8 Things to Include on Your Disaster Recovery Plan Checklist

Losing data is a company’s worst nightmare. Unfortunately, no one is immune as security breaches run rampant today.

You not only have to consider the effects of human interference, but also what could happen in the wake of a natural disaster. Wildfires, hurricanes and earthquakes are all natural occurrences that could knock out your data centers and erase pertinent information without a human ever touching a computer.

A comprehensive disaster recovery plan checklist is essential to getting a business back up and running following a disaster. In this blog, you’ll learn the goals of a disaster recovery plan and what to include on your checklist.

Disaster Recovery Plan Goals

Disaster recovery is meant to help your business stay ahead of problems that could result in a loss of data. According to the National Archives & Records Administration in Washington, 93 percent of companies that lose data access for 10 days or more due to a disaster file for bankruptcy within a year.

If you want to avoid financial loss, your disaster recovery strategy should provide the resources needed to:

  • Minimize risk. Before you create a disaster recovery plan, perform a risk assessment to uncover vulnerabilities in your current system.
  • Resume operations quickly. Your systems need to be available to you and your customers as soon as possible. Your plan should include solutions for accessing the system without needing physical access — such as a Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) platform and redundant data storage that can be accessed anywhere.
  • Maintain industry compliance. Depending on your industry, you likely have specific regulations to uphold. Your disaster recovery plan should reduce your risk of incurring penalties for failing to meet compliance obligations.
  • Address concerns of employees, owners and investors. Your disaster recovery plan should help business leaders, owners, employees and investors feel at ease knowing your company is secure. Write down the top concerns from each of these groups so you know which liabilities need to be addressed if a disaster occurs.

What Should You Include on Your Disaster Recovery Plan Checklist?

Here are eight key ingredients to include on your disaster recovery plan checklist:

1. Set Your Recovery Time Objective (RTO) and Recovery Point Objective (RPO)

The first thing you need to do is determine your RTO and RPO. These data points refer to:

The amount of time you need to recover all applications (RTO)
The age of the files that must be recovered for normal operations to resume (RPO)

Setting RTO and RPO goals requires input from multiple departments to best assess business needs.

Your RTO and RPO will help you determine what solutions are necessary to survive a disaster or a data breach and keep your data recovery costs low. They help you determine which hardware and software configurations you need to recover your workloads.

2. Take Inventory of Hardware and Software

Take a complete inventory of your hardware and software. Categorize each application in one of three buckets:

  • Critical applications you can’t do business without
  • Applications you will need to use within a day
  • Apps you won’t need for a few days or more

By defining your most critical applications, you’ll know which ones you need to prioritize in the event of a disaster. You should revisit this list once or twice a year as you install new apps or remove old ones.

Pro Tip: Make sure you have the vendor technical support information for each piece of hardware and application on hand so you can get back up and running fast.

3. Identify Personnel Roles

Beyond your software and hardware needs, you also need to outline the roles and responsibilities involved during a disaster recovery event. Duties range from making the decision to declare a disaster to contacting party-vendors.

Your disaster recovery plan should include a list of disaster recovery personnel with each person’s position, responsibilities and emergency contact information. Everyone from C-suite executives to help-desk reps has a role to play, and each person should understand their role in detail.

You should also have a list of back-up employees in case someone is on vacation or no longer available.

4. Choose Disaster Recovery Sites

Any good business continuity plan will also include using a disaster recovery site where all of your company’s essential data, assets and applications can be moved during a disaster. Whatever location you choose should be able to support your critical hardware and software.

Disaster recovery plans typically use three sites:

  • Hot sites, which act as a functional data center with hardware, software, personnel and customer data
  • Warm sites that allow access to critical applications (excluding customer data)
  • Cold sites where you can store IT systems and data, but that have no technology until your disaster recovery plan goes into effect

These sites should automatically perform backups and replicate workloads to speed up recovery.

5. Outline Response Procedures

Documenting your recovery strategy is the only way to guarantee your team will know what to do and where to start. Write down guidelines for everything, including:

  • Communication procedures for employees, media and customers
  • Data backup procedures, including a list of facilities and third-party solutions
  • Instructions for initiating a response strategy, including staff roles and critical activities
  • Post-disaster activities that should take place after operations are reestablished, such as contacting customers and vendors

You can’t be too detailed when it comes to documenting response procedures. The goal is to achieve full transparency and make sure each staff member understands the disaster recovery process from start to finish.

6. Identify Sensitive Documents and Data

Thinking beyond hardware and software, you also need a list of the essential documents and data that you cannot lose without disastrous effects. This includes sensitive information, such as Personally Identifiable Information (PII), and who will have access to that data in the event of a breach or disaster.

7. Create a Crisis Communication Plan

No matter the size of your company, you need a clear strategy for communicating with employees, vendors, suppliers and customers in the event of a disaster. As long as you keep customers and the media informed on the status of your data outage or breach, they will feel much better about how you’re handling the situation.

Larger companies should create a crisis management media kit for reporters and customers. Include a statement that your PR team can publish on your website and across social media platforms that includes a number to contact for more information and an estimate on when things will be back up and running.

