October 30, 2015

6 Things That Frighten IT Managers (and How to Overcome Them)

What’s scarier than Halloween? Your company data getting breached by malicious cyber threats or your website going down for hours on end in the heavy holiday season coming up. It’s true – more stores get cyber hacked over the holidays, which is why Halloween is officially the start of the hellidays. During our time in the managed hosting industry, we have seen our fair share of “Frankenstein-ed” websites and IT environments.

No matter what type of IT environment you have, there are certain required tasks that all IT professionals often dread doing. They are a necessary evil to your work schedule, but they are absolutely essential to ensuring that your company is secure. As no stranger to bringing websites back from the dead, avoiding tech support nightmares, and preventing middle-of-the-night cyber attacks, we felt now was the time to pass on some managed hosting treats so you can avoid the technical tricks before the holiday season kicks into high gear.

Monitoring

Monitoring may be at the bottom of the list of your hardware fears, making it an oft-overlooked task for most IT departments, but it is critical to solidifying your site’s foundation. It’s imperative that you are able to see signs of trouble, but also signs before the signs. By combining data point monitoring with data intercepting, a sound strategy will fix issues far before they ever rear their ugly head.

Monitoring encompasses multiple functions, including but not limited to database connectivity, DNS records, and network connectivity. Each of these functions represents a critical element of site monitoring but also some of the more time consuming to implement in entirety.

It requires consistency and resources to systematically and effectively monitor all of the activities taking place in a project. While it’s not the most glamorous part of IT, it’s still a critical component of your infrastructure. Your hosting partner should be paying attention to all of these functions so it’s easier for you to scale your environment as demand changes and focus on other tech crises.

Recovery

Machines and hardware can fail. Hurricanes, blizzards, and other natural disasters aren’t going away. Disaster recovery is a must have for any business where their website, applications or databases serve a critical function. Backups, replication, and redundancies can have a website up and running again without a hiccup. Not to mention, how are you supposed to rest easy at night (or even during the workday) knowing that your data-reliant system is not adequately prepared for a disaster? Attending to every single issue can be dizzying and disruptive to your workday — as well as your sleep schedule and personal life and nobody wants to become a zombie.

Many of the companies that we’ve seen without a proper contingency plan point to the complexity and investment associated with doing it properly. Finding off-site locations, setting up the proper infrastructure and redundancies to support operation at full strength can often be seen as a waste of money until that disaster strikes.

Think of recovery like insurance: undervalued, but very appreciated when you need it most. We’d encourage you to check in with your hosting partner today to ensure that you are properly protected should things hit the fan. Some of the more critical questions to ask with regards to servers in data centers include:

  • Do you have RAID protection?
  • Are all servers, OS and applications monitored and how quickly can they be recovered?
  • How quickly do you react when a disaster strikes?

Losing just a small amount of data or uptime is never an option with the right hosting partner. You need first responders that can alleviate technical burdens which will maximize your efforts with the least amount of energy on your part. Disasters are ever-present threats that require a fully dedicated and prepared team to stay accountable.

Tech Support

While the outages and the fire drills garner the most attention, having a technically sound team to support you 24/7/365 days per year will give you more peace of mind. It’s rare that you find a hosting partner that is able to promise this level of support and remain 100% domestically based. And while the timeliness of support is critical, there are two important questions to identify when choosing a hosting partner:

  1. What types of technical support do they offer?
    1. Managed hosting providers are the cream of the crop in terms of support, making themselves available in all situations, at all times and via numerous communication channels. While it represents the most expensive, it is typically well worth it to have dedicated support from customers that know your business intimately, versus those that just offer time & material call support.
  2. What level of tiered technical support is on call?
    1. Traditionally, there are three tiers of tech support, and this is associated to the level of experience and talent of the individuals on the other end. These range from support folks capable of handling basic customer issues but needing senior experience at times (Tier-1), to technicians with a more in-depth knowledge but still hitting a technical ceiling and needing assistance (Tier-2), to those more than capable of diagnosing and resolving the most advanced of issues, while also understanding all types of technical situations, programming languages, applications and more. (Tier-3)

Your hosting partner should be providing professional and experienced support staff members who become an extension of your IT team — they’re ready to help with troubleshooting, systems review, and proactive planning. Ready to jump in however and whenever you need them to talk you through any issues — flashlight under the chin optional.

Patching

Add patching to the list of unglamorous elements of an IT professional’s job — but it’s also one of the most critical. Just as with apps offering new versions that fix bugs, patches are a technology solution’s way of providing a fix for an unexpected and/or highly critical system or security loophole.

In the event of a cyber attack, the last thing you need is an outdated or vulnerable environment. Unpatched servers are prime targets, and while new patches are released every month, they’re useless unless installed to secure system environments. Your hosting partner needs to be keyed into all of the latest with regards to our technology partners, and ready to patch any vulnerability at a moment’s notice. Not many hosting services offer patching on a proactive basis, but those that do need to be held on to.

Backups

A server outage is an IT professional’s worst nightmare. It can mean lost information, lost time, lost work, and sometimes lost revenue. So backups can be a total lifesaver, preventing a system from enduring total disaster. Even better than a backup, though, is having recently scheduled data storage, and being able to leverage that for immediate system restoration.

Scheduled backups keep your data, applications, and website up-to-date in the event of a disaster. As businesses are entering and storing data more and more for mission-critical functions, the need is increasing to have the most recent backups available if systems were to go down. Performing backups can be a time-consuming activity that may need to be performed on a daily basis, but with the help of a managed hosting provider, you get a partner obsessed with backups.

An oft-overlooked piece of backups is offsite Disaster Recovery for both physical and virtual environments with options to increase your protection as needed for your unique business. The top-of-the-line hosting partners maintain copies of your data in two separate geographies in their data centers to ensure data recovery is as instantaneous as possible.

This eliminates “fire drills” associated with system failures, keeping your “fright night” at bay.

Security

The thought of a hacker stealing data can send chills down your spine. Cyber attacks are not slowing down anytime soon. Hackers are constantly getting more sophisticated. Without implementing regular monitoring, patching, and security, it can be difficult to outpace the threats and anticipate future threats. Every IT department should have a security plan in place. However, partnering with a managed hosting provider means your business will have intrusion prevention, intrusion detection, web application firewalls, and network firewalls to keep systems and data secure and each customer’s environment isolated from other customers.

We have found that it’s very difficult to counter unknown vulnerabilities in products and for an IT department to do what we would do, they have to offer the following:

  • Enterprise level 24/7/365 technical support
  • 100% uptime SLA
  • Have a robust 5-Tiered Security Platform
  • Boast a firewall, Intrusion Protection, and Intrusion Prevention System
  • All this extra security at no additional cost

While you’ve probably screamed in horror from the onslaught of these tasks before, hopefully, you feel a little more prepared and—dare we say—ready to attack these demons. We have built all of these practices into our baseline systems so that our customers can rest easy knowing that we are focusing on these tasks. We free up your IT teams so that they can focus on more important organizational efforts while we prevent over 15 million cyber attacks per day for our customers.

At Edge, we will keep each workday from feeling like Friday the 13th. Contact us today if you want to stop hosting in fear!

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