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"Set-it-and-Forget-it” Data Backup Works Great for Small Business

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January 2016
Jon Pisani, Sales Engineer Manager




Data backup is like having an extra set of house keys under a garden rock: when your first set go missing, you feel great finding a spare quickly and easily. Picking the right rock, though, is important because you don’t want one too small or too big. The same is true when it comes to small business backup.

Today, we would like to discuss a new backup solution that meets the titanium tough standards set forth by the 3Points Tech Team called Pure Virtual Backups. After a rigorous three-month trial, we were so impressed that we welcomed the application in our Pure line of technology solutions for small business.

Pure Virtual Backups is a true “set-it-and-forget-it” data protection technology offering stellar advantages for the small business owner concerned about the risks of downtime and data loss. Many small businesses use cumbersome manual backup and recovery systems. These require valuable staff time and offer slow recovery turnaround (the old adage “time is money” comes to mind here). In contrast, Pure Virtual Backups is fully automated and provides rapid recovery. While there are various backup products that offer one feature or another, Pure Virtual Backups is the only one that has it all. This empowers small businesses to be proactive rather than reactive, creating a more enterprise-level way of doing business. Honestly, Pure Virtual Backups is the kind of technology that puts people in a happy place – especially as business’ dependence on data grows.

Talk, however, is just that: yadayadayada. So let’s take a real world example. One of our clients is a fire department. Their technology infrastructure has a boatload of data, third party applications designed for emergency responders, file shares, accounting software, an ERP system, file servers, domain controllers and print servers – common fare for small businesses. Fast access to an exact copy of the fire department’s data is critical in a crisis.

A server at a main location has virtual machines that handle a number of tasks. One of those tasks is to manage Pure Virtual Backups. A copy of the fire department’s infrastructure is then kept at a second location. If the first server site shuts down (possible scenarios might be hardware failure, hard drive or motherboard failure, system crash, power failure over an extended period of time or a virus that infiltrates one of the virtual machines), a quick recovery requires about five to ten minutes, which is unbelievably fast.

Multiple times throughout the week, 3Points confirms our client’s backups. To date, there have been no catastrophic failure. The folks at the fire department do, however, feel safer and more confident, just like their own community feels knowing emergency support is just around the corner.

Pure Virtual Backups is geared for the company with a virtual server environment. We see a lot of this in engineering and design markets using AutoCAD, Adobe Creative Suite or Microsoft SQL where large, monolithic files are common. Given a standalone server and operating system, the solution backs everything up to a local storage device and then replicates the data as mentioned in the example of the fire department. Pure Virtual Backups’ object level recovery is a fancy way of saying that it has the ability to restore single files (as opposed to the entire infrastructure only) – a great feature. It also integrates monitoring software with alerts.

By now, you’ve figured out that I like metaphors so here’s one that wraps it all up. If the business was your house and all the pieces in your house are important to you – files, books, furniture, clothes – then Pure Virtual Backups allows you to copy your entire house and its contents. If something breaks inside your house and needs to be replaced – like your high school basketball trophy for instance – it can be. Or, if the entire house needs to be rebuilt, Pure Virtual Backups can do that too.
 

Jon Pisani is the sales engineering manager at 3Points where he manages maintenance agreements and contracts with vendors, leads audits for new business sales, and manages the 3Points Tech Team. Email Jon at jpisani@3points.com.


Conquering the Dark Lord of the Small Business Galaxy

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December 2015



Picture the villain we all love to hate emerging from a dark shadow that sweeps across the galaxy, delivering unapologetic devastation in his wake. This Dark Lord is evil, vicious and unpredictable. If small business computing were the galaxy far, far away, Cryptolocker would be the villain dressed in black. A strain of ransomware (malware that encrypts your data and locks you out of your system until you pay a ransom), Cryptolocker sabotages businesses and individuals through phishing emails and attachments. One click and Crypto is in the building.

According to Kaspersky Lab, the number of infections is estimated “in the five or six digits.” If backups do not exist or if they are located on the server that gets hit, victims lose everything – sometimes even if they pay their Bitcoin ransom within the 72 to 100 hours typically asked for by malware saboteurs.

If you feel like taking your data home in a briefcase and hiding it under your bed at night, hold on. 3Points’ solution identifies threats like Cryptolocker, protecting small businesses with enterprise-grade security.

