Internet Outages Show No Favorites

The 10 largest internet outages of 2022 managed to hit a wide swath of the user community, ranging from music and messaging sites to gaming sites. While more business-related sites didn’t make the top 10, one of our client’s experiences showed the benefits of planning ahead and staying nimble.

Having a plan you can implement immediately is critical because you can get knocked off the internet in a nanosecond. It’s especially problematic for businesses such as our clients who can have up to 30 users. We’re not big enough to have multiple redundancies for our systems, nor are we big enough to deal directly with big providers. Our businesses likely pass through several hands before we reach the internet, and any of them can go down in a heartbeat.

Because of this uncertainty, one of our clients asked us to help them put together a process. They learned the consequences of being planless while working with another IT company. They knew they were going to have a planned outage because they were moving their physical location. They sell a product and take orders online.

Our solution was to have them take “paper” orders over the telephone as soon as the internet service was shut down to move their equipment. We had a process in place to get their tech system operational before lunchtime on moving day, and everything worked smoothly. As the system started to come online, they used a combination of paper and online orders and then switched to online only. The online system worked while the employees physically moved to their new location.

Their solution succeeded because our plan also included having the right infrastructure in place. We knew the internet connections and Wi-Fi network could handle the load once we put everything online.

Your solution will depend on your business’s needs. Everyone should prioritize telephone and email service because you can’t afford to go incommunicado. Who provides those services for you – and who provides them for your provider? You might not be able to get that latter provider, but it would be helpful. Is the phone service in the cloud? How is it set up? What electricity service options are available in your building?

We can help you develop or improve an outage emergency plan by looking at your equipment and configurations. We can recommend new equipment or configurations as needed and help you install better backup systems to help prevent data loss. Call us – 973-433-6676 – or email us to talk about it.

Oh, and just what were the 10 biggest internet outages in 2022 based on outage reports? According to Downdetector, an internet tracking service of Ookla, which is best known for speed testing, they were:

  1. Spotify – 2.9 million
  2. WhatsApp – 2.9 million
  3. Discord – 1.1 million
  4. Roblox – 700,000
  5. Instagram – 600,00
  6. Twitter – 500,000
  7. Call of Duty – 350,000
  8. Reddit – 300,000
  9. Snapchat – 300,000
  10. TikTok – 300,000

Low-Cost Upgrades for Your Office Systems

When an office system doesn’t seem to perform at the warp speed it once did, your instinct may be to replace it. We won’t call that “warped” thinking, but you can get more mileage out of your equipment. It’s been a good way to get off to a great start with new clients who come to us with a sense of desperation.

One client came to us after their server crashed. In discussing the problem, we learned that most of the company’s people worked from outside the office. They used GoToMyPC to log in, access their files and do their work. The limited access meant that employees had to schedule their time to access the server and their files, and that was grossly inefficient.

The client wanted to add more applications and files to the system, and they were ready to buy a new server to accommodate all they wanted to do. We showed them that it was unnecessary.

Our solution was to set up a Dropbox system. It eliminated the need to schedule server access, simplified the process for getting files and made life much easier. Dropbox is one of many applications that use off-site storage for files – aka The Cloud – but it’s the one that worked best in this situation.

We also made life easier for Michelle at another new client’s office. Michelle is not a person; Michelle is a desktop PC in a three-person office, and the problem was that the three people in the office couldn’t access files when they needed them.

Our simple solution was to install a network drive in Michelle. Now, everyone can work efficiently.

Of course, there are times when a new server – and little reorganization – can solve the problem. One client had a number of printers with identity crises. Some of the printers had the same names but served different functions, and some that served the same functions had different names.

By installing a new server and standardizing the nomenclature for all the printers, the server can assume administrative responsibilities, allowing all the technology to run as it’s supposed to.

By the way, if your office has Macs and Windows-based software, we can set up a virtual PC that can run the software faster than a regular PC.

Do you want to find less expensive ways to have a more efficient office? Call us – 973-433-6676 – or email us to discuss your current setup and your productivity needs. It might be an easier fix than you think.


The Cloud and Reverse Back-Up

More and more of our programs and data are moving to the cloud. In some cases, we’re accessing the cloud for the applications and files we use for business and personal computing. In other cases, we’re using the cloud for backing up our hard drives. We don’t give it a second thought – but we should.

Backing up your programs and files is like having insurance. Backing up in more than one place is like having better insurance coverage. In this case, you want to insure that you protect the economic value of programs and data – so that you have immediate access when something goes wrong with your system.

Just as insurance policies have fine print to detail what they cover – and don’t – you need to look closely at the user agreements for every cloud-based server that houses your valuable data.

The first thing you should know is what happens if the company storing your data goes out of business? This could be the worst case scenario. Is there a provision for somebody to notify you of a pending problem or actual problem? Will you have time to download your data and move everything to another site? If you rely on this server – cloud – to store the programs and files you access every day for your business or to store valuable personal data such as photographs and home videos, you must know how to protect them and your access. If you can’t get a satisfactory answer, don’t put your data there.

The next thing you should know is who owns your data? If you access programs through a subscription, the ownership is likely to be straightforward; the publishers own them. However, you must be able to have access to your specific data files – all of your business records, correspondence (business and personal) and files.

How reputable is the company that stores your programs and data? If feel like you can’t get a straight answer from them about any of the points we just raised, you’d certainly have to wonder about them.

Again, to continue the insurance analogy, any of these issues only become problems when something goes wrong and you lose valuable data and time. While there are very few iron-clad guarantees in life, you can buy insurance with “reverse backup” and with multiple backups.

Let’s start with the premise that storage – as a raw cost – is cheap. You can buy one or two (or more) external storage devices for less than $200 apiece and back up data files. Online backups to the cloud can cost less than $25 per month, depending on the service and your volume. Your options are limited only by what you want to spend to ensure you have access to all of your data. You can:

  • Back up all of your files multiple times using different devices, which can cover you if your cloud vaporizes and one external device crashes.
  • Back up selected files to specified devices.
  • Physically move backup devices offsite periodically to cover yourself if a disaster strikes your home or office.
  • Use automated programs to back up your data files onsite and offsite.

Along these lines, clients often ask about when they should delete files. Our answer is never. Again, because storage is so inexpensive, it can actually cost you more to delete files than to simply file them away in archives. Our archived files take up much more space than our active files, for example, but we have an electronic filing system that enables us to find any information going back more years than we care to remember. If longtime clients have questions about something we performed or proposed, the answers are at our fingertips.

In addition to backing up data files, you should have copies of your program and applications disks safely stored. As we noted earlier this year, it’s nearly impossible to restore program files without the originals. We’re often called to restore program files as part of a disaster recovery or when we begin working for a new client, and we always ask for the original disks if they were used to load the programs requiring restoration. (See our article on Unlicensed Software.)

We can help you design and implement a backup system using the cloud and external storage devices to meet your specific needs. Just send us an email or give us a call (973-433-6676). It’s something you’ll want when you can’t get what you need.

This article was published in Technology Update, the monthly newsletter from Sterling Rose LLC.