I’ve been preaching about the importance of a solid and secure backup for years. The stories keep piling up, however, about organizations whose plans for their data are less than sufficient.
There’s one company that came to us for help recently. It had outsourced its backups and then never really checked on them. Why would it? This was a highly reputable firm that was used throughout the company's industry. But when the inevitable disk error occurred, it took that firm months to get the data where it needed to be. Yes, I said months.
We had another that regularly backed up to tape, then every night the guy that did the back up took home that tape so they had an off-site copy. Sound familiar? If so, I bet you see this one coming. The server crashed one day. It was the same day the guy left the organization – and left the tape at home. Worse? After hours of working to get the data restored, it was determined that the backup was not operating correctly.
We have more stories like this than room on the Web to put them. It’s such a very painful lesson to learn: backups can (and do) fail. To help you prepare for that inevitable day when you really need a good backup, we bring you the following Six Steps to Backup Nirvana:
Step 1: Know Where Your Data Is.
This seems straightforward, but it’s actually pretty complicated. Is everyone actually storing all important files on the server or even on the right drive in the cloud? Or maybe it’s on their desktop, inside programs, in Dropbox, email, ShareFile or even databases.
The point is: Do you know where it is? You can’t back it up if you don’t.
Step 2: Know What’s Important.
If you’ve been in business for a while, you likely have an awful lot of data. Some of it is critical to your operation; some you could lose and frankly be better off for the loss. If you can identify what’s important and where it is, you can be sure it’s lined up for a back up. Just spend enough time thinking this through to know what you’re comfortable with losing, if you can’t (or don’t want to) back up all of it.
Step 3: Know Your Security Risk.
Every organization has a different level of risk tolerance. If you are responsible for someone’s data, someone’s money or confidential information about another company or person, you have a higher risk level than those that don’t have employees or store confidential data.
Of course, the greater the risk associated with a security breach or data loss, the more time and effort you need to spend against assuring your backup solution is comprehensive and easily accessible.
Step 4: Have a Retention Policy.
Let’s assume you’re already in compliance with your industry requirements. The next question is: How long do you keep your backups? That depends on what kind of data it is. I’ve heard this referred to as the Soup or the Lettuce question: Some information has a longer shelf life than others.
Information in a database likely changes more quickly than that in stored document files (Word, Excel, PDFs and the like). Therefore older versions of databases don’t need to be saved as long as older versions of document files.
Step 5: Understand Your Mechanism.
Different backup mechanisms require different controls and systems. Whether you back up onsite on tape or disk, for example, or offsite through the Internet, you need to understand how differently the backup software operates and whether or not you have agents to address open files (such as databases). Always starting with the end in mind, know absolutely what the recovery process is like and who controls that.
Step 6: Testing, 1-2-3 Testing.
Once you have deployed your backup system and are happy with the setup, run a test. Make sure it’s working just the way you want it – and then test it again. It’s critical to regularly monitor the success of your backup system as well as the recovery of data. In order to be absolutely positively sure, revisit this test and retest process at least annually, if not quarterly.
Data management can be overwhelming. Especially for small business owners who barely have enough time to focus on the core of their businesses. So find help. Don’t let the backup slip. It’s too important to the lifeblood of your business.
Shaun Olsen is the CEO and president of CloudWyze. CloudWyze was created to help businesses focus and perform at their optimal level by crafting and executing custom technology plans for businesses of every type and size. To learn more about CloudWyze, visit www.CloudWyze.com. Shaun can be reached at [email protected] or 910-795-1000.
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