3Points has adopted SonicWALL as its standard to protect clients. The Dell product (we adopted it in 2012, the same year Dell bought SonicWALL) is a total environment security solution. It scans for Cryptolocker and other routine traffic inside and outside the network based on your applications and pre-determined rules.

SonicWALL earned a coveted spot on the 3Points Tech Team’s standards list largely because of its comprehensive nature; it goes far beyond protecting the network at the point of entry where viruses, spam, phishing and data leaks cross the firewall. Even if a virus does barge through the network, SonicWALL jumps in between a workstation or server and the malware attacker. Frank Anderson, 3Points’ newly appointed director of operations, calls the solution “unique security” and says that other vendors are playing catch up. SonicWALL has the ability to block TOR traffic (free software that enables anonymous communication). That’s big. TOR was first designed to protect the personal privacy of users. Unfortunately, malware attackers use TOR’s convoluted web of relays to hide their identity and location. Dell firewalls block 4.7 billion intrusions like these daily in real time, according to the company.

Nothing, however, is one hundred percent foolproof. The reason: Viruses are constantly evolving; attackers are creating them and making them smarter, posing a moving target for businesses. Kind of like the beast in a sci-fi movie that grows four heads to replace the two that just got lopped off. That’s malware. Once defeated, another iteration comes back meaner and bigger and stronger than ever. Small businesses, though, are not defenseless.

Besides SonicWALL, it’s important to have a great backup solution that includes both image and file level backup. In other words, if Cryptolocker morphs into a new and improved virus and successfully bypasses SonicWALL, then you have a backup to avoid data loss.

SonicWall is easy to launch. A 3Points technician configures the security solution to work in the background of your network. For maintenance clients, 3Points monitors security continuously. SonicWALL applies to all industries and may be installed in any environment for greater security on three major fronts: network, mobility and email. From there, no news is good news. “The best comments for a device like this is that our clients have no issues,” said Frank Anderson, 3Points’ newly appointed director of operations. “Once they purchase and install it, they don’t have to worry about it. It’s seamless to their operation. It sits in the background and does its job.”

All small businesses should be concerned about security. Cyber-attackers and bots are real and they prey on smaller, more vulnerable organizations. SonicWALL offers serious defense. Anderson likens it to having a bouncer inside the bar making sure everybody is behaving and a bouncer outside the bar checking IDs so that fiends like Cryptolocker and other malware attackers are dealt with swiftly and confidently.


No One Stopping Us Now: How Small Business is Gaining Ground

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December 2015
Steve Banke, CEO 3points




In 3Points’ November blog post, we talked about our deep involvement with the Small Business Advocacy Council. Today, let’s do what small business does best: Let’s walk the talk. Take a look at how SBAC is going toe-to-toe with issues on the federal, state and local levels.

Round 1: Uncle Sam Vs. Small Business Depreciation

Fact: Every year, many small businesses buy capital equipment – desks, cars, computers, etc. By law, you are required to depreciate these goods. An example: If you spend $100,000 this year (and the life of those goods is 4 years), you can only expense 25 percent per year and are taxed on the remaining $75,000. The real cost then of your capital expenditure is $125,000.

With Section 179 Expense Deduction and Bonus Depreciation, an SBAC-backed tax policy, you can avoid depreciation and take a first-year expense up to $250,000. Although voted on every January and December, lawmakers have never made the bill permanent. This stifles the economy, limits hiring and inhibits the buying of goods. We’re now leaning on legislators like Senators Kirk and Durbin to act on Section 179 Expense Deduction and Bonus Depreciation on a federal level.

Round 2: Prairie State Vs. Small Business Healthcare

Healthcare is one of the largest expenses for small business. Under the Affordable Care Act, states are allowed to create their own healthcare. In Illinois, however, it has long been illegal. The SBAC championed change and started a co-op with a group out of Northwestern University. Although our efforts were repeatedly shut down, the rejection fed our fire. After multiple trips to Springfield and Washington D.C., a compelling letter from Senator Dick Durbin, and empathetic support from Senator Mark Kirk, we created an affordable option for Illinois small businesses in 2014. Today, 50,000 plus lives are covered under the SBAC/Land of Lincoln PPO health plan.

