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Cloud Compute
Article by ATI partner US Signal 

There’s plenty of information out there about the benefits of cloud-based disaster recovery (DR) and backup. You’ve also likely read a lot about how to overcome the challenges associated with cloud-based DR and backup. There are even numerous checklists for finding a cloud-based DR or backup provider. But what you really want to know is: how do I get started?

As is the case with a lot of questions regarding cloud services, the answer is: it depends. All companies are different. The nature of their businesses vary. Their operations are unique, and their business requirements and needs are usually specific based on their industry, market sector, stakeholders and other variables.

Cliché as it sounds, there really is no “one-size-fits-all” approach to cloud-based DR and backup. However, there are some basic guidelines to help you move your organization to a cloud-based DR and/or backup model. Among them:

  1. Inventory your data and applications. What do you have? Where is it? Who needs it and how often? (You can’t do Step #3 without this information.)  
  2. Identify your mission-critical infrastructure. There is always mission-critical equipment required to keep core business operations up and running.
  3. Determine the effects on your organization if you couldn’t access the various types of data and applications you have, as well as your IT infrastructure. This will help you determine if some are more important than others.
  4. Develop recovery point objectives (RPOs)and recovery time objectives (RTOs). Check to see if there are any regulatory requirements, government mandates or industry standards you must comply with in terms of your RPOs and RTOs.
  5. Create a recovery event task list. What do you need first, second and so on, and who’s responsible for getting these tasks done?
  6. Document how you currently handle DR and backup. Are you employing industry best practices? Are you accounting for all your data, applications and IT infrastructure? Are these tactics meeting your RPO and RTO requirements? Have you tested these tactics to make sure they work the way you think they should work? Are you confident that if a manmade or natural disaster struck, your company could continue doing business or at least mitigate issues enough so you could be back online quickly without disrupting your business operations?
  7. If there are deficiencies in what you’re currently doing, or you don’t have any kind of DR or backup plan in place, determine if you have the in-house expertise and available resources to get a cloud-based solution in place. If you do, get on it. If not, seek out a service provider that can help.
  8. Whether you’re going the “do-it-yourself” route or working with a service provider, first determine what you need in a cloud-based DR and backup solution. List out your “must-have’s” and “nice-to-have’s.” Some of the things to consider when creating your list:
    • Do you have both mission-critical and critical data and applications that might require different levels of protection and backup such that you’d benefit from a ‘tiered approach’?
    • How will your data be securely transferred and stored in the cloud?
    • Will data be encrypted in transit and at rest, and who will hold the data encryption keys?
    • How will users be authenticated? Is multi-factor authentication included?
    • Will the solution meet compliance mandates?
    • How much bandwidth, compute and storage will be needed?
    • How quickly will data need to be transferred to the cloud?
    • Will the service be managed by a provider?
    • Look back at #4. What are your compliance, RTO and RPO requirements?
    • Will you need help with data migration and/or solution testing?
  9. Carefully assess the advantages and disadvantages of the various cloud-based DR and backup options under consideration. Do any of them fully meet your needs and requirements? Can they be customized for a better “fit”? Are there any tradeoffs that may overshadow the benefits?
  10. If you’re going with a service provider, will that company back its DR and backup solutions with a service level agreement? Does it have around-the-clock tech support available if you need it?  Does its solution protect you against ransomware and other security threats as well as ensure your data can be successfully backed up and recovered? 

The Case for Managed DR and Backup

One of the easiest ways to move DR and backup to the cloud is to work with a trusted service provider. Working with the right service provider can:

  • Free up your internal resources
  • Reduce capital expenses
  • Help you meet many of your compliance requirements (provided the provider offers a compliant DR and backup solution)
  • Let you take advantage of leading-edge data protection and best practices (because service providers have to invest in the best to keep their customers happy)
  • And more!

Article by ATI partner US Signal 

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ATI works closely with the leader in cloud solutions, to provide a cost effective, dependable set of products to protect the modern business. Our cloud-based Disaster Recovery services provides customers with data loss prevention and various business continuity options leveraging the best-of-breed IT infrastructure as a service (IaaS).

Contact us today to learn more, or click here to learn more about Disaster Recovery as a Service.

Putting a natural disaster plan together can be a daunting process – it’s time-consuming and daunting. However, anyone who has experienced a crisis like it would probably agree that having a plan in place helps to ensure the least possible negative impact for the business. One of the most important tools of your business is the phone system. It’s a requirement in order for you to get the help needed as well as ensure the safety of the employees and the business. If the dial tone is lost, the first part of the response efforts are hindered significantly.

Phones and Emergencies

While we usually think of a natural disaster crisis as something like a flood, earthquake, or a fire, smaller events like a water leak or a robbery can be equally devastating to businesses. When critical business elements like the phones are compromised, not only is productivity lost, the costs against the business begin to escalate rapidly.

The Importance of a Crisis Plan and Communication Solution

FEMA reports that 40% of businesses who become victim to a natural disaster are never able to reopen, and 25% fail the first year after that crisis occurs. Successful businesses today understand the importance of preparing for the worst even if the worst seems unlikely to occur. If crisis strikes, employees need to understand what’s happening, nearby businesses need to be contacted, and emergency response groups may need to respond for assistance.

