Based in Scranton, Penn., the Commonwealth Medical College (TCMC) is one of the nation’s newest, fully…
It feels like each and everyday, technology advances another rung up the digital ladder. With this rapid pace of growth comes a faster and more efficient business world. More business means more data and more data means the need for digital security has never been higher. In this episode, we sit down with Chris Culver, Computer Services Manager at Total Communications to cover the dangers of lost data and the steps businesses can take to help avoid such digital disasters.
With fifteen years of IT experience and heavy emphasis on IT infrastructure and IT management, Chris Culver knows the ins and outs of keeping your data safe. Total360 Business Continuity is an innovative information security solution that provides companies with a powerful, integrated combination of on-site and off-site (data center) measures to help guard against malware, data loss and other threats. Today, Chris gives us the straight scoop on how this new solution has dramatically improved business continuity for a wide range of organizations.
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Man: Welcome to “Gain Your Edge,” the podcast created for IT professionals, business owners, and leaders looking to sharpen their edge over the competition. Our ever perceptive host, Skip Lineberg, introduces you to industry thought-leaders. Listen and learn from their insights as Skip gets inside the minds of our guest gurus revealing new ideas, opportunities, and insightful updates for you. It’s all sponsored by Frontier, your edge in success. Now here’s our host Skip Lineberg.
Skip: Welcome to another exciting episode of “Gain Your Edge,” your twice a month podcast on all things IT. I’m your host, Skip Lineberg, Senior Marketing Manager with Frontier Communications. Here as always to help you gain a competitive edge for your business. More than anything, I think this show teaches us, time and again, that it’s such an exciting time to be in business. The pace of growth in the digital arena means that from day to day, business is getting faster and more efficient. That said, the more business that’s done in the digital world, the more careful we all have to be about securing our data. We’ve all heard the horror stories about information that’s not properly secured, and a disaster whether in the natural world or in cyberspace erases it forever.
Joining us today is my colleague Chris Culver, Computer Services Manager with the Total Communications division of Frontier Business. Chris has an exciting new solution called Total360 Business Continuity that presents itself as the new standard for intelligent business continuity. And he’s prepared to help us take a big step forward in the world of data security and recovery. Hey, good morning Chris. Welcome to “Gain Your Edge” podcast today.
Chris: Hey, thanks, Skip. I appreciate you having me.
Skip: Chris, before we jump into the solution, Total360 Business Continuity, I’d ask you to give us a high-level overview of why that solution is so needed. Why do we need a business continuity solution in today’s business world?
Chris: Well, Skip, there are several reasons really there’s not one single reason or answer that stands out above any. But at the end of the day, what we’re really trying to solve for here is uptime and availability to your business and not losing data. Those are two very critical things to maintaining business on a day to day basis. If you look at why it’s needed and you try to break down what those reasons, are you can come up with several answers. Everybody has heard of ransomware, that’s all over the news, you know. And that’s been the huge driver for bitcoin and all these other cryptocurrencies that have taken off, where essentially any average person or even an experienced staff member, you know, anybody that want to click a link in an e-mail, even if it looks like it’s from somebody you know, you click that link and you download some kind of a payload that encrypts all your files.
You basically have to pay an attacker in bitcoin to retrieve your files back in a lot of cases. And, you know, if you look back historically, at one time that might have been $600 bitcoins floating around, you know, $10,000 to $15,000 for one bitcoin now. So it’s interesting to see how that dynamic plays out as these ransomware attacks start to become more and more common.
Skip: It is, Chris. And just, you know, our listeners’ ears perked up as you began your answer. We’ve talked about ransomware at least four times that I can recall on the “Gain Your Edge” podcast series, and we talked about bitcoin and cyber currency here recently as well. So there are very real issues that are relevant and in play in the news and, you know, we hear about stories related to both with increasing frequency.
Chris: For sure and I don’t think that’s going to have a downward trend. I think it’s just more and more are gonna become a commonality. And I think these attacks are just gonna grow. And there’s even, you know, tons of statistics and research out there. There’s different theories on was WannaCry, for instance, which is one of the largest ones in recent history, was that really an epidemic or is that really just a starter to this taking off and becoming a much larger problem? But, you know, again, ransomware is just one of the several reasons.
