Posts tagged data storage

A folder which is secured with chains represents the strategy for avoiding data loss.

Don’t Let Data Loss Shut Down Your Business

A folder which is secured with chains represents the strategy for avoiding data loss.

Regardless of the size of your company or the networking solutions you have in place, you must be aware of the persistent threat of data loss.

It seems that more and more these days, there are major headlines announcing the fact that another giant corporation or huge agency has suffered a breach resulting in data loss, and that thousands, if not millions of clients have been affected. This in itself can be pretty frightening for everyone who is a subscriber or a client of one of these companies, because it means that your personal data can be in the hands of a criminal seeking to use it for personal gain.

For executives of these giant corporations and agencies, it can be a nightmare as well, because it’s a huge blow to the credibility of the company, conveying the notion that inadequate security measures were being used, and that customer data was not afforded proper importance. When companies suffer a loss of credibility and reputation, that usually translates to a loss of business as well, as clients abandon the company for theoretically safer places.

Then too, there can be a much more bottom-line effect which results from a data breach, and that can be expressed in dollars. In some cases, a cyber-attacker will hold the data hostage from a corporation, and he/she will demand some ransom amount for the safe return of the data. If that business-critical data has not been properly backed up on a regular basis, the company might have no recourse whatsoever, other than to pay the demanded ransom figure, so that data can be recovered.

Small Business Attacks

All this is pretty disconcerting in and of itself, with weekly or monthly attacks garnering national attention. However, the attacks which don’t make headline news are much more common, albeit perhaps not quite so spectacular, in terms of dollar amounts and in terms of numbers of customers affected. Many cyber attackers have eschewed attacks on corporate entities because they tend to be well protected, and instead have turned their attention to the endless number of small businesses operating in the country, simply because there are so many inviting targets.

While the profits to be earned from attacking small businesses aren’t quite so impressive, the sheer number of possible targets makes up for it, in terms of volume. It has been estimated that a small to medium-sized business which has suffered data loss to a cyber-attacker will typically lose about 25% of its daily revenue, one week after a loss. One month after a data loss, the estimated daily revenue losses will have climbed to around 40%, which is more than enough to cripple most small to medium-sized businesses.

Data maintained by the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) reveals that when small to medium-sized businesses suffer a significant data loss, which triggers a period of downtime lasting at least 10 days, more than 93% have had to file bankruptcy within a year of the incident. Even more startling, more than 50% of those companies didn’t even waste a year’s time, and they had to file bankruptcy immediately after the data loss.

Records kept by the same NARA agency in Washington, D.C. show that small to medium-size businesses with no data recovery plans, go out of business at a rate of 43% following any significant data loss. All these facts and figures should point up the critical need for data backups and data recovery plans. Those companies which think they will never be the ones impacted by cyber-attack, and which don’t take the necessary steps to prevent disaster resulting from such attacks, are the companies which very often are forced to file for bankruptcy.

There is simply no substitute for being proactive about your data protection processes, and for having a formalized plan for backup and recovery. More than this, these processes should be periodically tested to ensure that they are still valid and that they are providing maximum effectiveness against data loss. Failure to implement such safety procedures can make it much more likely that a small to medium-size business will end up as one of those statistics regarding the fate of companies experiencing significant data loss.

A screen prompt from a malicious hacker shows a ransom demand under the pain of file loss.

Hackers are fond of creating schemes which can hold your business-critical files hostage under the threat of causing file loss.

How to go About Protecting Against Data Loss

Data backups should occur either daily or weekly, depending on cost-effectiveness and on the volume of transactions your business accumulates in a single day. If you have a high volume of transactions every day, chances are you’ll need to have daily backups, because if your backups are no more current than last week, you will have lost a tremendous number of transactions, if you have to restore from a week ago.

Make sure that your data backups are actually saving the data that you need, and also make sure that the restore process functions as it should, in the event that you have to carry through on it, to retrieve business-critical data.

Regarding the data to be backed up, you should have a prioritized approach, which assigns the most resources to the most important data. Your business-critical data is comprised of all the customer data that you store for clients, all personal data, and all data necessary for daily operations. Company managers can determine this priority scheme with I.T. personnel so that if you do have limited resources for data backup and recovery, you can always be sure that the most important data is saved, and can be restored whenever necessary. With this approach in mind, you will ensure that any possible data loss will not be irrevocable.

Moving your business' data to the cloud can be daunting, so understanding the benefits and security measures of cloud computing services is important.

