How Well Do You Know The Company That’s Hosting Your Website?

When hosting goes wrong

Your website is your business so your choice of hosting company is important.

What would you do if it suddenly vanished?

Panic?

Well that’s exactly what happened to some of 123.reg’s customers.

According to a recent story on the BBC website in April, the web hosting firm accidentally deleted an unspecified number of its customers’ websites.

So what happened?

Well, many of its clients use a virtual private server (VPS), a machine that hosts hundreds of websites, but mimics the functionality of a private server. The company said that while performing a “clean-up” operation on its VPS systems a coding error in its software “effectively deleted” customers websites.

Wow!

Of course, you would think that a company like 123.reg that hosts about 1.7m sites in the UK could have a backup in case this type of things happen, wouldn’t you?

They don’t.

They told the BBC it didn’t have a backup copy of all its customers’ data, but was working with a data recovery specialist to “manage the process of restoration.” In other words, it was advising its customers to rebuild their own websites with their own backup data.

What?

The went on to say:

“Our VPS product is an unmanaged service and we always recommend that customers implement backups to safeguard against unexpected issues,” the company said.

“Customers who had purchased 123-reg backups can be online now.”

“Many of our customers keep their own backups.”

The data loss left the affected online businesses without a website and the company has been flooded with messages on social media criticising them for their lack of communication.

In an email sent to its customers, 123-reg said it had “begun copying recovered VPS images to new hosts” and expected some websites to be restored overnight.

It said it would audit all its automated scripts and prevent customer websites from being deleted without human approval in the future.

Little comfort for those businesses affected.

Who’s hosting your website?

This highlights the need for diligence when choosing your hosting company.

Granted, issues like this can’t be foreseen, especially by you, but by opting for a local company over a huge player could be a good option.

For a start you should be able to get answers out of them quickly should the worse happen. But mainly, using a local supplier will mean you’re going to be more than just another sale to them.

Big isn’t always best.

MPM Computer Consultancy provides IT Services, Support and Training to sole traders and small businesses in Ipswich. Bury St Edmunds and surrounding villages.

Source: BBC

 

Changes in Data Breach Laws

lawA recent article in Microscope.co.uk is giving a heads up for the proposed changes in the data breach laws across the EU.

At the moment, the Information Commissioners Office (ICO) has the ability to dole out fines of up to half a million pounds to any company that fails to look after its data. The problem is, this maximum penalty is rarely used.

The proposed changes will see a much tougher stance being taken, including a fine of up to 5% of turnover. Plus, the company will have to reveal it has a problem within 24 hours.

The article went on to quote Grant Taylor, Cryptzone Vice President of the compliance vendor, as saying that the 24 hour rule would be a ‘game changer’ elevating data security to a boardroom discussion across Europe.

He went on to comment that, “as has been reported, in the US where data breach notification legislation is a lot more onerous that in Europe, the costs of remediating a breach are a lot higher. As a direct result, we have found that the issue is discussed a lot more amongst companies and, as a consequence, the profile of IT security generally seems to be far greater.”

Opinion

What do you make of these proposed changes?

Are they a good thing?

Leave a comment below, we’d love to hear what you think.

Welcome To The World of Databases–Part 3

Drawbacks of Database Development

database

In this mini series of posts about databases, we’ve already looked at the benefits they offer businesses and the different types of databases that are available.

This time round we’ll look at how they are developed and the possible drawbacks of that development.

Databases will benefit any business that needs to process and manipulate large amounts of data. Because database development tools are designed to make maintaining and managing the structure of data files easier, they impose strict parameters on developers to make sure the data retains its accuracy.

Most modern database development systems use structured query language (SQL) processing. This allows you to analyse large amounts of data and generate reports in a variety of different ways.

As with all systems, SQL will require a certain level of expertise to be used effectively so it is advantageous to obtain the necessary IT training and guidance.

The problems with database development

Relational database management system (RDBMS) technology allows the building of applications that can be tailored to your specific business requirements. But it can be expensive and time-consuming.

Unless you happen to have the specific knowledge it is unlikely you’d be able to develop your own in-house application because you’ll need:

  • An initial consultation
  • Analysis of your requirements
  • System specification
  • Database design
  • Programming
  • Testing
  • Implementation
  • Training
  • On-going maintenance

As you can see that would be a tall order for most businesses to come up with.

You must ensure your database fulfils all your needs for  the daily running of your business. The other option is to utilise an off the shelf solution which gives you the core functions you need and then build your own specific needs into it.

