Mad Media, a San Diego based marketing agency, experienced a major data disaster during the 2007 California wildfires. Their hard drives were damaged by multiple power surges, rendering all their files, including crucial client files, inaccessible.
In another incident, IT consultant Howard Sherman related the story of a client who went out of business when their hard drive failed and they lost their data. These kinds of stories repeat themselves every day in businesses around the world. Disgruntled employees, human error, hardware failures, software corruption, viruses and theft are some of the things that contribute to the loss of business data. While ensuring your network is safe from hackers, viruses, etc. is critical, once your data is actually lost or corrupted only a well implemented backup strategy will get it back.
According to the Open Security Foundation’s DataLossDB data braches are broken down as follows: Stolen Laptop’s make up 21% (traditional security won’t help you hear – only a backup will help); Hack attacks represent 16%; data loss via insecure web sites make up another 13%. The remaining percentages are comprised of a variety of other types of breaches. Based on these numbers, the chance of you losing data (by accidental human error, hardware/software failure, or malicious human intervention) is high.
Protection = Security Plus Backup
Many business owners and IT managers focus on only one half of security. They think that by having an anti-virus solution on each computer and reducing spam that they are doing well. However, true protection is security plus backup.
More than Files: Applications and Operating System Too
Maybe you do have a backup solution in place for files and data you and/or your employees create. Maybe your file server is backed up, for example. But what if your file server hard disk fails? What if an employee’s computer fails? Restoring the files is only one part of the equation. You need to ensure the applications and operating system can also be quickly restored. For example, most business professionals use Microsoft Outlook. You might be able to reinstall Outlook on your computer, but if your data is not backed up, you won’t have your email, your calendar, your task list or anything. Work with a technology professional to ensure that files, applications and operating systems are backed up as well. Discuss with them about creating an “image” of your servers and client computers.
Don’t Forget Mobile Workers
We live in an increasingly mobile society where business data no longer only resides on local servers in a dusty filing closet. It doesn’t only reside on desktop computers on cubicles or a CEO’s oak executive desk. Today’s professionals create their data and store their data on a variety of mobile devices – smartphones, netbooks, notebooks and USB keys.
The $100,000 client contract might have originally been created in the corporate office. But maybe the remote sales staff did the final and most critical edits on a smart phone at the airport.
It is important that your backup strategy include ALL of your corporate data – whether it is in the office our outside of the office.
Where Will You Back Up Your Data
You have several choices in deciding where to back up your data. In fact you don’t have to have one option, but you might decide to implement two solutions.
Backing up your data to another hard disk, server or removable media such as a DVD is great option, especially when you want to ensure quick access to the data. The backed up data should not be stored in your office, but should be taken offsite (like to an employee’s home). In the event something happens to your office (fire, flood, earthquake, theft) your data is safe and easily recoverable.
Online backup is a great option if you want a hassle-free way to ensure your data is automatically backed up, remotely archived and accessible through the internet for recovery. The challenge with this solution, however, is that recovery of your data must be done by downloading your files through the Internet (unless the online backup company can send you DVDs of your data). Although recovering files you created is not hard using an online backup solution, recovering your programs, operating systems and data files can be a challenge.
Verify Your Backup
It is absolutely critical that you ensure your data is being properly backed up. Imagine depositing your money into an ATM machine, only to realize that when you went to make a withdrawal, the money you were depositing was not applied to your bank account. To ensure your bank account is properly credited you get a receipt and check your bank balances after a few days to ensure the money has been properly deposited. When backing up your data, it is absolutely critical to ensure that the data has been actually backed up.
Backing up 6 months of data is great. But if disaster strikes in 6 months plus one day and only then do you realize that your data has not been properly backed up – is too late.
Technology can fail and human error is common place. Maybe you thought your three servers and 20 computers were backed up every night, but instead only 2 servers were backed up. Double check and verify that what you want to back up is indeed being backed up. Look at the backup logs or alerts on failed jobs but also spot check the actual backed up data.
Data recovery is something that no business wants to have to do. However, knowing how to do it is essential. The data recovery process will differ from system to system, but overall the principle is the same. In fact, I encourage you to do practice “data recovery drills” to measure the effectiveness of your data recovery process.
If you need to recover files, and your computer is operational, simply access your backup software, access the recovery feature and select which files you need to recover.
If your entire computer or server goes down, this is where your “image” comes in to play.
Start up your computer from an external drive, like a USB drive or DVD drive. Start up the software that manages your backup and/or image. Select the backed up image you would like to restore to the new computer hard disk. Once the recovery process is done, you’ll have a computer identical to your “old” or crashed computer. All you have to do now is install any programs or files that were newly installed since the image was created.
As you put together a backup plan it’s important to consider disaster continuity. This means that in the event of a disaster your business can continue running as effectively as possible. Here are a few things to consider including in your plan:
- Telephone numbers: Do you have complete contact details of all your key employees and ALL staff? And maybe your IT partner or consultant?
- Customer information: Can you easily find complete contact information for all of your customers?
- Central communication: Does everyone in the company have a central telephone number, web site and/or point of contact for sharing information.
- Remote office: In the event you are unable to access your office, can you and your employees remotely access company information?
While you can’t control whether disaster will strike, you can control whether the impact it has on your business will be devastating or merely inconvenient. Make sure that you are implementing a system of protection that includes regular backup of files (local and remote) and operating systems, a sensible backup location, regular verification that it’s actually backing up, recovery “practice” sessions, and a continuity plan that all key employees know about. It can mean the difference between staying in business or not.
Source: Ramon Ray, Technology Evangelist and Editor, Smallbiztechnology.com