Every business needs data backups. This is not news.
Despite this fact, we still see situations where a business hard drive fails, and critical data is lost until we can restore it.
You don’t even have to wait for something to break before facing a backup and disaster recovery situation. Wait for the next storm that knocks out power to your office or the next time an employee accidentally deletes data, and you can’t access email.
Backing up data is a critical need for every business, and even if you don’t have an IT partner handling this for you, there are steps you can take to prepare for the inevitable disaster. Here are five strategies you can implement today.
1. Develop a protocol for saving files.
Many businesses create backups on tape or an external hard drive, but it’s not a process they think about much, and they often fail to communicate it to new employees.
If there is no handbook on how to use your company’s technology, workers will often do what is easiest for them, like saving files to their desktop, downloads folder, or some other location that doesn’t connect to the network.
This is most common with employees who use laptops and work on the go. They save files without connecting to the network, and if the laptop gets lost or stolen, there isn’t any backup on the company’s server.
To prevent this data loss, businesses should develop a protocol for file management, training staff and communicating with them to make sure files are being saved properly—to a network-based file, for example, rather than a laptop’s C drive. People easily forget this kind of stuff, so it’s important to send occasional reminders about it.
2. Create a backup schedule.
Businesses often have a rotation strategy for offsite backup, but they fail to execute it consistently. They may forget to create a backup, or they might leave tapes onsite.
Is your company guilty of this mistake?
The best solution is to make a schedule. Create a shared calendar other employees can view and access, and set up periodic reminders for people responsible for backing up data. That way you can verify the work is stored in the proper location. Office 365 and Microsoft Outlook are just a couple tools you can use to create a shared calendar with task reminders.
3. Pay attention to your security vendor agreements.
If you use a paid version of Symantec, Acronis, Carbonite, or any other backup software, make sure you have the resources to keep it up to date.
In many cases, businesses purchase software, and forget about it. If the credit card expires, they may miss reminder emails from the maintenance company and end up using an outdated backup system without support.
Most of these companies only find out about the issue when disaster strikes and they need help restoring lost data.
4. Set up checks for monitoring your system.
If you have a valid backup software and support agreement with a third party manager, the vendor should walk you through setting up and configuring email alerts that tell you when backups are failing.
Businesses are often unaware of an issue preventing their backup from working properly. Sometimes, employees regularly rotate tapes and removable drives without knowing they contain no new data. This happens when system alerts aren’t in place—nobody looked at the job history, and nobody got an alert the backup stopped working.
Even with cloud-based backup, a minor issue such as a Windows patch, software glitch, or low free space can cause the automatic backup to stop.
5. Measure important parameters and test your backup.
The most common reason for data loss is accidental file deletion. To test recovery time and capability in this scenario, delete a file or folder (that you’ve backed up separately beforehand) and task the in-house employee responsible for backups with restoring that file or folder from a certain day.
See how long it takes the employee to recover the data. Side bets are optional.
You should also test your server for failure. This one may stress out the entire staff. Begin the test by shutting down your primary server, then run through internal processes—server hard drive failure, motherboard failure, power supply failure. For each scenario, test your actual plan—what steps do you need to take to get your business going again, and how much time do you need to do it?
Recovery Point Objective (RPO) and Recovery Time Objective (RTO) are two of the most important parameters of a disaster recovery and data protection plan. You should define scenarios for the backup and measure these two parameters via testing. RPO tells you how long you can be without your data before it becomes critical, and RTO measures how much time you need to recover your files. These parameters define the Backup and Disaster Recovery (BDR), help you decide how often you should take snapshots, and determine how you should size your cloud solutions.
After working through these 5 strategies to ensure your data is in the best shape possible, you can perform your BDR analysis or disaster recovery analysis. Talk to key people in your company about this information, and then do the math: How much money would it cost if you lost one day of production? How much data would you lose? Would your reputation be damaged? Now you’ll know exactly where you’ll stand if something goes wrong.