If you do decide to get one developed for you, here are a few questions to ask your potential suppliers:

  • How long have they been an established supplier?
  • What are all the costs involved? (e.g. set up fee, annual renewable licence etc.)
  • How much do they charge for technical support?
  • Is the system scalable?
  • Can they recommend any third-party developers that make use of their RDBMS?
  • Is there an active independent user group?
  • Can they provide references for businesses in your industry using their software?
  • Do they offer training for the RDBMS and what are the associated costs?

As you can see there’s a lot to think about when considering which database solution is right for you. Before you dive in, make sure you know precisely what you need for your business now and in the future. Once you are armed with that information you will be better placed to make sure you get the right system for your business.

Author: MPM Computer Consultancy provides IT Services, Support and Training to sole traders and small businesses in Ipswich. Bury St Edmunds and surrounding villages.

Welcome To The World of Databases–Part 2

Types of database systems

database

Our previous post looked at the various benefits of databases. This time we’ll look at the different types of database systems and how to choose the one that’s right for you.

First things first, let’s look at the different types of database systems that are available.

 

In general they come in one of two basic forms:

  • Single-file or ‘flat file’ databases
  • Multi-file relational or ‘structured’ databases

So how do you decide which is right for you? Well  that will depend on a number of factors, such as:

  • The complexity of the data you want to store (e.g. plain text, sound files, images etc.)
  • How much you want to store and process
  • Whether you need access for more than one person to access and amend the data
  • If the data has to be imported from or exported to other IT systems

The best way to look at it is that if your requirements are simple – for example you just need to monitor names and addresses of a 100 or so customers – a standard office tool such as a spreadsheet would probably suffice.

But if your needs are more complex than that, you should consider something more sophisticated such as Microsoft Access, FileMaker Pro, SQL Server, Oracle, Sybase, Informix or MySQL. These programmes are designed to sort and search large volumes of a variety of data types.

Of course we should also mention specialist database products such as contact management packages like ACT, Maximiser and Chaos which are designed to manage and manipulate contact information. Plus there are also database solutions for specific industries such as manufacturing or insurance.

Therefore finding your ideal product can be tricky.

Finding your perfect match

If you’re a small business you probably won’t need a sophisticated relational database management system (RDBMS) as you may well find you can manage perfectly well with a standard spreadsheet.

But if you are a bigger company with hundreds of customers, product lines and suppliers, a RDBMS is your best option.

The other thing you should take into consideration is how you will use the database. Spreadsheets can be viewed by many people but generally only amended by one person at a time. An RDBMS allows several people to access and amend data simultaneously.

Lots to think about then. The best way to find your perfect match is to work out what you want to get from your database, how much information you have to store (and what type of information it is), and how many people will need access to it. Once you know that, it will be easier for you to find your ideal system.

Next week we’ll look at potential problems.

Author: MPM Computer Consultancy provides IT Services, Support and Training to sole traders and small businesses in Ipswich. Bury St Edmunds and surrounding villages.

Welcome To The World of Databases

The Benefits of Databases

database

Every business gathers information which needs to be organised, easily accessible and secure.

The humble database is a business’s best friend. It’s there to organise, process and manage information in a structured and controlled manner.

This is the first of 3 posts that will look at databases, how to choose the right one for you and potential drawbacks.

What is a database?

Let’s get back to basics. A database is a collection of data that’s been organised so your computer can quickly select desired items. It could be a customer mailing list or stock codes for example.

In the good old days companies relied on manual filing systems which tended to be unreliable, unwieldy to use and very slow. Plus they can be used to cross-reference information held in different files. A relational database management system uses common ‘keys’ to tie related information together (e.g. a customer ID number can be used to identify an individual customer or link a customer to an order for specific goods).

Database benefits

The more you know about your customers, suppliers and competitors the better so if you can store your information in a structured way you’ll gain a great advantage.

Gathering and processing information is time consuming but it’s also the best way to keep track of how your business is performing.

A sophisticated relational database management system will help you with this. By constantly adding data you can gain a historical perspective on how particular products are performing and help you identify trends.

The use of this type of database technology will help you:

  • Reduce time spent managing data
  • Analyse data in a number of ways
  • Promote a disciplined approach to data management
  • Turn disparate information into a valuable resource
  • Improve the quality and consistency of your information

So as you can see databases can really give your business the edge. The next post in this series on databases will look at types of database systems and deciding which one is right for you.

Author: MPM Computer Consultancy provides IT Services, Support and Training to sole traders and small businesses in Ipswich. Bury St Edmunds and surrounding villages.