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Five lessons learnt during THE (OK, my) Great Computer Server Meltdown of 2012


In the 1950s, US Army Scientists created the framework of what we now call the Internet to protect their computers from nuclear attack.

Last week, that very same system managed to subject our business to a nuclear meltdown.

This may sound like hyperbole, but if it has ever happened to you, you know what it feels like. Last week our computer network was hacked with a Trojan. Chaos ensued.

While you can never plan perfectly for a crisis, here are some of the big points that we’ve learnt that may very well be helpful for you and your business:

1. Anti-virus protection isn’t enough

No matter how good your virus protection is, you can still have trouble. We had firewalls and anti-virus scanners running and these things still managed to get through. In fact, even in trying to clean it up with another two of the top anti-virus and malware cleaning products, we were still unable to find what was obviously a virus sitting in the memory of the computer.

What does this mean for you? Always make sure your virus updates are current but also make sure you have full system back-ups and back-ups that work. Luckily, we did!

Remember to keep them offsite too. As an example, two weeks after one of our clients put in place off site back-up, their whole office was cleared out. Computers, drives, discs, the lot. It would have been game over if they didn’t have offsite back-up.

2. WHERE you store your passwords is important

Now we may be going against the current trend of what people recommend. These days it’s easy to save your passwords in browsers or in some way shape or form electronically on your computer. But the question becomes, what happens if where you’re storing it becomes the threatened system?

The saving grace for us was the fact that we had our passwords manually printed and filed. This allowed us to quickly get online and change all other passwords. Always make sure you’ve got a stash of your most important computer contact details, logins and passwords somewhere physical and safe.

3. Make your passwords strong (i.e. one password does not fit all)

This ‘thing’, when it hacked into our server, started probing around for other email accounts trying to access them over the internet. If we would have used default passwords, such as admin or password or combinations of that, we would have been in even more trouble.

Being disciplined enough to having multiple passwords, not one password that fits a lot of systems, makes a lot of difference. You know that they can only get so far into any one system at one time, not access at all you got.

Use combination of words, numbers and characters. And never choose a one-password-fits-all approach.

4. Consider using the Cloud

The one thing I really got out of this debacle was the amount of time and money that is spent on hosting your own software and storage. Sure, there’s no monthly cost really, other than electricity, but when something goes wrong, getting external support starts to make ownership expensive.

When you consider the fact that if your data is externally kept, it’s most probably kept in a physically, more stable and secure physical environment with more levels of software protection than you can keep yourself. It’s a better bet. We were halfway through this process when we got hit.

5. Stay alert

Don’t think it won’t happen to you. I’ve seen it all. I’ve seen businesses close down, $40K lost to fraud, and untold hours of business work time wasted. These are some of the things that I’ve seen happen when companies have ignored what could happen. Learn at my expense, rather than at yours.

Get moving: print this off and ask your computer support person how well protected you are.

Steve Smit is a Business Coach with Reality Consulting. He works with business owners who want to increase their take home profits and work shorter hours. For a free copy of his “Business Accelerator Pack” visit www.realityconsulting.com.au or please email [email protected].

Image by joelogon [Joe Loong]