The Cloud: Understanding More About Its Benefits and Security

Moving your business' data to the cloud can be daunting, so understanding the benefits and security measures of cloud computing services is important.

The cloud is a convenient and cost-effective means of elevating your business’ resource allocation processes.

What Is the Cloud?

“The cloud” is one of those popular tech topics people talk about but can’t always define.  The cloud is essentially a network of servers that does two types of things.  One kind of cloud server stores data and while the other uses its computing power to help applications run.

We all come across the cloud frequently in everyday life, especially for storage.  Every time you use an app like Instagram, a cloud server is what holds the pictures uploaded to your account.  These photos are not saved in your phone’s internal memory, but rather in Instagram’s network of servers.  Dropbox is also an example of a cloud server. Every time you save something on your computer that doesn’t take up your computer’s memory, you are using the cloud.

Other companies like Adobe use the cloud to deliver services.  Previously you could buy the Adobe Creative Suite™ in a physical box.  Now, all of these tools exist in the cloud and users pay a subscription fee to access them in the Adobe Creative Cloud™.

How the Cloud Benefits You

When businesses decide to move their resources to the cloud, overhead costs can be reduced.  Before cloud technology became widespread, businesses would have to purchase hardware and computer applications that lost their value over time.  With the cloud, applications previously downloaded on physical computers are now run and updated through the Internet.

Businesses can also be more flexible with their resources.  The cloud allows them to pay for only what they use since cloud computing is a subscription-based service.  It can also accommodate for businesses that have growing bandwidth demands since cloud capacity can be scaled up and down easily.  This kind of agility makes these services cost-effective and adaptive.

The cloud can make your business more secure in a variety of ways.  Lost laptops are a security breach for companies every year because many of them contain highly sensitive information. Not only that, valuable documents may be lost forever when devices are misplaced.

With cloud computing, you can access files at any time via your Internet connection.  This allows you to remotely wipe the memory of lost devices and not have to worry about information falling into the wrong hands.

The cloud benefits the environment by decreasing your carbon footprint, by reducing unnecessary hardware and only using the required amount of cloud storage.  Even in the digital age where more and more companies are going paperless, sustainability is important.

This image shows three different types of cloud securities, "private," "hybrid," and "public." How secure the cloud is depends on the measures you take to protect your data.

How secure the cloud is depends on the security measures you take to protect your data.

Is the Cloud Secure?

Contrary to popular belief, the cloud is quite secure.  However, it requires you to take measures to personally secure your company’s data.  When businesses “move to the cloud,” it requires that you have knowledgeable security staff that understands what that entails.  Your team must know that the data you are moving is sensitive, and apply end-to-end encryption to the data during both storage and transfer process.

A recent study found that 82% of public databases are not encrypted.  Make sure the cloud provider you are using suits your data needs and has what it takes to keep your files secure. Whatever service you choose, it is still the job of the user to define who can access the data, move it, add data, etc., and how those permissions change with each cloud provider.  Defining these terms is known as Identity Access Management (IAM).

In addition to these steps, it is wise to back up your data in separate fault domains.  Fault domains are basically stacks of servers.  They include features that, in the case of a network failure, make sure only the server with the failure would stop working.  This means you have multiple copies of your data, achieving maximum file resiliency.

Cloud Computing Creates a Level Playing Field

Anyone can utilize cloud computing services since they are inexpensive and require only an Internet connection to access.  It also allows small and growing companies to use enterprise-level technology, and even make faster business decisions than larger, more established companies.

Cloud networks facilitate collaboration from your team members, meaning that they can work and share files with everyone, from anywhere.  Cloud-based workflow applications allow real-time remote collaboration and streamline communication.  Gone are the days of attaching files to emails and ending up with incompatible file formats, and ineffective version-control.

Moving data to the cloud means that even the smallest companies are becoming more globally involved. Since growing businesses can be financially nimble using cloud computing services, they can now disrupt a market dominated by Fortune 500 corporations.

If you need assistance in moving data to the cloud, don’t hesitate to contact Geek-Aid. We’re here for all of your technology needs and computer repair questions.

A closeup of a hard disk drive, which may need someone to recover lost data from it.

How to Recover Lost Data From Your Hard Drive

A closeup of a hard disk drive, which may need someone to recover lost data from it.

If your hard drive fails, use these steps to recover lost data.