There’s other things that are more relevant to a lot of people such as file deletion. You know, you have a user that maliciously deletes a bunch of important files or even accidentally delete something. They think they’re doing good and trying to clean things up they delete some stuff. And, you know at the end of the day, it all comes down to the end user and most people will have problems like that.
Skip: Yeah, we’ve all had that oops moment for sure. I can relate.
Chris: Absolutely, and then you kinda look at things outside of the direct control of human beings. You look at outages that are just caused by failure of electronics. I’ve worked in several different environments where my HVAC, my air conditioning in my server room dies. And even if I ever done any air conditioning…I’ve had the worst possible luck, multiple AC failures, or it’s just the server room. Once that temperature becomes too warm, the equipment just starts having a hard time running, and it’ll proactively start shut itself down. Or worse, if you don’t have that type of technology in place, you could have a server just overheat and die on you. So several things out there.
Skip: That’s a bad day right there a bad couple of days, I’m sure. Chris, it’s obvious why data loss could spell doom for a business, but talk a little bit about downtime. They say time is money, but what worst case scenarios have you seen play out after a disaster in terms of detrimental downtime that maybe lasted way longer than someone expected or longer than it needed to?
Chris: So that’s a very good question ,Skip. Often times when people think about downtime, they’re really just thinking about, “Okay, well if this one application or workload goes offline, how is this gonna impact my business?” And that’s a great place to start. Start asking yourself questions like that, and I think that’s a question that a lot of less experienced and small, medium businesses ask themselves. And when I say less experienced, I mean in the realm of IT. They don’t have the budget for highly skilled technical staff. And I think people start to become reliant on all of this technology. And reliant on it driving their business without understanding that, “Hey, it’s not perfect. What happens if it goes down?”
And a lot of times people missed the mark to ask that question and really think about to translate that downtime to dollars. And aside from the direct impact of that downtime physically, what does that mean? How much does it cost in my business to be down for X number of minutes, or X number of hours, or I hate to say it, in some cases, days? But the whole larger picture there is perception is everything. What does that perception of your downtime mean to your customers?
Skip: And your brand, right? Brand damage, damage with customer relationships.
Chris: Exactly. Of course, time is very important to a business. If you’re manufacturing line that’s manufacturing some kind of special product that maybe you sell to the government or a very unique part of healthcare, you know, you have some kind of special product that really you own, you know, nobody else can do it and you’re making money beyond comprehension, when you start looking at downtime and what that cost, that’s what people really need to ask themselves. You know, there’s a couple of key terms. I don’t really want to get too technical because this isn’t really the audience for it.
Skip: We appreciate that Chris.
Chris: But there are a couple questions you’ve really got to ask. And, you know, basically its how much downtime can you afford to have before it becomes detrimental to your business? And how much data can you lose before it becomes detrimental? Meaning, if you lost data, would you be fine losing a day’s worth of data and say, “You know what? It will be an inconvenience but it’s not gonna kill my business.” Or are you a healthcare facility maybe that you have several patients with acute illnesses that you need that uptime and availability to be there as close to 100% of the time as you can get?
Skip: Yeah, those are key questions that people need to think and plan around.
Skip: So, Chris, we sort out our context and our background. Now, we talked about malware and human factors. We talked about downtime in terms of data loss and monetary brand damage, lost revenues. Let’s talk a little bit about your solution now Total360 Business Continuity. I’ve got to imagine that ideas for data recovery have been around since probably a few hours after the first computer crash occurred if we look back in history. Take us through the Total360 Business Continuity solution. And if you would contrast it to the commonly known methods like tape drive disk and online backups, paint that picture for us, if you would please, Chris.
Chris: Absolutely. Total360 Business Continuity really it does it all. It’s that simple. It’s a fully wrap business continuity and disaster recovery solution. And a lot of people are probably saying, “Okay, what does that mean? I’ve heard of disaster recovery. What is business continuity?”
Skip: Yeah, where they’re saying, “He sounds a little bit like a salesman here.”
