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Small Business Data Backups : The Basics

Sep 9, 2008
Tomorrow? Next week? Six months or next year? It's eventually going to happen - your company will experience system data loss from an individual computer or server. The question is: are you prepared? American Data Recovery reports:

* In the US, companies lose more than twelve billion dollars a year due to data loss

* Seventy-eight percent of this loss is due to system or hardware failure

* Eleven percent is due to human error

* Sixty percent of businesses that lose their data will close within six months

Companies understand that they have to back-up their critical data, but they're often unaware that bad configuration and maintenance, or procedures and policies that are incomplete can equate to massive costs in terms of both the time and expense required to recover lost data.

In a recent article, Johanna Ambrosio of IT http://World.com wrote, "I'd wager that most medium-size and smaller business do not do regular backups. All this is going to change in the next year or two. Given regulatory requirements, and the overall emphasis on security in our society as a whole, even the smallest businesses can no longer afford to ignore backup."

When backing up and recovering data, here are four key points that businesses should consider:

1) What Should be Backed-Up?

Every company should start with the most important information. This usually includes such things as finance and accounting data, email correspondence, production and manufacturing, prospects and clients, human resources, plans for projects, drawings, artwork, and schematics. Data and documents stored on desktops or laptops are often neglected by many companies. You'll need to determine what data your business needs to back-up by asking yourself, "If we had a disaster that destroyed everything, what information is critical to getting everything back up and running in the least amount of time?"

2) What Type of Data for Which Kind of Back-Up?

For backing up data and retrieving it from desktops and servers, there are many options. The type of back-up system you choose will depend on the type of data that you're backing-up. If the information is static and changes rarely, such as schematics and artwork, archiving the info to DVD or CD could be the best solution. For other info that tends to change frequently, such as email, Word documents and spreadsheets, a better solution is tape backup. Incremental and full back-ups are possible with tape backups. This level of granularity lets data retrieval occur within a specific date range. Zip drives and other removable media are probably best left for desktop and laptop computers. The key here is that back-up be automatically scheduled - otherwise it simply won't happen.

3) Restore the Back-Up and Verify/Test

Perhaps the most overlooked aspect in the backup process is verifying and testing, omitted due to the cost and time required. Below you will find some best practices for back-up solution processes:

* Weekly. Don't just review the back-up logs. Go into a restore view to see the entire list of files to back-up to verify.

* Quarterly. Test your restoration efforts, starting with the most recent tape in the rotation. Examine at least three kinds of files, such as a Word file, an Excel speadsheet, and the admin mailbox. For each file you restore, select different dates.

* Annually. Ensure your back-up system is fool-proof by completing a full system restore to a blank hard drive or server.

4) How Can Recovery Disasters be Avoided?

Here are some pitfalls to avoid if you need to recover data after a disaster:

* Having no access to a compatible hard drive, tape drive, and cables if the server and tape drive are completely destroyed.

* Having no backup software, software keys or password to begin the data restoration.

* Using old, stretched tapes that aren't writing data cleanly.

* Storing the tapes on-site at the business.

Any business back-up plan should be a part of a larger business continuity or disaster recovery plan.
About the Author
Nick Pegley is VP Marketing for All Covered: Technology Services Partner for Small Business, providing local disaster recovery consulting and technology services in 20 major U.S. metro areas.
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