One way or another, accidents happen. It’s worse is when something happens to your precious hard drive. An important tool like this carries crucial data that you absolutely cannot lose. If a situation like this were to occur, do not panic. There is some hope. Follow these steps and you just might be able to recover lost data from your hard drive.

Analyze the Problem

The first thing you need to figure is how you lost your data in the first place. If you can figure that out, then you can know the best way to recover your information. During that time, try to use your computer as little as possible. That creates new data, which can overwrite files and lower your chances of retrieving your lost data.

The Best Ways to Recover Lost Data

  • Did You Throw in the Trash? – Did you happen to accidently hit delete on one of your files? If data goes missing, the recycle bin should be the first place you check. Nothing is ever completely deleted – at least not at first. Your computer will keep deleted files for a certain amount of time before purging them. By simply opening the recycle bin and restoring that data, you can have it back in your possession.
  • Backup Frequently – Backing up your hard drive should be a bi-monthly ritual. When you back up your hard drive, you save another version of its data at that point in time. So, if you lose your data, your backup may have the latest version of those files.
  • Prepping for an Extremely Dire Situation – Sometimes, recovering your data is not as simple as checking the recycle bin or using a backup. In that case, we suggest using recovery software. It may cost you some money, but it can scan the area where you lost your files and retrieve them from whatever invisible digital space they disappeared into.

If you are in need of data recovery, contact us at Geek Aid. One of our Geeks can walk you through the steps to recover you lost information.

Two doctors looking at patient files on a computer.

Patient Files, Privacy, Early Detection: The Math Behind It All

Two doctors looking at patient files on a computer.

Doctors take several precautionary measures to simultaneously protect patient files and use them for future diagnosis.

When it comes to treatment of disease, early detection is vital. However, this is a catch-22 when related to patient files because of privacy issues. You want to be able to look at the data and know which screenings are the most appropriate, but you legally can’t disclose much of the relevant data to a team of statisticians. Mathematicians are trying to give you a way around this.

Keeping Patient Files Anonymous

The first step in maintaining privacy is altering patient data so that the patient is anonymous. This may sound like it defeats the purpose, but there are computer programs that can use the changed data just as effectively as the real data. While the data is no longer attached to an individual in any significant way, it is still relevant for the sake of observing trends and looking at summaries of statistics.

Researchers are working hard to ensure that the changed data does not result in statistics that have been altered. The computer system looks at the answers to yes and no questions like:

  • Is the patient overweight?
  • Does the patient smoke?
  • Is there a family history of illness?

Then it turns this data into geometric patterns. Now, while disguised as shapes, the data is still there for the computer to see, while the patients remain anonymous. How does this help a practice to treat patients?

The data can be collated, and statistics can be determined. At the same time, no one ever sees the name of a particular patient while doing data entry or figuring up the statistics. In this way, patients are protected, but health care providers still get much-needed data to determine the importance of various types of screening and other preventative measures.

Computers and the Health Care Industry

Patient privacy is a vital aspect of the health care industry despite the fact that we live in a digital age of information sharing. You need an agency to help you navigate the line between storing data and protecting data. After all, you want to be able to provide patients with the best possible care while submitting to the law.

Data Security: Knowing Your Own Weaknesses

When it comes to cyber threats, most security focuses on external threat assessment. We often ask what may happen next, and then respond reactively, rather than performing an internal data security audit and proactively taking steps to shore up defenses.

Examine Your Network to Improve Data Security

Here are a few things you should know about your own network that will help you keep it more secure.

  1. Know Your Data – Regardless of what of data or how much information your system stores, you need to take inventory in order to assess First all, what type of information do you need to protect (company files, employee info, customer info, financial data, R&D, etc.). Second, know the location of the data. Is it stored locally, in the cloud, or both? Do you have offsite backups? What data is the most critical?
  2. Know Your Software – Every system that is installed in your network should be there for a reason. Eliminate unused software. Keep all loaded software up to date and configured properly for maximum security.
  3. Profile Configurations – Know everyone who has a login to your systems. Require strong passwords, and educate employees on how to avoid phishing attacks that can steal employee credentials and give hackers an in to your system.

While these are not the only 3 elements of a security audit, the important takeaway is to regularly audit in-house security methods to be sure that everything possible is being done to avoid a cyberattack. When you know the threats that exist in-house and shore up those defenses, you are in a better position to evaluate external threats to your organization.

Sometimes it can be important to have an objective eye. This means calling for a data security audit from an external source, preferably a company experienced with the type of data you need secured, as well as the systems that your company uses. Such a security company can then offer viable solutions to eliminate cracks in your organization’s digital security measures.