Chris: Absolutely, but, you know, the reality of it is I’ve been in the tech field for quite some time now. And I’ve dealt with several types of outages ranging from very small nuisances to some quite large ones. And I can tell you that the Total360 Business Continuity solution really is a very intelligent solution for any business. And the reason why is because people often will say, “Hey, you know what? I got backups.” You start talking and they say, you know, “I’m fine. You know, I have backups.” Because human nature, you kinda want to defend yourself. And it’s great if you’ve already been thinking proactively enough to say, “Hey, I got to back up my data because it’s important.” And you have something in place that’s great. Give yourself a pat on the back because, you know…
Chris: …there are several businesses out there that I’ve talked to that have nothing in place and that’s, kind of, scary. So where really it differentiates itself, right? If you look at traditional backup methods over time, there are several people that are writing the tape. And you’re backing up your servers maybe once a day, you do a full backup of all your data maybe once a week. And then you just write the changes incrementally each day and that goes to a tape. And there are some businesses that just keep that tape floating around, keep it in the tape library, and just keep writing to it. And hopefully, you never have a fire in that server room and you lose tape and your data. You know, that’s a possibility. There are some people that change it out. There are others that handed off to secure companies like Iron Mountain and they take it off-site and store it somewhere. Those are all real things that a lot of people still do.
There are some people that write to disk which is a lot easier than having to transport tapes off-site. And then there’s a lot of people that also just do the online-only programs. You know, there’s a lot of…you hear about them on the radio or, you know through advertising on TV or the Internet. You know, here’s a ton of them out there that, “Hey, you can back up to the cloud for, you know, X number of dollars a month.” But it’s not a real complete solution. The Total360 Business Continuity solution is a real fully baked all in one solution. It’s not ala carte. You get it all.
So what that means, Skip, is we’re basically taking more than just a backup of your systems. We’re taking a snapshot, if you will. So if you think of a backup, think of taking just those key files and folders, we’re doing a full snapshot like a picture, so to speak. We’re taking a picture of the entire system as it sits today at that moment when you’re doing it, so that essentially if you want to restore that system, it’s point, click, click go. And very promptly, that system is restored in the exact fashion that it was left. Whereas traditional backup mechanisms, you have to have IT staff on hand that’s gonna have spare hardware or spare space in your virtual environment. You need to spin up that new machine, install the Windows Operating System or the Linux operating system. Then restore all of your data back in after you’ve installed your applications and all that. Well, it really reduces that downtime and recovery time.
And then finally, there’s the disaster recovery portion of it. Basically, this Total360 device, it’s an appliance or multiple appliances depending on the size environment. And that leaves up the customer site and it’s right on their local network, so it takes advantage of all, you know, the vast speed of your local networking infrastructure. And essentially, that’s where you’re doing all your local backups and where all your business continuity lives. You know, if you have a machine die, for instance, a physical server, a virtual server, you can virtualize that workload on the appliance locally in a matter of, I say, minutes. Depends on the workload but, you know, very, very quickly.
Skip: That’s pretty cool.
Chris: It’s excellent, you know, and it works great. Going back to the ransomware, there’s ransomware detection built-in. So it’s looking at your backup points, and in most cases, we’re doing our hourly backup points, because it’s only backing up very small portions of those changes hourly. And it’s looking at your recovery points from those backups and saying, “Is there any possibility that there’s ransomware here?” You know, there’s several built-in algorithms that help protect it and they proactively notify you if there’s ransomware detected, so that you can react on it as quickly as possible and minimize that downtime and data loss.
Skip: Very cool. Is there an offline part of the solution as well? Is there a cloud or data center component to Total360 Business Continuity?
Chris: Yes, absolutely. And so that’s where the disaster recovery portion of this all comes in. So we talked a bit about what the local appliance does, and how that helps maintain your day to day business and provide some level of business continuity. What’s happening with that data is it also gets sent off-site. It goes out to two bi-coastal data centers, one on the East Coast one more towards the West Coast. And that’s all sent out over a military grade encrypted tunnel so your data is secure as it transit across the web. And then once it gets that data center, it sits with encryption at rest as well. So your data stays right here in the United States, it’s secured in two locations. And it’s all sitting there with encryption at rest so you can have a high level of confidence that your data is safe. That’s huge.
And now basically, you’ve just covered yourself so that if you have an entire outage…any number of reasons why you can’t access anything locally in your building, a gas leak, you know, something like that, we can take your server workload and we can turn that on in the cloud and get you connectivity from anywhere.
