SynchronizationCan be programmed to execute backups frequently — hourly, daily, weekly, etc.None; Remote media transfers handled manuallyCan be programmed to execute backups frequently —continually (in some cases), hourly, daily, weekly, etc.
Risk/LiabilitySingle location point of failureRemovable media could be lost, stolen, or dropped/corrupted in transitRetrieval of data unavailable during internet outages (unless local copy also configured)

At Anderson Technologies, the backup solution we most frequently recommend is a cloud-based solution that has the ability to perform a “dual-destination” backup. Clients have on-premise recovery options as well as cloud recovery in the case of complete office loss due to fire, flood, or other natural disasters.

If you’d like to consult with one of our specialists about your backup system needs, please call us at 314.394.3001 or send an email to sales@andersontech.com.

Cloud Computing

Why Move to Cloud Computing?

We’ve all heard this popular term or even know someone whose company has embraced it…. But is the cloud right for your business? In its most basic sense, cloud computing enables users to run programs from the internet that traditionally would’ve run from an application installed locally on their computer.

Most clients are rightfully cautious when adopting new technology, especially when it comes to keeping their data secure. Previously, a server room of expensive equipment was the only option. This is no longer the case. Utilized correctly, cloud computing helps businesses on multiple fronts.

Here are eight benefits of cloud computing.

  1. Accessibility

Applications and company data are accessible whenever and wherever you or your employees need them. Utilizing desktop computers, laptops, mobile phones, tablets – anything with an internet connection – you’re no longer limited to one physical location. Your programs and data are available from the office, home, while traveling – anywhere.

  1. Immediate Data Updates

Most cloud providers synchronize data changes as they occur so others can see the updates almost immediately. This is especially helpful for co-workers who need to share data in real time.

  1. File Versioning

Depending on subscription levels, many cloud providers offer file versioning for a period of time (i.e., 30 days). This allows you to undo saved changes or restore a file if it gets corrupted by going into the archive list and reinstating a previous copy.

  1. User Permissions

With cloud computing systems, it’s easy to limit access to data through the implementation of granular user permissions. Users can only view and interact with files that their permissions allow them to access.

  1. Data Redundancy

The cloud essentially enables users to have multiple copies of their data—a local copy and a copy in the cloud. If you experience a device failure, no problem! Your files are immediately available by logging into the cloud environment on the internet. Once the failed device is replaced, your data synchronizes back to you from the cloud copy to the new hardware.

  1. Popular Software Integration / User Collaboration

Many cloud providers now offer direct software integration with popular productivity suites such as Microsoft Office, providing easy ways for teams to collaborate on projects that share files stored directly on cloud drives.

  1. State-of-the-Art Data Centers with No Capital Expense

Commercial, enterprise-level cloud providers store your data in very secure data centers on redundant hardware in multiple locations. This would be cost prohibitive for most businesses to implement and maintain on their own.

  1. Security

Another benefit to having your data in the cloud is the peace of mind gained from knowing your files are secure. If something were to happen to your PC or laptop, such as theft, you can remotely wipe the hard drive the next time it connects to the internet and safeguard your company’s sensitive data.

If you’d like to explore the potential of cloud computing for your business with one of Anderson Technologies’ IT specialists, please give us a call at 314.394.3001 or send us an email to info@andersontech.com.

St Louis IT Experts Assist Financial Services

St. Louis IT Experts Assist Financial Firm for Over 15 Years

For deep-value investing firm Towle & Co., it pays to have St. Louis IT experts advising them on the computer systems running their business. Towle & Co. has worked with Anderson Technologies for over 15 years, seeking advice whenever technology changes or industry requirements demand it. When you pay for professionals to plan your entire network, you can be confident your systems are properly configured.

Joe Bradley explains, “In IT, you’re totally exposed to whoever comes in, so trust is paramount. Anderson Technologies is a trusted resource — we can trust them completely.”

A few years ago, Anderson Technologies helped Towle & Co. move their file and application servers to an industry-specific cloud-based solution. Regulatory requirements were changing, and cloud-based systems offered improved reliability and redundancy. Towle & Co. wanted to maintain client data security while ensuring regulatory compliance and turned to the St. Louis IT experts at Anderson Technologies to help investigate options that best supported these needs.

