Monday 5 November 2018

Banks have a cheek!

In both the national and local newspapers this morning I see the NatWest Bank running large advertisements proclaiming how friendly and helpful they are to their customers. The advertising fees they are paying must be enormous. Yet, in our town and the adjacent towns they've closed our local NatWest Branch offices. It is now an hour's round trip to get to the nearest Branch, plus add the cost of fuel and parking.  When they closed the Branch, their managers claimed it was because the locals didn't use the Branch enough. However I don't think I ever went into the local Branch office without encountering a queue during the previous four years.

A clear case of marketing over substance. These people really have a cheek. A few, or even a flood of, dubious adverts are not going to win us over.

Thursday 1 November 2018

How secure is your business?

We have served many businesses over the years. The majority did not own the building from which they operated. Often there would be either a lease or a long term rental from a landlord/freeholder. The business would have to rely on physical security provided by the landlord. The landlord would seek to keep costs low by not providing substantial physical security features for a general purpose rental. 

The first step should be to undertake a risk assessment to understand what risks from which you want to protect the business. You then need to evauate what methods are available to provide the necessary level of protection. One option might be to move the vulnerable part of the business away from the area of risk. However when it comes down to basics there's often no substitute to having strong physical barriers to keep the bad guys out. CCTV systems and alarms are mainly of deterrent value.

By strong physical barriers, we mean better perimeter fences, stronger doors, stronger windows, stronger walls, floors and ceilings.  The elimination of intruder hiding spaces will help too.

If the tenant business wanted to undertake works to install stronger physical security in their rented/leased property, they will have to seek permission from the landlord. The business would also have to undertake to fund the removal of security features when they vacate the property. Some physical security measures, such as protective walls, are quite heavy, and some buildings do not have spare structural capacity to take the additional dead weight loading. It may be necessary to lnvolve a structural engineer in the discussions.

You also need to be sure that any physical security measures do not contravene safety regulations and building codes.

Sunday 28 October 2018

Back up your office PCs

Would your business survive if you suddenly lost all of your desktop computers? How would your business cope if you lost your accounting data and client records? Could you recreate your design documentation and suppliers lists?

There's many ways you can suddenly lose your desktop computers and PC Servers. It might be a power surge at the worst possible moment. You might arrive in the morning to find a break-in had occurred overnight and your PCs are missing or destroyed. In these days of Internet threats, you might find your hard disk contents have been irretrievably scrambled without any warning.

The point is that total data loss  of computer records can and does happen without any warning. If you are sensible, you'll have procedures in place, and tested, to help you recover from such a loss. Those data back-up procedures should be automatic and not rely on human memory to be performed. In legacy computer set ups, this would often take the form of a magnetic tape drive which copies important data files  from the hard disks every day, or maybe once a week. The magnetic tapes can then be stored in a safe location, to be retrieved if you need to recover data. The bad news is that magnetic tape back-up is not always reliable when you try to retrieve the stored data, and on top of that it can take hours  to read serially through tape to find the piece of data you need urgently.

With faster Internet links and the establishment of Cloud Computing there is an alternate approach to maintaining back-up copies of your desktop and server PCs. It is possible to rent disk storage space from the likes of Amazon, IBM, Microsoft and Google running on their secure central server farms. You can have programs running in the background on your PCs and servers to perform the back up process. When you need to recover one or more data files, it is possible to retrieve them via an internet link. So if your premises have been trashed, flooded, burnt out; it is a relatively straight forward job to reconstruct your services in an alternate location(s), provided it has a good Internet link. If you use the right software tools the regular back-up process is reliable and unobtrusive without the need for constant operator intervention.

After some experimentation with Dropbox and SugarSync, we have settled on the use of Amazon AWS data storage with a Cloudberry Labs front end software to simplify the industrial strength Amazon interface. We'll cover more on this in a later article.