How do you know if your computer network is adequately 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 a portable USB hard drive? And do you just backup your data, or do you currently have a system in place that protects your entire server? Maybe you’re one of those companies that are just holding on tight and hoping that you never run into an issue where you need that backup?
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 “foolproof” system to defend 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.
6 Parts of a (nearly) foolproof backup system
If you build a backup strategy that consists of these six 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. On-Premise full server backup
By using a complete server backup solution, you not only backup your data files, but you backup everything that is on the hard drives of the server. This means that in the event of a disaster, you can 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 before the disaster … and I mean everything. Personal settings and configurations, documents, applications, email, everything.
2. Utilize online backup to get a copy of your vital data off-site
Getting a copy of your data offsite, or better yet the image of your drives is essential. 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 triggered and your server and backup tapes were destroyed. Simply put, you need a copy of your data off-site.
Now, how your data gets off-site is the thing. Online backup is secure and is very reasonably priced. We back up to local datacenters that we can walk into a gather your data in the case of an emergency. Unlike some other online solutions can take a lot of time to recover your data or charge you hundreds of dollars to ship your data to you on a temporary drive.
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 company 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 hundreds or thousands of transactions could be gone 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 often to assure that a recent copy of all of the data was available in the event of a mishap.
4. When was the last time you visually verified that the backup is accurate and accessible?
That could be one of the biggest whiffs that exist in your office today. How do you know that you genuinely 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 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 testing 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 data. 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 performed 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. Having a standby server
The ability for businesses to create standby servers has produced some great opportunities for the affordable creation of quick disaster recovery for their business. For more detailed information on this, please feel free to reach out for a conversation but primarily 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 regular server for a fraction of the cost. Your standby server continually copies the server’s hard drive onto itself, day after day. If the regular server ever goes down (hard drives fail, power surge fries the motherboard) the failover 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 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 particular 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 an excellent example of what a simple yet complete Disaster Recovery Plan might look like.