Outsourcing software and services can be a great boon to efficiency and productivity. The trend toward Web 2.0 SaaS (Software as a Service) and cloud computing is simplifying once complex software and licensing issues. Your business is only a few clicks away from implementing a secure intranet, online accounting software, or a unified office, calendar, and email suite.

There are, however, things that can go wrong. It's the responsibility of every business and business owner to mitigate risks that threaten business continuity and integrity. Responsibility and accountability cannot be outsourced. If your business relies heavily on cloud computing, there are a few things you can do to reduce the damage done by outages and problems in the cloud. I'll use Google Apps as an example, but these principals apply to any hosted software.

Connectivity


Your internet connection is not 100% reliable. No internet connection is. Modems break, wires are cut or unplugged, billing issues occur, and ISPs go down. In the past, this hasn't been as big a problem as it can be now. In a traditional local computing office, most of the information needed to work is stored on local hard drives and servers. An internet outage can mean no email or web browsing, but documents can be written, old emails can be read and responded to, spreadsheets can be adjusted. In short, digital office work can continue through an internet outage.

In an office which relies heavily on web-based applications, an internet outage puts a stop to work. Access to documents, schedules, perhaps the business logic on which the whole company is run is abruptly cut off. Fortunately, we can plan for this and install a redundant internet connection. This used to be available only in very high-end installations requiring equipment expenditures in the thousands of dollars. Now, it's hundreds. You need only three things:


  1. An internet connection

  2. Another internet connection from a different provider via a different medium

  3. A router with multiple WAN connections


This is $200 - $300 of equipment and approximately 2 hours of labor to set up. If you're interested in increasing your resistance to internet outages, get in touch with us.

Backup


It's easy to imagine that Google is eternal and perfect. They employ some of the brightest computer scientists in the world, their products are free and easy to use, and they are somewhat of an icon of Web 2.0 goodness. Google is not eternal or perfect. Their systems can fail, or you might even be targeted by a malicious hacker or competitor. Though they employ best-in-class solutions to prevent data loss, Google disavows any responsibility for your data.

Making regular backups of your data is important, no matter where it is stored. When your data's primary home is your computer, we can use online services to keep remote backups. When your data's primary home is an online service, we can utilize local copies as backups.

If you're relying heavily on email and calendars, be sure to configure your local email and calendar software to sync with Google. This way you retain access to your email, contacts, and calendars even if Google's services have trouble.

It takes only minutes to set up local syncing of documents, contacts, calendars, and email. If you're interested in backing up your important information, get in touch with us.

Plan B


This is more philosophy than specific advice. For every system on which your business relies, do you have a plan B? If your stapler breaks, you grab a paperclip. Easy. What's your plan for an internet outage? A broken hard drive? A disgruntled employee who decides to erase the calendar and send vulgarities to the email lists? You don't need a formal plan for every eventuality, but you should reflect on your business and prepare for issues that you know are likely to occur.

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