Data Safety: Back Up Plan
I have supported businesses and their networks for over 17 years. I have evaluated thousands of different computer networks and servers and continue to see new configurations every month. It still amazes me that only 1 in 10 networks I review have reliable backup systems in place. Most studies show that over 50% of business who lose their data consequently go out of business. The businesses that move past such events are the ones who have developed a smart disaster recovery and business continuity plan. With such a high potential cost for data loss, why do so many businesses fly without a recovery net? This is the first part in a three part series that will go into more detail on these important plans.
To avoid adding your business to this statistic, management must first understand the 3 major components of data safety. Understanding these three elements will give you more of a complete strategy for data safety and help you avoid downtime and headaches in the event of a disaster affecting the information you need to run your business:
- Disaster Recovery – see later blog
- Business Continuity – see later blog
- What Backup Program to use: There are many programs that can backup data, but not all backup programs can backup all data. Almost any can backup a file like a Word document or Excel spreadsheet, but some programs store data in a database that requires special handling. A SQL database, for example, will likely not be recoverable if you just “copy” it to a backup location. It has to be backed up by a program that understands SQL and that will “copy” the data properly. Exchange, QuickBooks, SharePoint and many other applications have similar issues. F1 Solutions offers a secure local and offsite service.
Backups are the most basic form of data safety. They are also the initial building block that Disaster Recovery and Business Continuity build upon. In simple terms, Backups are a copy of your data taken at a specific moment in time. If a file is deleted by mistake you can “recover” a copy of that file made at that previous moment in time. Here are some important things to consider when designing a backup strategy:
- Identify how often you need to backup: For most businesses this is Daily and some businesses may require even more frequent backups.
- Automate the backup Schedule: Automating the backup means that your backup will run on a pre-determined schedule autonomously. Depending upon a person to remember to run backups manually will always cause problems. If you rely on someone to backup data every day, they will tire of it quickly and the backups will suffer. If someone is sick, if there is an accident, or if someone simply forgets then your data may be in danger. When possible, automated alerts that notify you when a backup task fails are also important.
- Don’t automate backup checks: This may seem to contradict the previous point, but is essential. If someone does not manually do a backup check weekly to verify the automated system is working properly then you could find yourself with backups that are not complete, are corrupt, or simply do not exist. Also once a good backup process has been reliably working, you can spot check it less often. Just be sure to have a written log to hold the person responsible for checking the backups.
- Verify Recovery: A good backup is not good unless it will actually work and restore your data and the only way to fully determine that is to verify it. Nothing feels better than restoring data in a controlled test and it succeeding. Nothing feels worse than needing to restore data and not knowing what to expect or having it fail entirely! How often you do this is up to how well you like to sleep at night. At a minimum these verification checks should be done yearly and whenever the backup is changed significantly. This yearly test should be documented and saved if you fall under a government compliance regulation.
They key to protecting yourself from lost data is to securely have a copy of it in multiple places.