Cyberspace: Do You Have a Backup Plan?
As you are probably well aware, the data on your company’s network, servers or individual computers not only needs to be secured, but also needs to be backed up in a reliable and consistent fashion. The information you have collected over the years is the most important non-human asset you own.
If that information is lost, corrupted or otherwise unavailable to access, it would be a major blow to your operations; studies have indicated that up to 90 percent of small businesses that suffer a major data loss will go out of business. Let’s take a brief look at some of the basics of data protection, and a common sense approach to securing your company’s future.
Imagine coming into work and finding that burglars had ransacked your offices and made off with some computers and servers. While you waited for the police to show up to make a report, emails would still be flooding in, phones ringing, clients checking in, etc. Hopefully you and your team would have your personal laptops with critical data on them, but think about all of the other critical data that would be lost and irreplaceable.
You see, the data on your company network actually is your business; you rely on technology to drive your business forward. So, first off, you need to not only secure your facility properly (with alarm systems, for instance), but you need to establish a reliable backup system and off-site storage plan.
You might be thinking to yourself, “Umm ... how much is a data protection scheme going to cost me?” In which case, I’d pose this question: Can you afford not to have a plan?
Backup System Plan
To determine the proper backup system to employ, there are several considerations you must take into account: First, how much data are you talking about, and what kind of budget can you afford? Second, you need to not only consider the company’s networked data, but also the critical data that each employee might have stored on laptops. That means you need to sit down and think things through before making any decisions or investments.
Keep in mind that you have several options for backing up your company data on-site—either on a dedicated appliance (disc- or tape-based—this is the most expensive option, but typically offers proprietary software that optimizes the backup process), a network attached storage system (which is typically a computer with a couple of hard drives), or a removable disk set-up which allows for multiple interchangeable cartridges. Additionally, you’ll want to document a formal internal process to make sure everyone is clear on scheduling backup operations and off-site delivery mechanisms.
Finally, you have multiple off-site options, either physically storing your backup data on tape or discs in a secure facility, or replicating data to a cloud-based server. Or both. Remember: The reason you’re putting a data backup and recovery plan together is in case the worst-case scenario occurs.
Data Recovery Plan
If that worst-case scenario does occur, you will then rely on your established data recovery plan. In other words, whatever your procedure is for retrieving the data you have backed up, either on-site or at a remote location (physical media or in the cloud).
Now, this might sound fairly intuitive: If you lose your data at the company headquarters, you’ll simply replace any hardware that was damaged or stolen, and you’ll download files from the cloud or send a tech to the off-site location to bring back tapes or discs.
During your planning of worst-case scenarios that could cost you dearly, keep in mind that we’re not only talking about a company break-in; we’re also talking about tornados, hurricanes, floods, earthquakes, etc.
Especially for technology companies that provide services their clients would very much like to have up and running after a natural disaster, you have to take into account how much time it’ll take you to retrieve your backup data. Will you even be able to access the cloud? How far away from your HQ is your backup data stored? (The location should be far enough away that in the case of a natural disaster, the chances of both locations being equally affected are minimal.)
So, not only will you need to have a basic data recovery plan on paper, so that the people responsible for getting the company up and running again will know their job requirements; you’ll also want to have an expected timeline for retrieving off-site backup data.
As your backup data grows, you can expect to spend more and more money on backup discs or tapes, unless you also plan on archiving old data. This is typically done to tape, as it is the least expensive format. Archiving old data that you’re not accessing at least once a year can save a tremendous amount of storage disc space, ultimately reducing overall costs.
Another parallel consideration for archiving data efficiently and cost-effectively, especially from a financial consideration, is deduplication. Duplicating files or data can eat up a lot of storage space. Deduplication is simply the way backup software helps, by saving only those files that have changed since the previous backup. The more intelligent backup software systems can save an even greater deal of storage space by looking at data that is duplicated multiple times across a system (data that is used in multiple files or on multiple machines, for instance). Deduplication, while decreasing data storage space, is also a key advantage when storing data to the cloud—you’ll end up paying for less storage space, and your costs will be lower overall as a result.
Do you have a backup plan?
As I said at the beginning, your company’s network data is critical to your long-term success. To have an effective backup plan, you need to document your processes, allocate an affordable budget, backup company servers and individual computers, backup data to a secure off-site location, and plan accordingly in case a worst-case scenario occurs. An effective backup plan will keep you secure and competitive, just in case the unexpected occurs. CR
Related story: Network Management Dynamics