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Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Test Time! - Backup Part 2 of 2

Welcome back!

Let's review... If you haven't read Part 1 you should stop now and come up to speed.

Traditional backup = Tape and the responsibility of a human to switch on a daily basis. Take a tape offsite, not lose it, and bring it back to the office.

Latest backup technology = Automated, online/offsite backup, encrypted in data warehouse with a local copy stored on a virtual server to reduce the amount of time to access data from days to hours. NO HUMAN INTERACTION.

Obviously, the online backup is a better solution than tape. Your data is extremely valuable, and just as important is the productivity of your staff. Most small and medium businesses have one server (think about eggs in one basket). The availability of that server is vital, absolutely vital, to the productivity of your business.

OK. Here's the test, I hope you studied...

1. If your server were turned off right now, and were not available for two business days, how much money would your company lose in lost sales, poor customer service, employee wages and productivity? Actually try to put a number to it.

2. When was the last time you had a successful backup? No assumptions. When did it happen?

3. If your building burned down (or flood, vandalism, theft) would your backup tapes burn up with your server? Tapes in a fire proof safe is not a good answer. Tapes melt from heat not fire. They have to be in a heat proof safe.

4. Who switches your tapes every day? Do they take the tape offsite? Are they stored in a safe place?

4a. If the person taking your tape off site left one sitting on the bar in a tavern, how would you start the letter to your clients that their private information was carelessly lost by your company? (By the way, this is a true story)

5. Are you losing sleep at night because you are worried about your data and your backup?

6. Convince me that whatever you are using for a backup is better than an automated online backup with a virtual server to minimize downtime.

All tests will be graded, and I will personally follow up with you.

Hopefully this opens your eyes and makes you think about what is happening in your business. And according to our old friend Yogi Berra "You can observe a lot by watching"

Brian O'Shaughnessy
ITConnexx, Inc.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Your backup is not about the backup - Part 1

Huh? Is Yogi Berra making a guest appearance? Not exactly, it's time for the ITConnexx University's Backup 101 class... listen up! There will be a test!

We all know what a backup is, we learned about that in high-school. Hopefully we all know the two reasons why we perform a backup. Don't worry class, I'm gonna tell you.
1. Create a second copy of your extremely valuable data to allow to recover from a loss of the first copy (hardware failure, data corruption, human error, etc.)
2. Store a copy of your extremely valuable data in a second physical location, to be used in the event of an environmental disaster (fire, flood, theft, vandalism, etc.)

Most of us know the traditional method for creating a backup, tape. Every day, a staff member walks into the server closet, views the job log, ejects the previous day's tape, inserts today's tape, and immediately takes yesterday's tape off site. To the safe deposit box. Right? Does this sound familiar to all of you tape users?

Or does it go like this? When our staff member remembers, they go into the server closet, ejects the previous day's tape, inserts today's tape, puts yesterday's tape on the shelf, then goes back to work.

How do they know if yesterday's backup job even ran? How do they remember to switch the tape at all? And honestly, how often do they forget? When do they take a tape off site? And when they do, where is it stored? Remember what's on that tape (shhh... don't tell anybody but it's your client's information and your trade secrets).

Let's take a break here and all think about our business and our data. Is your current process really protecting you?

Break's over. On to a better solution.

Online backup and virtual servers! Now this class, is exciting...

Picture this... all data is stored to a second server in your server closet, and a copy of that data is encrypted and stored in a data warehouse. Sounds simple? It get's better... Remember that staff member with the tapes? Well they are busy doing their regular job. They don’t have to remember anything (other than to make coffee when the pot is empty). They don't have the responsibility of taking your extremely valuable data home. It's all automatic, in fact it's magic - smoke and mirrors type stuff. Impressed yet? Well listen to this...

Your extremely valuable data is now stored in four places. One of those places is the "virtual server." in your server closet. Let's do a little role playing...

ring ring...
Me: Good morning Happy Client. How are you today?
Happy Client: Brian, you will never believe this! Nobody can get to our server! Our extremely valuable data is not available! What will I do? My staff is running around franticly.
Me: {yawn} Don't worry HC, I’ll take care of it. Tell your staff to tidy up around the office. I'll call you back shortly.
Happy Client: What are you going to do? How much will this cost?
Me: HC, I said don't worry. This won't cost you anything; everything is covered under your "Computing as Promised" Agreement. I'll call you back.
Happy Client: Thanks Brian, you are my hero.
Me: Thanks Happy, I'll call you soon.
Me (to myself as I reach for my white hat): I love being a hero.
ring ring...
Happy Client: Hello Brian, what did you do? I see our server is back on line and we are productive again. That didn't take long at all.
Me: I was able to activate the virtual server with a back up copy of your data. Your production server is still down. I'll start on that when we hang up.
Happy Client: I can't believe what good service you provide and what a fantastic solution we have.
Me: It's all in a hard day's work Hap.

