Start 2012 Off Right

Let’s take the opportunity to make a few Law Tech resolutions.

Resolution #1 – I will test my backups!

Backups are crucial and you don’t want to find out whether they worked or not when you really really need them. So in addition to checking periodically to make sure your backups are actually running (You *DO* check don’t you?) you should actually test your backups from time to time.

How? Create a dummy file – just a Word document will do – and put it in your file system. Call it “Backup Test” or something like that. Let your backup process back it up with the rest of your files. Once in a while – couple of times a year maybe – delete your Backup Test file then try to restore it from your backup. If you can successfully restore it then you know your backups are working AND that you know how to restore a file if you need to.

If it doesn’t work, or if you can’t figure it out, it’s better to find that out now before you have an emergency.

While you’re testing them you might want to confirm that everything you need backed up is actually getting backed up. I can’t tell you how many times we’ve spoken with firms who discovered (often the hard way) that their accounting system or their e-mail archives or other important files were actually NOT included in their backups.

Resolution #2 – Double Up on the Cloud

As firms are increasingly reliant upon the Internet it’s remarkable how many of them are depending upon a single cable from a single provider. If your firm depends upon the Internet look into getting redundant Internet connections.

How? There are two things you’ll need:

  1. A second Internet connection
  2. A firewall that supports dual WAN (Wide Area Network) connections.

The second Internet connection isn’t too hard. It doesn’t have to be an expensive business-class connection (though that would be nice). Even a basic cable modem or DSL connection can work. What’s important is that you get it from a different provider than your primary connection – it doesn’t do you any good to have two connections from the same provider if that provider goes down.

An increasing number of firewalls on the market today support dual WAN connections with load balancing and failover. Let’s talk about those terms for a moment…

Load Balancing means that the firewall will examine your outbound traffic and automatically send it out on the connection that has the most available bandwidth. Effectively it combines your two Internet connections so you get better performance.

Failover takes that concept to the extreme – while the firewall is monitoring the two connections it can also detect when one connection fails entirely. When that happens it’ll direct ALL of your traffic over the remaining connection – keeping you up and running even if one of your Internet connections is down. When that connection comes back up the firewall will recognize that and will resume using that connection for traffic.

If the Internet is important to your practice, invest in redundant connections.

Resolution #3 – Be a Power Person

Electricity is critical to running our modern information systems. Make sure your critical systems have the stable power they need by investing in Uninterruptible Power Supplies (UPS). Servers, switches, firewalls, routers, storage devices, backup drives… all of those should be plugged into UPSs.

You might also consider plugging key workstations into a small UPS to keep those running through brief power interruptions.

What you SHOULDN’T plug into a UPS? Printers. They consume a lot of energy when they start up a print cycle (which can shorten the amount of run time the UPS can supply) and printing is rarely one of those time-critical operations that has to happen during a power outage.

Resolution #4 – Make Friends with the Event Logs

When’s the last time you checked the event log on your servers, firewalls, storage systems…? The event logs can clue you in to little quiet problems that can raise their heads as big ugly problems later. Want your systems to perform at their best? Check the event viewers on a regular basis so you can get ahead of those issues.

Nobody likes to check the event logs but it’s a lot better than getting blindsided by a problem you could have headed off weeks earlier.

Resolution #5 – Document Everything

Take an opportunity to review your systems documentation. Do you know where all of your licenses and CDs are? Do you have a current inventory of all of your computers, server, switches, printers… Do you have a good and current network map? That kind of documentation can save you time and money if you need to have upgrades or major repairs done to your systems.

Start 2012 off right with a few technology resolutions and you’ll have a very happy new year.

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