Creating Your Crisis Communication Plan

When developing your crisis communication solution, there are five important elements:
  1. Detailed Communication Plan: This part of the plan should define exactly how the organization will communicate with each other regarding the crisis. It should focus on the purpose of the communication, who’ll be in charge of activating it, and the tools and procedures needed.
  1. Crisis Communication Team: The team of people who will be responsible for the gathering of information about the crisis and reporting it to interested individuals and the media. Specific roles should be defined such as a spokesperson, who monitors both the internal communication as well as any backups for those roles.
  1. Prepared Responses: Consider the many possible crisis situations your business could potentially experience and develop some basic responses that can be used immediately after the crisis occurs, or adjusted slightly during an emergency.
  1. Internal Communications Process: In this area of the plan, you should outline how employees will receive information about what’s happening. The plan should also define how employees should respond if the phone system is no longer available. This area should include hard copies of all the media and social media policies.
  1. Important Contacts: A response team should not need to look around for the phone numbers of people who need to be contacted. This area of the plan includes the phone numbers and contact information for the team members. Examples include the police/fire departments, health organizations, and helpful evacuation centers or resources.

ShoreTel Sky Communication Solution

With all the elements involved in a crisis, having your phone system down isn’t a welcomed issue to an already extremely stressful situation. Although no system is completely disaster-proof, phone systems like ShoreTel Sky provide features to help ensure your plan is executed effectively. ShoreTel Sky IP phone systems offer cost-effective communication solutions to help prevent the loss of connectivity during a crisis. Safety Features Include:
  • Server Backup: We offer multiple options for server backup so customers are always able to manage the system and use the advanced features.
  • Double-Take: This feature provides a backup virtual server to another location using a WAN connection connected to the primary server.
  • ShoreTel Design: Sound architecture and applications are the backbone of the ShoreTel Sky solution. The design includes N+1 redundancy and switch-based hardware for highest availability.
Investing the time into developing your company’s crisis communication solutions is an important element of the stability of your organization. Because if the business does face a natural disaster or crisis, you will be prepared to weather the storm as it’s happening as well as the important recovery period.
– Learn more about ShoreTel’s disaster ready phone system here. – Make sure your data is also backed up here.

Cloud Compute

When Disaster Strikes: Looking to the Cloud for Business Continuity

It’s a Monday afternoon. Calls are rolling in, there are countless voicemails to respond to, and business is humming along. Then, seemingly out of nowhere, Courtney the sales manager knocks on your door with a perplexed look on her face. “Do you know what’s wrong with the phone system?” Courtney asks. “There’s no dial tone, no access to voicemail, and no calls coming in.” Ah, yes — the feared phone system failure. Whether caused by a clumsy utility worker, a big storm, or some other unpredictable problem, phone system issues can create enormous headaches. In fact, if your company hasn’t implemented any kind of disaster or redundancy plan, those failures significantly disrupt business continuity and productivity. You can’t afford that kind of stagnation. So, you close your laptop, pull out your cell phone, and call your telecommunications provider. An hour later, you finally get someone on the line. Two hours later, you’ve diagnosed the problem. And, right around closing time, the phone system is finally working again. Problem is, you and your team have lost a day of productivity. And your customers aren’t happy. A Simpler (and More Effective) Way to Manage Disaster Recovery Until recently, the only way to ensure this scenario didn’t happen to you was to duplicate all of your systems and implement a complex disaster recovery plan. Both of those require significant investments in equipment and infrastructure, which is why many businesses have instead chosen to roll the dice and hope for the best. Today, there’s another solution that is cheaper and much more efficient. Cloud-based phone systems have greatly advanced system recovery and business continuity in the face of an outage. Because cloud systems are hosted virtually, there’s no need to worry about the types of disastrous scenarios that used to disrupt on-premise or landline phone services. If a phone line is cut, cloud-based systems are totally unaffected. If Internet service goes down, phone calls can be re-routed to backup cell phone numbers or other business offices. Simply put, recovery and continuity is a non-issue. 3 Key Business Benefits of Switching to the Cloud While that kind of peace of mind is pretty compelling on its own, there are a handful of ancillary benefits of the cloud to consider, as well. Here are three particularly important ones:
  1. Cloud-based phone systems are less expensive up-front than on-premise solutions — and that’s with built-in disaster recovery and redundancy planning.
  2. Unlike on-premise solutions, cloud-based phone systems are totally scalable. If you need to re-direct call flow from one site to another, it’s very easy to do without any disruption in call quality or service.
  3. If a total outage strikes, wiping out your office’s power and Internet service, cloud-based phone systems allow employees to connect from anywhere — their home, a coffee shop, or wherever they can tap into power and a data connection.
With these benefits in mind, the question, then, is why you wouldnt switch to the cloud. Truthfully, there are still compelling arguments for on-premise phone systems, and it’s important to consider your goals before making any major change. But if connectivity, business continuity, system redundancy and reliability are important to your company, employees and customers, you’d be wise to take a closer look at the benefits of the cloud. If nothing else, it will help you better plan for network disruptions you can’t possibly anticipate.