Data backups – pay attention or you will pay!
If there’s one common theme that has run through my 30+ years of IT career it is how badly data backups are done and how often the backups themselves let people down.
Most of you probably spend hours each week creating valuable data on your computers. That includes tablets, laptops, and smart phones.
It is quite likely that you create all this valuable data without thinking about what happens if that information goes missing.
Most people don’t know if their backups are working, up to date, safe or backing up what they are supposed to.
It is a fact that 100% of all hard disks will fail. After all, they are man-made and nothing lasts forever.
Ask your IT guy, be they in house or outsourced, how much “fun” they have with data backup and recovery. Be prepared to be bored within an inch of your life.
The costs of data loss can be astronomical and some (read most) businesses do not survive major data loss.
When your PC dies do you know how to get your data back?
Depending on how much data you have, how often it changes and how much work has gone into creating it, your data backups can quickly become an onerous task, a task that may be all for nothing if you don’t know for sure that they are working.
Often, read “nearly always”, I am called to computer disasters and told “it is OK, I have been backing up” only to find that the last thing that resembled a proper backup happened years ago or, in fact, the backups never worked or are otherwise unusable.
The “3-2-1 backup strategy” has been touted as the best way to backup.
A 3-2-1 strategy means having at least 3 total copies of your data, 2 of which are local but on different mediums (read: devices), and at least 1 copy offsite.
However a 3-2-1 strategy is not enough in itself.
You also need to ask yourself these questions:
Do I perform my backups regularly?
Do I have multiple backup strategies?
Do I employ a “Grandfather, Father, Son” or other “archiving” type strategy to cycle through my backups
Do I care about my backups or have someone who cares for me doing them?
Do I test my backups i.e. I use them to recover data regularly?
Do I assume that my backups are working or do I check that they are?
Do I backup what is important i.e. not “everything”?
Do I store copies of my backups off-site?
Do I know how to recover my data and get on with business and life in the event of total loss of my computer e.g. stolen etc.?
Unless you have a positive answer for all the questions above you aren’t protected as well as thought.
In addition to that, you may want to consider how simple your backups are i.e. how much of your valuable time they are taking up.
Do the math: your annual income, how many hours you work, how long you spend backing up determines what backups are costing you. Only you can decide whether it is worthwhile doing them for yourself or outsourcing the job.
Think about whether they are manageable or unwieldy and whether or not you understand what is being done.
Online backups are a fast, relatively inexpensive and non-intrusive addition to your current systems.
If you get this sorted out you can rest easy knowing that your data is safe.
Backups aren’t sexy or fun. They’re essential and very often overlooked.
I’m not going to tell you how to do your backups because every case is different.
Instead I am going to tell you the most important pieces of information you’ll ever hear about data backups.
They come from the heart, they come from cold hard facts and they come from painful experience.
1. You need to keep a person who cares about the data in the backup process.
Up until now I’m sure you’ve been sold automatic backups solutions that “look after themselves”.
Why would you believe that? Nothing else in computing looks after itself. Why would your backups?
I don’t care what anyone else has or will tell you about data backups. I will stand by this assertion until the day I die. You need an actual person regularly checking that your backups are working and testing that the data can be recovered.
2. You need to build a “backup” mindset into how all your team work on a day to day basis.
Home and small business computer users simply don’t have the time, resources or expertise to do the sorts of backups that big businesses do.
In big business it is a common belief that “someone else is doing the backups”.
For us though, backups have to fit into the way our business works so that it happens “as part of what we do” rather than “something extra that is a bother”.
If it is "extra" it has the likelihood of being forgotten or dropped to save time.
3. You need at least two completely different backup strategies
You need two strategies in case one of them proves faulty in a time of crisis i.e. your data in 3 places.
Of course, a time of crisis means one copy of your data is already gone so the second method of backup is your only hope.
This may sound like a luxury when you are only now considering doing your first backups, but believe me; I’ve seen too many backup systems fail when they are needed most – at recovery time.
4. You must have an offsite backup.
Your site IS where the problem has occurred. It doesn’t even have to be a big problem to take out all your data. It could be single glass of water accidentally spilled over the computer and the backup drive. How close are yours to each other now?
Having your important data “somewhere else” is critical to business continuity.
There’s no excuse for not having your data offsite these days.
Imagine the pain of losing all your data and having to recreate it from scratch.
Now do a backup, get your backup offsite and prove to yourself that you can get your data back.
Doesn’t that feel better?
David L. Moore