Exciting stuff eh?

Homework: Read about Backup & Recovery Services from ITConnexx, Inc.
OK... Test tomorrow.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

It's Today!! It's Today!!

Imagine the morning George Little, the nine year old boy with wire rimmed glasses, ran through his house screaming "It's Today!! It's Today!!" George was an only child who counted down the days until his parents took him to the orphanage to pick out his new younger brother. The count down was over! The excitement was at it's peak! George Little had waited his entire life for this day, and it was finally here!

The story continues with George and his parents going to the orphange and they left with George's new brother, Stuart... a mouse...

This morning, I woke up feeling like George. My heart is racing, i'm excited and nervous. I've been waiting for today for a very very long time. It's our OPEN HOUSE!!! Today is quite a milestone for us. In one fashion or another, we have been "computing as promised" for nine years. But today there is no argument, we're ligit!

We couldn't have done this without the help of many many people. I have the greatest appreciation for those first clients that trusted me and gave me a chance. I hope that they (and every client since) now believe me when I said that I truly care about them and would do everything I could to help them use technology to make their business successful.

A special thanks to Kevin Scholz. My business partner, but more than that, a friend and mentor for almost 20 years.

Another special thanks to Ken Lulloff, Chad Klubertanz, Tammy Radtke, Kevin Edwards, Dan Boncher and most recently Anne Scholz. We are the nucleus and together we will build on this foundation and together we will prosper.

A third special thanks to the family that I come home late to. They are almost always understanding, and always forgiving when I miss football games and baseball practice.

And of course there are many special people in my life who can't attend today. You are in my thoughts and are a daily inspiration. Thank you.

OK... enough already! It's Today and we've got ribbons to cut!!!!

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Post Summit Thoughts

Wow! I can’t believe everything that is going through my head. As my faithful readers already know, ConnectWise PSA is the software we use to run our business. ConnectWise sponsored a partner summit where I spent three days with 900 IT solution providers.

It is amazing to see the same faces from last year, and in several cases I actually have a few good friends. This year I met a man named Bruce Hardin. Bruce is an employee of ConnectWise, and is new to the company (about 4 months). He happened to sit next to me during one of the break out sessions, and we had an instant connection. I could tell in 5 minutes, Bruce will be a friend for life. I’d love to get him to Green Bay for a Packer game.

As I write from 35,000 feet over Tennessee, I’m overwhelmed; and I remember going through this last year. Of course, it is good to get out of the office, but there was no “recharging of the battery”. This summit was a mental grind for 3 days. There are literally 200 items that I bring back that will improve me personally and our company. Some of these 200 things are easy while some will be very difficult and time consuming for us to implement.

Although we have a challenge, we also have passion. It was obvious that the best IT providers in the country have a high level of passion. Our company has to improve in many ways, but passion isn't one of them. Our improvement will happen because our leadership has the same passion. I’m excited because I know it will help our clients.

Check back often, I have more thoughts from the conference.

As a foot note, I claimed that I have “faithful readers.” To prevent a debate, I am safe making this claim because I force my three sons to read this.

Brian O'Shaughnessy
ITConnexx, Inc.
Green Bay, WI

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

ConnectWise Partner Summit

I’m on my way to an annual conference that is sponsored by ConnectWise. ConnectWise PSA is the software that we use to run our business. It is the help desk software that creates service tickets, assigns those tickets to a person to work on, captures the time we spend doing so, rolls up the time into an invoice and sends that invoice via email to my happy clients.

This is my second time attending the event, and something that I will never miss. Last year, I left the event a bit overwhelmed. It was the first time I had measured up our company with my peers. I realized that we do some things very well, but there are many ways for us to improve.

This year I’m excited for several reasons. I know what to expect and plan to use this opportunity to really push our company forward; both from a technology standpoint, and as a good partner to our clients.

Brian O’Shaughnessy
ITConnexx, Inc.
Green Bay, WI

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Welcome - A Blog?

Why am I writing a blog? Really, why? Who will read it? Will anybody read it? As I embark on this journey and open my brain to spill my thoughts on the use of technology in business, I say… Why? To be honest, Im doing this because the marketing guy said that I have to.

All day long I talk about computers, and networks, and how they work, and what doesn’t work. By the time I get home, I feel like a broken record. But when I think about it, I may have the same conversations day after day, but I never have every conversation with every person I talk to or work with.

Maybe this is a place for me to share my conversations and thoughts? Maybe if I publish my conversations and thoughts, I can spark an idea…? Or maybe I can help someone be more efficient…?

So as I drift across the ocean of technology topics, I write a blog to be a better partner and to share my experience in an informative, yet entertaining way. If you’ve gotten this far, I guess somebody will read it. And after all, maybe a marketing guy can be right. It took me 25 less years to realize this than it did to realize a parent can be right. Am I growing up?

Brian O'Shaughnessy
ITConnexx, Inc.