In the present world of data breaches and the financial consequences that come with them, it is more important to your business than ever to be protected.

Evaluating External Threats — Know Your Enemy

When it comes to evaluating external threats to your company’s data, narrowing down the primary attacks can be difficult. So what can you do to pinpoint the most likely sources of a cyberattack? The first step is taking stock of what your company has to lose.

How to Spot External Threats

If you know the type of data in your network and where it is located, that will make it easier to determine direct external threats to your data. Threat Intelligence is the name given to this type of evaluation. By discovering what your data’s greatest threats are, you can be prepared to repel the most likely attacks.

One thing you can be certain of is that cyber criminals are always looking for tools that can provide a way around standard security measures. So while you need to take the standard precautions, these alone are rarely enough. As security companies develop new antivirus programs, anti-malware tools, and firewalls, the world of cyber criminals gets to work on developing better attacks that can evade those tools. It’s vital to keep everything up to date. Every time hackers find a way around, security companies update their software, and so the escalation continues.

When a weakness is discovered and exploited, the subsequent attacks are referred to as zero-day attacks. These attacks prove successful until a patch is released to update the vulnerable software or platform. While zero-day attacks were a rarity in the past, this is a common external threat today. The world of cybercrime has an entire system of developers to exploit vulnerabilities, and brokers who act as a go-between to provide these attacks to those who would use them against your company as well as other unsuspecting innocents.

It calls for the proper mix of defensive and proactive behaviors to keep the risk of data loss at a minimum. Your online security team has to be on guard daily to keep your brand from becoming an easy target and the next headline news feature involving cybercrime. When your security team and employees work together to maintain a safe environment, it decreases the likelihood that your organization will need to release the next public apology for experiencing a data breach.

Choosing a Cloud Storage Service for Your Business

Cloud storage got its start with Dropbox back in 2007, but today we see a great deal of competition in the online storage industry. It seems every major player in the online world, including Microsoft, Google, and Amazon, have their own service, both free and pay. How can you know which one will meet the needs of your organization?

Cloud Storage: Price Versus Function

While many simply select the cloud storage service that provides them with the amount of free storage they are looking for, it’s better to consider the function of each service to determine which one will meet your requirements the best.

Here is a quick rundown of five popular online storage services.

  1. Cloud Drive (Amazon) – More downtime than competitors, and no way to sync files, make this cloud storage service a definite “no” for most small business owners. The latest storage options all have free trials but will eventually cost you a monthly fee (which is less if you pay annually). It is compatible with Mac OS and Windows, is built in on Amazon mobile devices, and there is an app for iOS and Android phones and tablets.
  2. Dropbox – The original cloud storage service, Dropbox knows what they are doing and expect you to pay for it. You do get 2 GB for free, and even more if you use the mobile app. 1 TB of storage will cost you $10/month and unlimited is $15/month. It works across all platforms and is simple to use.
  3. Drive (Google) – This is really your only option if you use Chromebooks. It is paired with Google’s office suite (Google Docs) and is compatible with Microsoft Office. Monthly storage rates are cheap at $2 for 100 GB and $10 for 1 TB. If you need more storage, Google Drive for Work lets you pay for unlimited storage by the number of users you have ($10/user monthly).
  4. iCloud (Apple) – Built in for Apple products, and available for Windows, iCloud comes with 5 GB of storage for free, and tacks on storage in 20 GB increments for $1/month (or you can jump to 200 GBs at the discounted rate of $4/month). Between speed, sync issues, and no business plans, this is more for backing up your selfies than a company storage service.
  5. OneDrive (Microsoft) – 15 GBs of free storage is a great incentive for those who need just a little more free space and don’t want a monthly fee. This is the cheapest 1 TB service at only $7/month. By the way, the 1 TB service comes with Office 365 Personal, which gives you the full version of Microsoft Office on one computer and one tablet (even an iPad). It’s clearly the best option for some businesses.

Protecting Patient Data Is Better Than Apologizing for a Breach

Having patient records digitized has certainly been an advantage for the medical field. Now doctors can see those x-rays the second they become available, and your patient benefits by getting proper treatment quicker. And that’s just one tiny example of how digital medical records are benefiting practices and patients alike. However, there is also an ugly downside to digital records, and whether it is true or not, to the average patient they feel a lot less secure.