8. Run Continuous Practice Tests to Ensure Your Plan Is Effective

The last thing you want is to have your disaster recovery plan fail in your time of need. Test your plan at least once or twice each year and look for red flags, such as failed backup hardware or a slow internet connection that can’t restore your data in time.

Any time you run through a practice test, you should also review your risk assessments, personnel lists and inventory to ensure everything is up to date.

Get Expert Disaster Recovery Planning Assistance From KMicro

Today, every company is likely to experience a natural disaster or human interference at one point or another. To keep your data protected, you need a foolproof disaster recovery plan.

Reach out to KMicro to learn more about how we can help you create an effective disaster recovery plan that will get you back up and running in no time.

How to Implement a BYOD Policy Your Employees Will Actually Follow

Bring your own device (BYOD) policies have risen in popularity in recent years. In fact, 82 percent of companies let employees use personal devices for work. Why so many? Businesses save money by not having to make additional purchases, and employees don’t have to juggle between multiple devices.

But employing a BYOD policy isn’t easy. Business owners have to put trust in their employees to protect the company’s security. This blog will explain how BYOD policies work and provide tips on how to implement a BYOD policy that employees will follow.

What Are the Benefits of a BYOD Policy?

Before you create your BYOD implementation plan, you need to know the benefits of a BYOD policy. Your employees are likely to ask questions, and it’s best to be prepared so you’re not caught off-guard.

Here are the top four benefits of allowing personal devices at work:

Financial Savings
Because BYOD policies ask employees to use the same devices they already use at home, businesses save money on purchasing and maintaining laptops and mobile devices. Instead of paying full price, companies can pay employees a small stipend to cover device costs, data plans, etc.

When your employees no longer have to switch between their home device and work device, life gets a lot more convenient for them. According to a study by Sapho, employees save 81 minutes a week by using their own devices.

Plus, because they already know the device, they don’t need to be trained on a whole new system, making BYOD more convenient for your company as a whole, too.

Access to New Technology
Employees are more likely to purchase the latest phones and laptops, while companies tend to be a few years behind. This is because individuals get upgrades much more quickly and at a faster rate than companies do.

To stay efficient and productive, your employees need to be able to access information no matter where they might be. Because BYOD gives them access to their own phones, which are likely newer, they can access information quickly without struggling to go through password after password on their secure work phone.

While these benefits are hard to resist, a poorly planned BYOD policy can cause some major issues, including security risks and an increased need for IT support. When your employees are using a myriad of different devices — all with different operating systems — you need reliable IT support to be able to help them.

And considering that half of BYOD-friendly companies that experience a data breach are breached by an employee-owned device, it’s safe to say that you need a policy that accounts for such problems while maintaining the convenience of the program.

How to Implement a BYOD Policy

Here are seven steps you can take to create a successful BYOD implementation plan:

1. Establish Security Policies

Now that your employees can pull up sensitive information from home, your policy needs to address potential pitfalls. This includes setting up strict password requirements so that — should a device fall into the wrong hands — you can be sure your data is safe.

Beyond passwords, your BYOD implementation plan should outline:

  • The minimum required security controls for devices
  • Where data will be stored (including what is stored locally)
  • Inactivity timeouts
  • Whether you require employees to download a mobile device security app
  • Your remote wipe policy

Depending on your industry, you might need to create more restrictions based on compliance requirements.

2. Create an Acceptable Use Guide

If you don’t already have an “Acceptable Use Policy,” you should create one in conjunction with your BYOD policy. This policy will help guide your employees away from distractions while keeping your network free of viruses and malware.

When creating your acceptable use guide, outline which applications employees are permitted to access from their personal devices and which apps are restricted. You should also note:

  • Which websites are banned while a device is connected to the company’s network
  • What types of company-owned data employees can access from their devices
  • What disciplinary actions you will take if someone violates the policy

One thing to note: Don’t block websites like Facebook or YouTube. Blocking these sites can seem overly controlling, especially from your employees’ personal devices. You need an acceptable use guide that isn’t excessively strict and shows that you have trust in your team.

3. Install Mobile Device Management Software

Mobile device management (MDM) software allows you to configure, manage and monitor all personal devices from one application. Your IT team can then authorize security settings and software configurations on any device connected to your network.

With MDM software, your IT team can create automatic backups of your company’s intellectual property using the cloud, scan for vulnerabilities in your system, block mobile devices that could be threats, ensure anti-malware applications are updated, remotely update and patch issues and further enforce security policies.

4. Use Two-Factor Authentication for Company Applications

Two-factor authentication keeps hackers from impersonating users and gaining access to company accounts. It keeps your classified information secure by forcing anyone who logs in to an application to go through an extra step, such as providing answers to security questions or using a code that has been provided in an email or text message.

5. Protect Company and Personal Data on Employee Devices

While you need to protect your own data in a BYOD policy, it’s also a good idea to protect your employee’s personal data. Your employees deserve to have some level of privacy.

Your MDM software and processes should never interact with, copy or store your employee’s personal information, applications and other data such as location information.