After a successful cloud migration, Towle & Co. still had local computing infrastructure to maintain, and Anderson Technologies configured it for maximum long-term performance. While a server typically lasts between three and five years prior to being upgraded, many small businesses look to stretch their investments by extending the service life of their equipment. Anderson Technologies understands this fiscally prudent approach and helps its clients take full advantage of equipment investments while guarding against potential complications that might arise from such a strategy.

Last year, Towle & Co. experienced a hard drive failure on a seven-year-old server. Anderson Technologies had architected the server with a RAID (Redundant Array of Independent Disks) subsystem. As a result, Towle & Co. did not suffer a second of downtime — or lose a single file. The system continued to operate properly until the issue could be permanently addressed.

Towle & Co. chose to invest in Concierge Services for this new installation. Thus, after turning up the replacement server, the St. Louis IT experts at Anderson Technologies reconfigured every workstation so staff wouldn’t experience any difference in their workflows. They preserved all users’ local desktop customization, maintained internet favorites for each browser, and mapped printers correctly. There was no interruption to employee work.

To avoid the potential headaches that come from server failures, the safest and most cost-effective solution is to invest in Managed Tech Services to monitor systems. It’s easy to ignore maintenance issues, but this approach results in more frequent equipment malfunctions. All small businesses should regularly audit current systems to ensure proper security measures are in place, review performance, and establish an appropriate data backup strategy.

If you are currently struggling with a computer challenge, we’d love to help! Please either call us at 314.394.3001 or complete our Contact Us form online.

A St. Louis Disaster Recovery Story: Saving a Client’s Computer Systems during a Potential Flood

“They tell me our building is going to flood! We need to get all the computers up off the floor!”

That’s what we heard at the end of December when one of our clients called in a panic. A St. Louis County Building Inspector cancelled the inspection of a neighboring property because “that area will soon be under two feet of water.” Smile Station Dental needed help immediately! Municipal officials and news agencies warned of historic flood levels for the Mississippi and Meramec rivers.

Long before this incident, the Army Corps of Engineers advised Smile Station that their offices weren’t in a flood plain, but in late December 2015, Mother Nature decided differently. Fortunately, they had ignored the advice and purchased flood insurance anyway.

Though safeguarded with insurance, every wise business person knows time is money, and downtime without properly functioning computer systems leads to lost revenue.

Smile Station is a Citadel-level Managed Tech Services client who found Anderson Technologies a calm and helpful presence in the midst of a holiday emergency. With the warning of possible flood waters, the client madly scrambled to elevate equipment off the floor – every server, workstation, uninterruptable power supply, network cable, etc. They called and Anderson Technologies answered immediately. “I’ll be there right away,” Principal Mark Anderson said and dropped what he was doing to arrive onsite as quickly as possible.

All of Anderson Technologies’ St. Louis-based Systems Administrators are calm under pressure, and while the situation was chaotic, Mark remained unruffled and methodical. “He quickly and competently jumped right in and helped us get all the computer equipment up as high as we could. We weren’t worried about functionality; we just wanted to save everything,” explained Jo Ann Emery, one of the principals at Smile Station. Mark made sure everything was shut down, disconnected properly, moved to “higher ground,” and could be easily re-installed after the danger passed.

Once the client’s equipment was secured, Mark assisted a Smile Station neighbor in the same predicament. He found Dougherty Orthodontics doing all they could to protect against the threat of rising waters. They didn’t have flood insurance, and their IT support firm wasn’t local so they had no one to call for onsite assistance. Owner Stefanie Dougherty explained, “I’m completely paperless so everything in my business is on computers. That is how I survive. I never thought in a million years that this would be an issue; Mark was absolutely my knight in shining armor.”

Our team went right to work. Office Manager Lynn Hager said, “You’re like a tech angel!” As this was the first time visiting the office, Mark took photos of all critical components and corresponding wiring before disconnecting them, documenting how everything was connected, and noting any customized wiring. “A little bit of foresight up front can save hours of frustration down the line,” Mark advised. Armed with these photos everything could be confidently and reliably re-installed without confusion.