Round 3: Windy City Vs. Business Signage


Within the City of Chicago, the SBAC has made strides to streamline approval for signage with the Signs of Change campaign. Historically, the entire city council (yes, every single person; this is not a typo) had to sign off on external business signage. Five different permits were required. Signs of Change brought everybody to the table to discuss how we could make it more efficient for small businesses and minimize the requirements for those signs that don’t overhang the public walkway (a staggering 85% of signage).

Other Small Business Milestones

One recent milestone for SBAC is in the area of equity crowdfunding. No need to outline the pains of 2008 here – we all felt the effects of repressive banking laws and a stagnant economy. The Illinois Equity Crowdfunding law, which takes effect January 1, 2016, opens up funding for small business like never before. Yet another example of SBAC’s temerity is a credit card that actually protects small businesses. Since bank funding is a challenge, many businesses use credit cards to finance purchases. Business protection, however, differs from its consumer counterpart. If your business credit card account is hacked, you’re liable for the full payment. The SBAC credit card (through MB Financial Bank) is now available and offers fraud protection small businesses never had before.

From the start, 3Points has focused on technology that evens the playing field for small business. Our work with the SBAC accomplishes the same goal on a broader scale. Next up, we’ll tackle a topic that affects every one of the 1,001,185 small businesses (gaebler.com) in Illinois: healthcare. See you then!


Steve Banke is cofounder and CEO of 3Points, LLC. Stay tuned for future blog articles on small business topics. He can be reached via email or call him at (708) 491-0300.

Source: Gaebler.com, “How Many Small Businesses in Illinois?”


Microsoft Surface Book a True Hybrid

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December 2015
Frank Anderson, 3Points Tech Team




Here’s the big, fat truth: the Microsoft Surface Pro 4 has higher performing specs but is not that much different than its Surface Pro 3 older sibling (the 4 is lighter, slimmer and has up to 9 hours of battery life, but hey, it’s still a tablet; you’re limited to what you can stuff in there). This would be an awfully short, if not pretty vanilla, if we stopped there. But, lucky for you, we’re just getting started because the real news is the Surface Book, a very different tech tool that stands alone among its peers.

Here’s the rundown. The Surface Book has bigger screen real estate – 13.5  inches. The bend – where the tablet and keyboard meet – is super nice and lends itself to three different configurations. You can detach the screen (yep, like a big, flat Lego piece) and use it as a tablet (Microsoft calls it a portable clipboard, remember those?). You can even configure the Surface Book to work in “pen first” mode by turning the screen around and reattaching it to the keyboard (it looks like it’s doing a backflip) for creative work. Oh, and by the way, it’s a laptop workhorse too with a full-sized, backlit keyboard.

For sure, you’ll like the Windows 10 operating system with its full suite of Office products. Unlike tablets, you’re not limited to the app store menu. Plus, you’ve got 13.5 hours of battery life – plenty of time to download and use all your favorites.

The Surface Book smokes the competition, outperforming models like the Surface Pro, the Toshiba Radius and Dell XPS. Now, for technology to earn high marks, it has to be seamless within the context of my life. If I’m propped up in bed working late, the Surface Pro digs into my leg and the keyboard doesn’t stay firm. Not so with the Surface Book which is portable and lightweight. For Apple-onians, the Surface Book sports the laptop feel of a MacBook Pro with a side of iPad. A quick cost comparison (features include Intel Core i5, 8GB RAM, 256 solid state hard drive on each) puts the Surface Book at $1,899, the Dell Latitude E7450 at $2,000, and the Surface Pro 4 at $1,299.

If you’re considering a new laptop, the big question is: Will this next device support my applications and will it help me be more productive? A client called recently, toying with the idea of getting something new after experiencing a couple hardware issues with his Dell laptop. “What do you think?” he asked me. My answer came in the form of questions. What vendors should we talk to ensure application compatibility? Is it important to work on multiple screens? What size screen lends itself to your type of work? How important is a touch screen to you? The key is finding out what is important for each individual user.

The Surface Book is a radical departure from the standard arsenal of tech tools. I’ve actually had clients, both curious and hopeful, say: “Will it work?” They’ve been to the stores and seen the ads. My answer: Yes, it’s just a different way to interact with your technology. The Surface Book is a tablet and laptop fusion that offers small business professionals great versatility and style.


Frank Anderson is director of operations for 3Points. Solution-minded by nature, Frank is passionate about enhancing innovation in the small business environment and has deep experience in more than 25 technology specialty areas.


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