Skip: Perfect. It sounds like a great solution. Chris, I want to talk more about it we’re gonna take a short break for about 30 seconds. We’re gonna hear from our show sponsor Frontier Business and we’ll be right back to continue this fascinating discussion stay with us.
Man: The best edge in business is the inspiration. If you’re inspired by this podcast and today’s topic, Frontier is ready to help you put that inspiration into action. For a free consultation and to learn more about communication solutions that give your business an edge over the competition, call us at 888-200-0603. That’s 888 200 0603. Or, send an e-mail to email@example.com. Frontier, the edge you need to succeed. Now, back to the podcast.
Skip: Welcome back to “Gain Your Edge,” where today, we’re talking about business continuity and disaster recovery. My guest is Chris Culver from Total Communications. He’s Computer Services Manager. Chris, we’re talking about the solution, Total360 Business Continuity. Thanks. for taking us through that. You talked about a disaster, so let’s probe into that a little bit. After a disaster of some magnitude has occurred, the last thing an IT staff wants to do is depend on finding and getting in touch with the right people to get things back up and running. That’s not the case with Total360, is it? It looks pretty automated.
Chris: Exactly, Skip. So we’ve talked a whole lot about the technology piece of things, right? The hardware, the cloud recovery portion, the malware detection…excuse me, the ransomware detection, bi-close to data centers, encryption, we’ve talked about all of that. The one thing that we have not talked about yet is really what makes Total360 complete? And that’s the managed services that we wrap around it. Essentially, like you said, the last thing an IT staff wants to do when having an outage is, “Oh, who do I call? What do I do? Who do I call? Whose problem really is this?”
Skip: Are they available right now? Like, right this very minute?
Chris: Exactly. With the Total360 offering, you have a 24 by 7 team of staff sitting there on standby ready to react in a situation where you have downtime. Also, we’re proactively looking at things. We’re monitoring your backup day to day, ensuring that they’re running properly. If they’re not, we will do what we can to try to resolve them. If it’s something in your environment specifically that we don’t have access to, we’ll proactively give you a heads up, “Hey, take a look at this.” But in that event of the disaster, it’s as simple as you pick up the phone, you give us a call or you send in an e-mail to our team, and essentially, what we’re gonna do is we’re going to take your server workload, we’re gonna turn that on in the cloud, and we’re gonna get you connected to it.
And there are so many different connectivity methods that we could talk about, I won’t get into the details.But long and short of it is, you don’t need to be in your building, you don’t need to be at your place of work. We can turn your entire server and application workload on in the cloud, and we can give you connectivity, in a sense that, you know, maybe you’re working from a Starbucks that day or you’re working from home. You know, anywhere…
Skip: Yeah, maybe it’s the middle of the night.
Chris: Exactly. Basically, as long as you have an internet connection, we can issue you a VPN client and you can VPN up into the cloud like you would in your workplace. There are several people that have VPN currently. Again, I’m trying not to get too technical but most people have heard the term VPN.
Skip: Yeah, don’t worry about it.
Chris: You’re working from home, and, you know, you just connect to your workplace and you go. It’s very similar to that. You know, you’re just connecting to the cloud and you can work on your workload from there. So, you know, you have a whole team full of experienced staff. We deal with this stuff every day. We do annual DR test for several of our customers. So it’s repetitive for us in a sense that we do it often. So it’s not gonna be the shock of dealing with a disaster. We’re gonna be prepared for it.
Skip: Chris, thank you, for that explanation. I love it. It sounds like a great approach, a great way to get folks back up and running. We talked a little bit before the show, as we were putting this conversation together, about the restore points. And I use the analogy of like a Windows System Restore. Is that a fair analogy when we look at this solution, Total360 Business Continuity, where I can click back to your prior point and I can just restart my system to sync from that point, and I avoid the bad thing that happened between that point in the past and now?
Chris: Yeah, that’s a great analogy Skip. So, yes, you know, it really is like that but it’s so much more. The Windows System Recovery, it’s a great mechanism for, you know, maybe a desktop PC at home, or a one-off machine in your environment but when you really start looking at wanting to get granular and have hourly or sub-hourly even, you know, the Total360 appliance, we can get as granular as doing backups of your environment every five minutes.
Skip: Wow. That’s crazy. Wow.
Chris: It’s insane.
Skip: But I’m sure that’s necessary for certain industries.
