Data Backup - Can you continue to ignore it?

Data Backup. The 400lb gorilla in your IT strategy that nobody wants to talk about. Data backup is one of the single most critical aspects of any IT strategy and it is often overlooked, ignored, misunderstood and mismanaged. Perhaps most businesses don't pay attention to it because it isn't something we use on a daily basis. When the e-mail goes down or when we can't access a critical application we notice immediately, but backing that data up is something a lot of people just assume is being done properly. Sadly, we see businesses every week that have major backup and recovery problems. The hidden costs for managing a tape or hard disk based backup solution are unbelievably high. Backup is critical and it is not an overstatement to say that a successfully recovered backup could save your business.

What you need to know about your data backup and recovery strategy

  • It’s not about the Backup. It’s about the RECOVERY - You can backup every spec of information on your computer but if you can't recover it then you may as well have not backed it up in the first place. Regular testing of your backups to recover files is critical. We suggest testing miscellaneous files every 30 days and full server/system recoveries twice a year (you are doing full server backups right?)
  • Affordability - The IT world is growing and evolving quicker than any other industry. New technologies are constantly coming out that may lower operational costs or open up formerly cost prohibitive techniques. We suggest an annual review of your IT strategy as a whole, including your backup and recovery process.
  • Lose the Tape Drives - If ever there was an outdated technology that deserves to be put out to pasture it's tape drives. We see 3-4 times the number of problems with tape based backups as compared to alternative solutions and consequently, a much higher cost to maintain a tape based system. The tapes themselves have a relatively short shelf life (6-12 months) and are affected by environmental conditions like heat, humidity and magnetic interference.
  • Local as well as remote backup - The best backup and recovery strategies include the use of local backup for quick, easy recovery as well as offsite or remote backup in the event of a catastrophe. Offsite and secure copies of your data should be readily accessible in the event of a disaster situation or in the event a critical server failure.
  • Are you backing up everything you need and is it recoverable - Too often we are called to restore data only to find out that it is not recoverable because backup procedures were not followed; often because of lack of training or expertise. This is especially prevalent with SQL (and other) data base products as well as Exchange and other email systems. These systems typically require specialized backup procedures in order to ensure complete backup and recoverability of data.
  • What if a server goes down - For some of us, each hour of down time comes at a high cost. In some backup plans, even in the best of circumstances, the company can expect a day or more down with the solutions they have in place. Technologies such as server virtualization can often be used to get your systems back up and running in a few hours or less, as opposed to a day or more. Some companies even feel the need to implement a spare server on site.
  • Data Retention and Archiving - How long are you retaining your data for and how many copies of that data? We've seen some companies that implement a backup solution that simply overwrites the previous backup but what if you need an older copy of a file? Proper solutions should maintain numerous instances of your data and allow you to select which specific instance of a file or files you would like to restore. Additionally, many businesses require archiving of older data as well. Certain businesses may be required to retrieve data that is 10 or more years old. Understanding the rules and regulations that may affect your data retention policies is critical.
  • Is once a day enough - Many businesses follow a very traditional procedure of "nightly backups". For some businesses this may be perfectly acceptable but what happens in the event of a power outage or a failed backup? Is a full day's worth of data loss going to affect your business? Many new technologies can allow for files to be backed up within minutes of changes taking place to them, assuring your business of up to the minute data backup.
  • Backed up data needs to be secure (encrypted) - Maybe your business is regulated by various government policies that mandate your data be secure and encrypted or perhaps you're simply concerned that the private information on your system be kept private (and you should be!). In the event of a lost or stolen tape or drive, it is imperative that the information on that medium stays safe and secure, especially if your backup data contains information which is considered protected (i.e., name and social security number or patient health information
  • Write it down - Any process or procedure is only as good as the paper it is written on. Your backup and recovery policy needs to be clearly documented included a list of who is responsible for everything from backing the data up, monitoring the backup to ensure that it is taking place and testing the recovery process on a regularly scheduled basis.

If all of this sounds like a lot of information, it is. The fact of the matter is that implementing a proper backup strategy requires planning, expertise, monitoring and testing. If you are unable or unwilling to commit the resources to do it properly then consider having someone do it for you. Most Managed Service Providers (MSP's) can handle the entire process including providing offsite storage, encryption and more. Typically the monthly cost for this type of service are probably less than you would pay an employee to handle all of these tasks and you have the peace of mind of knowing that the procedures are being performed by trained experts. Most MSPs can provide weekly and monthly reports and reviews that document their monitoring, backup and recovery tests performed.

If you would like to know more about data backup procedures and Managed services in general give us a call at 888.748.BLUE (2583) or visit us at

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