6. Simplify the Sign-Up Process

The sign-up process for your BYOD program should be easy. Don’t ask employees to fill out a paper form or put them through multiple rounds of approvals. Your employees should be able to sign up or enroll through an IT ticket system to track all requests and their progress.

After they enroll, they shouldn’t have to download too many different apps — one or just a few should be enough for them to access the information they need without too much work.

7. Train Your Employees (Regularly)

Provide regular training seminars so your employees stay up-to-date on the BYOD policy and potential risks of not following the rules.

You can also create a detailed manual or allow employees to schedule one-on-one training with someone in the IT department. That way, employees not only learn the best ways to use their devices, but they also understand the potential risks and how the company plans to avoid such issues.

Get Expert BYOD Policy Advice From KMicro

Implementing a BYOD policy comes with its fair share of tasks. As a business leader, you know the benefits and you know what could go wrong, so you might need a helping hand.

Contact someone at KMicro to give you that hand. We’ve worked with everything from SharePoint migrations to cybersecurity solutions, so we can help you create a policy that covers all of your bases.

Set up a call with one of our team members or call us now for more information: 949-284-7264.

What Is Shadow IT? 5 Risks of Shadow IT and How to Avoid Them

The popularity of cloud computing is driving rapid growth of application use in the workplace. It’s easier than ever for employees to download cloud applications that will help them be more productive and efficient.

Unfortunately, some of these applications operate as shadow IT.

In this blog, you’ll learn what shadow IT is, why it exists and the common risks your business should watch out for.

What Is Shadow IT?

Shadow IT refers to IT applications, hardware and software that are managed without the knowledge of the IT department. Shadow IT has become most prevalent in the form of cloud applications because of how easy they are to download and the increasing number of productivity applications available.

The average company uses 1,083 cloud services, but the IT department only knows about 108 of them. Many employees feel comfortable downloading any application or cloud service as long as it makes their jobs easier.

And it does make their jobs easier. Modern software-as-a-service (SaaS) applications help employees hit their stride with tasks, manage their time and interact more efficiently with coworkers – but at what cost?

Shadow IT Risks and Challenges

When the IT department doesn’t have visibility into the SaaS apps that employees and departments are using, security and compliance risks arise. Here are five of the biggest shadow IT risks every business should be wary of:

1. Security Gaps
Shadow IT introduces security gaps to an organization. Because it hasn’t been vetted by the IT department, shadow IT doesn’t undergo the same security procedures as other supported technologies.

While some unsupported SaaS applications seem harmless, others might encourage sharing sensitive data between groups or recording calls for transcription services. IT staff needs to know what apps are in use and how they might put your company at risk of data breaches and other liabilities.

2. Compliance and Regulations
To protect consumers and other businesses, governmental organizations have created regulations and standards, such as Software Asset Management (SAM) and ISO/IEC 20000.

SAM compliance helps businesses manage the procurement of software licenses, but shadow IT prevents an organization from having proper documentation and approval of such licenses. Discovery of unapproved software can force government entities to audit a company’s infrastructure, leading to hefty fines or even jail time.

Organizations also adopt ISO/IEC 20000 to demonstrate quality and security to their customers and service providers. But these efforts are wasted if system documentation doesn’t reflect reality.

3. Configuration Management
It’s important (and necessary) for IT departments to create a configuration management database (CMDB) to help identify how systems work together. When an unauthorized application or piece of hardware is introduced, it likely won’t be supported or added to the CMBD because IT is merely unaware of its existence. Shadow IT can disrupt the delicate workflows the IT department has spent months or years configuring.

4. Collaboration Inefficiencies
When employees rely on different applications from department to department, collaboration becomes inefficient.

For example, if one department uses Google Drive for file sharing while another uses Box, what happens when the two teams need to work together on a project? How many times will one document get uploaded, edited and downloaded between the two services?

The average organization uses 57 different file-sharing services. Imagine how much easier collaboration would be if your company reduced that number to two or three enterprise licenses.

5. Poor IT Visibility
Lastly, while SaaS applications don’t seem like they take up too much space, the wrong one can severely impact bandwidth and efficiency. If one team relies on a shadow IT application that breaks down, the IT department won’t have the knowledge or documentation to fix it. Think about the chaos of having to get a time-sensitive project out that might ensue.

Many third-party applications were never meant to be part of your infrastructure in the first place — at least not without IT’s knowledge — so when a major update occurs that doesn’t mesh with your infrastructure, your IT team could be sent scrambling.

How to Manage Shadow IT

The best strategies for managing shadow IT include creating policies to oversee and monitor new applications.

While third-party applications can introduce serious security and compliance concerns, you also don’t want to stifle your employees by preventing them from downloading a product that could make them more productive.

Instead, embrace the idea that seeking out new technologies that can make their jobs easier. Establish policies that encourage employees to go to IT when they want to request a new application. It’s imperative that you keep the relationship between IT and the rest of the company open and honest.

Creating this open relationship between your IT department and your company isn’t the easiest thing to do. Thankfully, you don’t have to do it alone.

KMicro offers a host of cybersecurity solutions to help businesses gain control over and visibility into their shadow IT. We can help you identify the applications your employees are using without your knowledge, consolidate your cloud services and get everyone back on the same page.