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Automating security

Today's computer systems can keep your data safe without intervention

Be honest. Backing up your company data isn't top of today's priority list.

It's probably fair to assume that the Russian Mafia spends more of its time targeting bigger businesses, with deeper pockets. But viruses and accidents aren't generally so discriminating.

Whilst it's not exactly difficult to install the latest security updates for your virus protection or server operating system, usually no more than a couple of mouse clicks and perhaps a system restart, there's always something more important making demands on your time.

Quote�The industry has recognised that it can't change human nature.�End Quote

The good news is that the industry has recognised that it can't change human nature. With broadband and networked systems now commonplace, it's more practical for software companies to make products which maintain themselves - taking us fallible humans out of the loop.


The first line of defence should be a firewall. This acts like a nightclub bouncer - keeping the riff-raff out, but letting the beautiful people through. It checks every attempt to get inside your computer system - and in true bouncer style, "if your name's not down, you're not coming in".

The growing popularity of broadband connections has made firewalls a 'must', even for home users. Thankfully, management and maintenance has become a simple point-and-click exercise. All being well, you should just be able to set it and forget it.

Windows XP comes with a built-in firewall which watches your internet connection for any intrusion attempts, and asks if you want to let them through. The standard edition of Microsoft's Small Business Server also comes with a firewall to protect your network; the premium edition includes Internet Security and Acceleration Server, which provides a more sophisticated barrier.


Quote�Made a big change today that you don't like? You can just open yesterday's version and start again.�End Quote

A poll for bCentral revealed that a staggering 27% of respondents didn't know what a backup was, or never bothered with one. Given that many businesses go bust after a catastrophe – a flood, fire or theft – simply because they don't have a backup copy of critical data, this is a surprising oversight.

There are plenty of good reasons for storing your most important data on a central file server - a computer whose hard disk is shared with many users over a network. One you might not immediately think of is that it makes it much easier to back up everyone's data in one go - and restore original versions if needed.

Most modern server systems include backup software that can make scheduled backups of your business data to tape or another disk. Once you've set it up, it will run automatically. But practically speaking, retrieving a single file from a full system backup can be a chore - especially if you're relying on your technical expert to do it for you.

Microsoft's Small Business Server 2003 also includes a feature called Volume Shadow Copy. This is like a time machine for the files it looks after; it lets you go back to a previously saved version of the file. Made a big change today that you don't like? You can just open yesterday's version and start again. And even better, you can do it yourself, without bothering your system manager.


Naturally, prevention is better than cure. Microsoft and other software companies release regular software updates for their programs and operating systems. These 'patches' make them safer and more efficient - fixing a security vulnerability maybe, or improving performance. They are generally posted on company websites, and can be downloaded free of charge. You can check for updates for Windows XP at Microsoft's Windows Update site.

A key element of Microsoft's recent SP2 upgrade for Windows XP is a new Windows Security Center, which features an improved Automatic Updates function. You can instruct your system to check the Microsoft website for any available updates, to download any updates automatically, and to install them automatically too. Read about turning on automatic updates in Windows XP.

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What next?

See how a secure network can help in practice - read the story of how Norwegian Coastal Voyage benefited from their new system.

You can get specific advice for your business by contacting an IT consultant. Enter your postcode here to find one in your area.

Want to know what secure server software can do? Find out more about Microsoft Windows Small Business Server 2003.

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