Chris: Absolutely. You know, for certain industries and you’ll see me use health care a lot because obviously when you’re dealing with, you know, patients’ lives, it’s quite important. So that’s one industry that really comes to mind or a manufacturing facility that really can’t afford any downtime is a couple of big ones.
Skip: Yeah, let’s hold on to that healthcare story because I know where you’re gonna share a case study with us here in just a moment. Before we go to that, before our break, we were talking about the bi-coastal data centers and the cloud recovery. Talk a little bit about for our audience why it’s important to have more than one data center storing your backup data? And why you wanna have those in disparate locations different coastlines, for example?
Chris: For sure, what it really comes down to is having that local copy is really nice because it gives you the convenience factor of being able to access it. And, you know, that tangible side of things, you know, it’s there, you can touch it. You can physically see the device and work with it if you need to do any troubleshooting. Or you just want something available on your network, you know, you got that local network speed. That local appliance is key for that. But, you know the local appliance does a lot more than that, too. It’s more than just backups. Your production server goes down, I can take that workload and turn it on virtually within that appliance, and run your server workload. And now, you’ve only had a couple minutes of downtime potentially verse having to spend a whole new system. And install all the applications and restore all your data and potentially have hours of data…
Skip: Hours and hours. Yeah, I could see that.
Chris: So that’s the importance of having the local piece of it, right? That’s the convenience factor, the speed, and some of the other functionality beyond just core backups as we know it. The off-site portion of it is so critically important because if you’re sharing a building with a tenant and they have a gas leak or they have a fire, or, you know, any number reasons plumbing issues. Even if you’re not sharing a building, your air conditioner dies in your data center. A lot of people out there that are listening to this right now said, “Oh, I just had that happen to me.” Your internet line goes down, anything, any reason you don’t have connectivity in your local data center, you need to have an off-site a copy of that data and be able to access it, so you can continue to run your business because you can’t let a technology failure stop your business from running.
Skip: So would one center be enough for certain industries or should everyone have the data replicated in bi-coastal data centers and have it redundant?
Chris: You know, bi-coastal data center is such as huge asset. It’s a benefit beyond what a lot of companies may offer. And the reason it’s so important is because if you look at some of the major natural disasters we have, they have affect and impact such large regions that you just can’t be sure enough. And if your data is that important to you, then you know you have to be able to access it. You need to be able to run that environment. So, for instance, let’s say, we have a hurricane come up the East Coast right and…
Skip: Yeah, we had plenty of those in 2017, didn’t we?
Chris: We sure did between Texas and Florida and just about anywhere in between, there’s been several reactive responses for disaster recovery, where these companies that had to spin their servers up turn them on in the cloud. I keep using the term “spin them up,” you know, basically, all I’m saying is turn them on in the cloud, turn them on, you know, power them up on the hardware they’re running on in the cloud environment, and run their business out of, you know, this data center. And because those impacts such large, large areas, it’s important that your data is located elsewhere as well. Because it is not out of the realm of possibility that you could potentially have an outage that impacts the data center your data stored on if it’s on the same coastline.
Skip: Yeah. Yeah, I get that so that’s good thanks for clarifying that for us, Chris.
Chris: Absolutely, you’re welcome.
Skip: I appreciate the way that you’ve educated us as we’ve gone along here and kept a lot of the jargon out of it, so that’s very helpful, and I thank you for that. Let’s finish up this discussion. We’ve learned a ton here. Let’s bring it all together, Chris, if you could, with a case study or a success story where you’ve helped a client recover from a disaster or avoided disaster. Do you have one to share with us, Chris?
Chris: I do,. So there’s a major healthcare facility in the region that, you know, I work in. They deal a lot with orthopedic issues and surgery, and they’re a very well-known facility in this area. And basically, they had an issue where they, again, you know, it comes down to IT staff and, you know how staffed are you, and, you know, how much time can you spend, and all the day to day activities and project work and all that? And, you know, this particular organization, they did have multiple domain controllers. Meaning, you know, a domain controller is essentially a server that when you log in your computer in the morning, you have your username and password. That domain controller is what is telling you, “Hey, yes I know who you are. You’ve typed in the right username and password.”