As it turned out, the building was fortunately spared any flooding. Stefanie talked about the process of putting everything back in place after the danger had passed and what it was like to work with Anderson Technologies throughout the whole ordeal. “Just by working with Mark on this one issue, it was clear to see that we have the same high standard of business ethics. We are so grateful to have found them!”

As a St. Louis-based computer expert, Anderson Technologies knows a thing or two about flooding. Computers and water don’t mix well together, and when flooding is predicted, business owners need to be aware of potential damage to their critical computer systems. If there is any chance you may find your business in this situation, here are a few tips to consider:

  1. Establish a well-thought-out and documented Disaster Recovery Plan
  2. In addition to local backups, backup your data to a remote, offsite location and thoroughly test restoring from it at least once per year
  3. Document your network and computer infrastructure configuration as completely as possible, including the names and emergency contact information for all critical vendors and business partners
  4. After safeguarding your equipment but prior to the flood, shut off power to the office to minimize damage due to power shorts
  5. Re-evaluate your needs and your plan once the danger has passed

If you have disaster recovery planning needs, please call us at 314.394.3001 to discuss this topic.

St. Louis Company Software upgrade

Six Reasons Not to Perform a Software Upgrade

When should I upgrade my software? What do you do when the notice comes to update?

Some blindly click “OK.” Others ignore update messages for months on end. Some now-wary computer users have horror stories about how their digital lives came to a screeching halt for several days due to glitches associated with a software upgrade.

Whether it’s an update to your smartphone’s operating system or Microsoft’s enticement for a free copy of Windows 10, our world is full of opportunities to upgrade to the latest version of everything. Our instinct may be to immediately upgrade, following the logic: “Of course I want the latest and greatest! Think of all the ‘new and improved’ features I’ll be able to take advantage of!”

But wait just a moment. There are good reasons to exercise a little caution.

Here are six to make you think twice before hitting “OK”:

  1. You haven’t recently backed up your data, email, contacts, photos, videos, etc., to an external source – doing so enables recovery if the upgrade goes horribly wrong.
  2. Your hardware doesn’t have the capacity to effectively run the updated software. If you’re running older computers, upgrading to new software may consume more memory and disk space or overly tax the CPU, potentially bringing your machines to a screeching halt and resulting in unplanned hardware purchases.
  3. The user interface of the new software is so foreign compared to the existing version, productivity is negatively impacted while you learn its idiosyncrasies.
  4. All bugs aren’t fully ironed out of the new software. Unless your business absolutely requires a particular feature the new software offers, let other users “stub their toe” on corner-case problems. Wait a few months to upgrade.
  5. You‘ve misplaced the necessary information (software license keys, passwords, etc.), which may be needed during the upgrade process. Locate all required information for the update prior to proceeding.
  6. Updating existing software might result in being unable to access old files, which for business reasons must be left in their original format. Make sure the new software works with older file versions without needing to convert them.

Before hastily updating software to the latest version, consider the impact on other aspects of your business’s technology and work flow. After performing a complete backup, carefully review the software’s requirements before making the decision to move forward. Determine if you will truly benefit from the upgrade.

If you need a second opinion before undertaking a software update, please don’t hesitate to give us a call at 314.394.3001. We’d love to help!

St. Louis Computer Company IT TechWatch Newsletter

First IT TechWatch of 2016

We hope your year is off to a wonderful start! St. Louis finally received its first snowfall, and everything looks beautiful outside.

On January 21st, we sent out this month’s IT TechWatch, which featured several articles on critical technology issues important to every business ranging from data security to the IT infrastructure necessary for success. Our client feature article explains how implementing a proactive Managed Services program improved the reliability of a long-time client’s pet care business. Finally, we’re thrilled to introduce you to the newest member of our expert computer team, Luke Bragg.

If you’d like to receive our newsletter on an ongoing basis, there’s a sign-up section on our home page.

St. Louis Computer Experts-IT Infrastructure Success

St. Louis Computer Experts Share Their Secrets for IT Infrastructure Success

The start of a new year is full of expectation and a great time to look forward and plan how to best grow and “do things better.” We recently spent time reflecting on some of the IT challenges we’ve seen small to mid-sized businesses experience and how best to avoid them. The question becomes, “What do businesses need to do well in the IT infrastructure space in order to best set themselves up for success?”

