A Fool Proof Backup Strategy
How do you know if you’re computer network is fully protected? What type of overall backup strategy does your company employ? Do you still use tape backup and then have those tapes taken off-site on a daily basis? Or maybe you backup to portable USB drives? And do you just backup your data, or do you currently have a system in place that protects your entire server?
As you are well aware of, your company’s data and computer network are the life-blood of your company, and protecting those assets is vital to your future. So how do you create a “fool proof” system to protect yourself?
On this page we’ll answer all of your backup questions and concerns, and introduce you to a new and affordable backup technology for small business.
First let’s look at…
The 6 components of a (nearly) fool proof Backup Strategy
If you build a backup strategy that consists of these 6 components, you will have a backup (and recovery) system that will get you through disasters and events of all shapes and sizes. The strategy below is a multi-tiered strategy designed for multiple backup and recovery situations … and you can put this strategy and the supporting technology together at a very reasonable cost.
- 1. Utilize Disk Imaging as part of your strategy
- As mentioned on our Disk Imaging page, this technology is an absolute must as you build a solid backup strategy. By using disk imaging, you not only backup your data files, but you actually backup everything that is on the hard drives of the server and critical desktops. This means that in the event of a disaster, you can simply replace the hard drive (or the entire PC), restore the backup image back onto the hard drive and everything will back just as it was prior to the disaster … and I mean everything. Personal settings and configurations, documents, applications, email … everything.
- If you are still using file-by-file backup to tape or other media, you are potentially subjecting yourself to hours and hours of recovery … and when you are done, it is very likely that your recovered computer will not be exactly like it was before. You will continue to re-create settings, re-configure applications and favorites for days and weeks after the recovery.
- Disk Imaging software is readily available and cheap to purchase. If imaging is not currently part of your backup plan, you need to seriously consider it–now!
- 2. Utilize online backup to get a copy of your vital data off-site
- Getting a copy of your data, or better yet the image of your drives, is important. If a thief breaks into your office tonight and steals your server, some desktops and all of your backup tapes, you’d better have a copy of all of that valuable data someplace off-site.
- The same is true if your building was to go up in flames, or if by some occurrence, the sprinkler system in your building was triggered and your server and backup tapes were soaked for 20-30 minutes. Simply put, you need a copy of your data off-site.
- Now, how your data gets off-site is another thing. On our Off-site Data page you read about the advantages of getting your data off-site by using online backup of the data. Online backup is secure and is very reasonably priced. For years businesses have given the responsibility of taking a tape off-site each evening to an employee. So this person takes the backup tape and puts it in their purse or briefcase. They then drive away, stop off at the mall to purchase some socks and then decide to go to the latest Tom Cruise movie … with all of your critical business data riding along with them. Does this really sound like a secure and well thought out plan for protecting the life blood of your company … your data?
- 3. Create a schedule that reflects how rapidly your data changes
- Every business is different and the rate at which a business’ data changes is different also. If your business sells only a couple of large ticket items each month, then it might not be necessary for you to backup your business data every 15 minutes.
- If your business is taking orders, shipping and receiving merchandise throughout the day, processing payments through the day, then you probably need to think about backing up your data every 15-30 minutes. One day’s worth of transactions might take you weeks or months to recreate in the event of a disaster … and what if you were forced to restore your data to yesterday’s data … literally hundreds or thousands of transactions could be lost by losing that one day of data.
- Even a law firm or other professional service firms might have large amounts of data that are submitted by clients and used on a daily basis. In these cases it might make sense to backup every 1-2 hours to assure that a recent copy of all of the data was available in the event of a mishap.
- It may not necessary for these frequent copies of the data (or images of the data) to be transferred off-site. Remember, the off-site data will only be needed in the event of a complete wipe-out of the data at your office. However, many online backup solutions will send your data off-site multiple times per day.
- 4. When was the last time you visually verified that the backup is accurate and accessible?
- This could be one of the biggest whiffs that exist in your office today. How do you know that you actually have a restorable backup of your data? Did your backup program tell you that you have a “successful backup”? Did someone in your office see the words “backup successful” somewhere in your backup software? Unfortunately, this is not enough and can be a brutal awakening when the data is really needed.
- You need to test it on a regular basis
- The only way for you to know that your backup is “successful” is to test the recovery of it. Someone (onsite IT Administrator, owner, IT Support Company) needs to have a consistent schedule for verifying that the backup was successful. They need to go through a scheduled routine of verifying that the data can be pulled from the backup media and restored to the computer.
- Usually this means going to the server and deleting a non-vital file, then going to the backup media and restoring the file. Chances are if you can do this for one file then the rest will be able to be restored also. This process needs to be done on a regular basis and again should be scheduled based on the nature of your data. The test restore will only take someone 5-10 minutes, (or less) so doing the test once a week, once a month or once a quarter should be reasonable. Performing test restores of databases can be more complicated, and should be peformed by a skilled IT person.
- Do a test restore of your data TODAY, and put a tickler in your calendar to do it regularly from this point forward.
- 5. Use the disk image of your server to create a standby server for your network
- The ability for businesses to create images of the hard drives on their servers has created some really great opportunities for the affordable creation of a standby server for their business. For more detailed information on this please go to our Imagine Backup web page … but basically because you have a “clone” of the hard drive on your server you have the possibility of having a standby server with the same capabilities of your normal server for a fraction of the cost. Your standby server continually copies the server’s hard drive onto itself, day after day. If the normal server ever goes down (hard drives fail, power surge fries the motherboard …) the fail-over server can replace it in about an hour.
- This means that your employees are only interrupted for a short period of time, rather than being out of commission for a day or two while the computer guys scramble to purchase a new server (or new parts), reload and re-configure the operating system, reload all of the applications, re-configure all of the users, re-map drives and restore all of the data and user files … whew! That’s a ton of time for employees to waste while all this happens.
- 6. Create a simple yet comprehensive Business Continuity Plan
- There has been a lot of ‘buzz’ lately about Disaster Recovery and Business Continuity Planning. A lot of this buzz started with the sad and unexpected happenings on 9/11 and continued with the disasters that New Orleans experienced.
- It is absolutely critical that every business, big and small, have a plan of action to respond to disasters, big and small. The plan needs to be clear and it needs to be laid out with specific individuals within the business – each assuming specific roles. It needs to be functional and it needs to be updated at least annually as the business and staff change.
- Your Business Continuity Plan cannot be filled with fluff, and for small and mid sized businesses, it cannot be hundreds and hundreds of pages. You need to get your head around the reality of the potential disaster that is directly in front of you. Our Business Continuity web page gives a good example of what a simple yet complete Disaster Recovery Plan might look like.
What if someone broke into your office?
Ask yourself this…what are the first 5 things that you and your staff would do if you received a call late tonight from the police saying that there was a break-in at your office and the thieves took your server(s), every PC and your phone system? Would you and your staff all be on the same page regarding what would need to be done? Do you have all of the critical info that you would need to start these processes…employee contact info, client contact info, vendor contact info, IT Support company contact info…? Remember, any of this info that was on your computer network is gone, and quite possibly any info printed in a 3-ring binder somewhere in your office.
Your Business Continuity Plan should cover all of these initial items, and continue through the processes required to get you are back up and going 100%.