Chris: So it’s always good practice to have more than one because with one down and your users can’t log in, then that’s not good. So this particular organization had two of them, so, great, right? Well, their primary domain controller happened to die on them, coming into work Monday morning, it died. And, you know, usually, that would be okay, you know, just a small bump in the road because you have a second one. Well, unbeknownst to them, their second domain controller had been offline for some period of time. And these types of servers are very particular about being up and available and being able to communicate with one another so that their databases don’t become out of sync. You know, they have to have the same information at all times.
Skip: Okay. Number one crashes, and number two has been inoperative for some period of time.
Skip: Now, we’re in a bad, bad way.
Chris: Absolutely. So now we’re at zero. So users are flooding into the office getting ready to help patients, and guess what? No connectivity. Nobody can login to their computers. Not a good way to start your Monday. So they, fortunately…this is the crazy part, they implemented their Total360 Business Continuity solution from us about a week prior.
Skip: Oh, my gosh.
Chris: And had they not had that in place, they would have been in a world of pain, and it would have taken them quite some time to get back up and running but, fortunately….
Skip: So how did it go? How did the recovery go?
Chris: So this is how the recovery went. I love telling the story and, you know, customers will often ask me the very question that you just posed, you know. What’s a real-world scenario that you can give me? And I love to tell the story because it’s so successful and positive after such a poor start, right? So basically, they call us up, “Hey, nobody can login to their computers right now. We checked our primary domain controller is down. I don’t know why it’s not working. The secondary one should be working but we can’t get in.” So they call us up, they tell us all that, and basically, we remotely access their Total360 Solution and we go into the recovery tab. And we click on their domain controller name and we say, “Restore local virtualization.”
And I kid you not, in a matter of about five or six minutes, that server is running on the appliance that we’ve put in their rack. It was up and running. And we essentially restored their business and that timeframe, at that point, once that server was online that workload was actively up and running. People could all over sudden start logging in their computers and we just restored their business in a matter of minutes, which could have been hours and hours.
Skip: Amazing, under 10 minutes.
Chris: Yes, sir.
Skip: Hey, Chris, again, thank you for sharing this amazing solution with us, with our audience. We’ve all learned a lot. As I let you go and we wrap up the show, I wanna ask you a question that I ask every guest who’s appeared on all prior episodes of “Gain Your Edge” podcast. Each one of those guests is someone who’s involved in technology for most of their week, and so I like to ask this question, Chris. What do you do when you want to disconnect and get away from technology, and you want to be out of the IT world just to have a balance in your life and to relax and have some recreation?
Chris: For me, it’s one of a couple of things. I’m a big friends and family guy but I also have my hobbies, too. So that being said, I would say, it be one of two things. It’s either getting out with my family and a couple of friends, and winding down near a campfire somewhere, you know, near a wood line, you know, where there’s trees and just completely disconnected. And, you know, enjoy that quiet and just clean nature air and the fire. I don’t know. There’s something so relaxing about.
Skip: Totally agree.
Chris: That will be one of them.
Skip: Totally agree.
Chris: The other thing I’d say turning wrenches on a project car. I have a bit of a hobby with my car and, you know, I’m not sure my wife loves it.
Skip: So what type of project car do you currently have?
Chris: I have a newer C7 Corvette. And I’ve done a couple of things to it since I’ve gotten it. I’ve had a number of projects cars over the years but this has been my latest one and certainly my most exciting one. I have done everything on the car from exhaust work to supercharging it. And, you know, at this point, it’s making about 800 horsepower so.
Skip: Wow, very cool. I hope to see that someday.
Skip: Hey, Chris, thank you, so much for taking the time to talk today. You can’t really put a price tag on peace of mind which seems like Total350 Business Continuity’s biggest benefit.
Skip: Perfect. Chris, also we’ll put in the show notes a link to several online resources where folks can learn more about the solution. Thanks, again, Chris. Have a great day.
Chris: Thanks, Skip. You as well.
Skip: That brings us to the bottom of this show. That’s all the time we have today. Thank you so much for listening and feel free to download this podcast on iTunes. Or, you can download or stream it from frontier.com/gainyouredge. Be sure to download and share this podcast with any of your friends or colleagues who would like to improve their business continuity and have a better solution for disaster recovery. Please, join me Skip Lineburg, next time on “Gain Your Edge.” Until then, have a great week.