In a world where the Internet has made privacy a matter of primary concern, the stakes are even higher in the medical industry. After all, no one wants a practice’s reputation to be marred by a data breach. And then there are those hefty fines for HIPAA violations if patient data is stolen. Before you dump your computer in the river, and go back to keeping records in a massive filing cabinet, let’s look at your best options for keeping patient data safe in the digital world.

Defending the Right Thing: Patient Data

Most businesses figure that a firewall and some passwords for employees are all they really need to significantly reduce risk. While having these in place is far better than not, there’s a bigger issue at hand. If your system still gets hacked, is the data encrypted? For medical businesses, it is important to focus on protecting the right thing. Even in-house messaging needs to be encrypted, should a breach occur. Encryption is your first line of defense against fines because it ensures that even stolen data is not readable.

Of course, patient medical information isn’t the only data you have to protect. Patients pay medical bills with various types of credit cards and bank accounts. If that patient data is saved by your system, then you also need to encrypt and protect financial data. The fines may not be that high for losing a bunch of credit card numbers, but reputation damage can still sink a practice.

Go Beyond Minimum Compliance

You want to be able to tell your patients that their data is as safe as it can be. This alleviates concerns, and it can help save face for your practice should a breach ever occur.

Protecting Your Data from Within

When we hear about a data breach, the first thing that comes to mind is a hacker “breaking in” to a secure system in order to steal data. The fact is that most security breaches start from inside the workplace.

What Are the Threats to Your Data from Within?

You have to watch out for three different threats from inside any business organization:

  1. Ignorance – Malware enters the system because a naïve employee clicks a bogus email link or selects okay on a dialogue box that starts the download.
  2. Neglect – Some employees may know better but simply don’t care. For example, if allowed to, they may use company computers to surf shady sites that are known for harboring spyware and phishing schemes.
  3. Malicious – A rogue employee steals data to hurt the company—or perhaps for profit. There have been reports of hackers bribing employees to give out their login credentials.

Why Internal Threats Are Tough to Contain

You can’t constantly be looking over the shoulder of every employee. There are varying degrees of tech savvy in the workplace, and sometimes a quick course in avoiding scams isn’t enough to keep it from happening. Not all companies have sufficient checks in place to keep users from going to sites where malware is commonly downloaded. Also, user-developed passwords are often too simple, and many networks do not have any established rules in place to make employees select passwords that are difficult to guess.

What Can You Do?

Here are a few ways to counteract these internal security issues:

  1. Monitoring Access – You need to have something in place to monitor the activity of your users. Make sure that users have the permissions to access only the sites they need in order to do their job, rather than giving everyone full-system access.
  2. Monitoring Use – You need to be able to quickly detect the difference between normal system use and something sketchy. It can often be difficult to tell the difference between accidental and intentional misuse of the system, but something needs to be done either way.
  3. Fast Response – You need to have a game plan in place for when something goes wrong. You can’t shut down a user’s access every time someone does something different, but you also want to cut off access immediately if someone is actually trying to do damage—so there is a fine line.

Data Storage: HDD Still King

I think most people agree, our technology can never have too much data storage. This is especially true as video becomes the primary medium through which we communicate and entertain ourselves. Whether watching, sharing, or editing, storage is the key. Speed is important too, however, which leads many to wonder: Why don’t solid state drives dominate the market?

While solid state drives may have a big advantage in performance over platter-based HDD drives, the expense of SSD is the major factor keeping HDD alive. One hard drive producer, Seagate, has now produced an HDD to stretch the bounds of storage further than ever before, and both the size and cost-efficiency of the drive are equally impressive.

This new 2 terabyte drive is a mere 7 mm thick. They were able to do this by stacking two plates on top of each other. The drive, in total, is only 2.5 inches in size. That also allowed them to drop the weight down to just over 3 ounces. Enter, the Cadillac of HDDs.

So what is the future for Seagate? Are even smaller and lighter HDDs with more drive space in our future? Actually, reports from the company orient the future toward hybrid drives. It’s a smart move. Seagate has created drives with tons of HDD storage and a NAND module to increase the speed without the substantial price jump that separates HDD and SSD.

What you can do today with 2 TB of storage:

  • Store 500,000 songs
  • 320,000 images
  • 240 hours of HD video
  • 26 hour of UHD video

The size of the drive makes it perfect for the next generation of laptops with larger data storage, but the amount of storage will rival desktop computers as well. The future may be SSDs and hybrid drives, but today belongs to this 2 TB beauty.

 

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