Two primary categories must be addressed: internal and external systems and efforts. Throughout the coming year, our St. Louis computer experts will share more detailed information on many of these areas to give you technological peace of mind. For now, let’s take a quick look at infrastructure issues you need to be thinking about.

Internally: Within Your Office

  1. Maintaining a stable computer infrastructure environment
    • How well do your workstations, servers, routers, firewalls, printers, and other hardware operate? Are they secured against external threats? Are they up-to-date or just “limping along?”
  2. Having a reliable wired and wireless network
    • Do clients or employees bring their laptops to meetings in conference rooms? Do you allow open access to your Wi-Fi network, or are those networks password-protected? Do you have both PCs and Macs and, if so, can they talk to each other? Can they both save documents to any shared drives you may have? When you send something to the printer does it actually print, or does it go into a “black hole” of unprinted documents?
  3. Managing robust network security
    • Your networks should be secure and accessible only by those with approved access. Are there any vulnerabilities in your systems that need to be remedied?
  4. Consistently backing up business-critical data
    • Losing a file erases your time, data, and effort. Make sure you have backups that actually work. Have you tested your backup systems recently to see if you can actually retrieve a document from your backup system? Just because it’s sitting somewhere “in the cloud” doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s properly backed up.
  5. Protecting computer infrastructure and business-critical data from malware: viruses, spam, ransomware (cryptolocker)
    • It only takes one corrupted file to wreak havoc with your whole data infrastructure. If you are in a non-critical industry, it might not seem worth the extra effort to properly protect yourself. But if data reliability and systems functionality are important to your business, you’ll want your systems locked down like Fort Knox.
  6. Protecting clients’ private data
    • Whether the law requires you (for firms entrusted with sensitive client information) or whether it’s more of an expectation in your industry, you need to have the proper systems in place to protect customer records and personal data.
  7. Being vigilant against developing cyber threats
    • Cybercrime happens at the speed of data. Hackers know that a brilliant piece of malicious code today will be worth very little six months from now. They won’t wait, neither should you.
  8. Complying with all governmental regulations appropriate for your industry (HIPAA, etc.)
    • For some industries, there are very specific, very strict rules that need to be followed; for others, there are merely “guidelines” that act as the hallmark of a company following “best practices.” Do you know the rules for your industry, and do you have a plan to keep abreast of changing regulations?

Externally: What Do You Need?

  1. Reliable e-mail platform capable of weeding out spam as much as possible
    • Of the hundreds of e-mails you get a day, how many of them could be classified as digital junk mail? Can you access your e-mails from anywhere, and does your e-mail automatically update in a timely manner? While it might seem like a hassle to switch e-mail platform providers, the benefits might be worth it!
  2. A digital presence which accurately communicates your organization’s value to your target audience
    • Websites, social media platforms, SEO efforts, Google AdWord campaigns and a whole host of other digital outlets should put you in the spotlight in the most strategically-grounded way.
  3. Reliable website hosting
    • Not all web hosting is created equal. For a few additional dollars per month, have the confidence your website is automatically backed up,secured from external threats, and kept “up-to-date.”
  4. Reliable telephony infrastructure
    • How many problems do you experience with your VoIP phone system in a day?Lost calls equate to frustrated customers and potentially lost sales. Don’t let an outdated telephone system weaken your growth efforts.
  5. The ability to collaborate effectively with clients, employees, and vendors
    • Let’s face it; we live in a shared, digital world where sending files via FTP and e-mail is considered too slow. People don’t want to wait for files to be delivered via e-mail; they want them immediately! And they want to be able to make changes and share those changes with colleagues or clients right now. Set yourself up with fastest methods of data transfer and enhance your collaboration efforts.

There are a many components to keep track of and successfully put in place in order to fully realize a reliable IT infrastructure. Master them and your business will experience less hassles, less downtime, and less computer angst. Keep a firm grasp on these core concepts and you’ll experience more—more productivity, more confidence, and more success.

And as always, if you have a pressing need we’d be happy to help!

St. Louis Computer Expert Luke Bragg

Meet Luke Bragg: A St. Louis Computer Expert Joins Our Team

Anderson Technologies is proud to announce that Luke Bragg has joined the company as a Senior Systems Administrator to serve our clients’ growing needs. “Luke is a perfect addition to our team!” Company principal Mark Anderson shares, “He comes to us with almost nine years of systems administration experience managing computer infrastructure in a wide variety of corporate end-user environments. Our clients will be able to immediately benefit from his experience and broad knowledge base. Luke’s government security clearance speaks to his commitment to maintain the highest-level security standards. We also appreciate his CompTIA Security+ industry certification.”

Luke has worked for a wide variety of companies like Empire District Electric Company, Baptist Hospitals of Southeast Texas, and most recently Tapestry Solutions (a subsidiary of Boeing) in areas that required a focus on computer system architecture as well as very high-level technological expertise. Luke also understands the intricacies of system-wide solutions to protect against a host of security threats, including viruses, malware, spyware, and ransomware. He’s right at home managing large computer networks, installing and administering over 100 servers and deploying over 1,000 virtual desktops in one environment.

Company principal Amy Anderson says, “We’re very selective about the people we work with, and Luke’s background makes him a perfect addition to our top-notch team. He’s technically outstanding, has a very personable manner and a high sense of integrity, all of which align with our company. Luke is the kind of expert I would trust with my own computer, and that’s what we were looking to add for our clients.”

Luke is enthusiastic about working with clients one-on-one and values that interaction. He explains, “I love the vision of Anderson Technologies’ personalized service and ‘take-the-time-to-do-it-right’ mentality. As a systems administrator, you wear many hats, and I’m excited to know I will be making a real difference in the lives and businesses of our clients.” Luke is immediately available to work with all clients, getting them properly set up with our proprietary Managed Tech Services, installing system upgrades, and increasing security protection to keep client data from being compromised.

Luke lives in Swansea, Illinois with his children and wife, Amy, who teaches first and second grade. They have three children, James (11), Lucas and Logan (7 year old twins!) who keep them very active. Luke also enjoys singing in his church.

Congratulations Luke, and welcome to the team!

 

St. Louis Computer Company Takes A Christmas Holiday

Anderson Technologies offices will be closed Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.

This St. Louis Computer company hopes everyone has a great holiday.  We’ll be back next week to take care of all your IT needs!

Managed Tech Services and Dog Hair

Managed Tech Services and Dog Hair

Dogs haven’t changed in the last 20 years… But technology has.

Country Acres Pet Resort owner Greg Thompson has a complex business with simple computing needs.

“Our 11,000 square foot resort and grooming facilities are spread out over three buildings with network cables running underground. Our server and computer workstations experience the normal wear and tear of small business life,” he explains. Plus, he says, “There’s lots of hair in this environment!”

The facility provides a loving home-away-from-home for animals every day of the year so Greg relies on Anderson Technologies’ Managed Tech Services (Citadel) to keep his computer infrastructure running smoothly all the time. The network is kept secure by a hardware firewall, all computers patched against outside threats, critical business data backed up, and proprietary kennel software updated regularly to run the resort.

Country Acres’ experienced staff uses their computer systems to help give each pet warm, loving, and expert care on a reliable basis. If a computer was to experience a problem or to go down, it would have a direct impact on the business’ ability to provide needed services on a timely basis. Greg counts on Anderson Technologies to foresee upcoming issues and ensure they are always up and running.

One of Greg’s main concerns is software upgrades. “My needs don’t really change that often, but the tech world does. For example, QuickBooks™ requires that I upgrade every three years. Whenever I get a message to upgrade any of my major software resources, I call Anderson Technologies. They make sure I’m always up to date with server and workstation security patches, operating systems updates, anti-malware/spyware, and the kennel software programs critical to my business. I have trusted Anderson Technologies as my IT professional service provider for over 15 years. They are honest, highly skilled, detail oriented, and they actually care about how your system works. I trust them 100% and working with them gives me ultimate peace of mind for my technology needs.”

Learn more about Anderson Technologies’ Managed Tech Services at https://andersontech.com/services/managed-tech-services and Country Acres Pet Resort at http://countryacresresort.com.