What Do You Mean Our Data’s Gone?!?

in Columns/Technology
Joe Balsarotti
Joe Balsarotti

By Joe Balsarotti. Software To Go

A web-hosting firm we deal with had a disaster recently. The initial problem was beyond their control, then that irritating thing we call ‘human error’ came into play and made a minor disruption into a weeklong catastrophe for its customers.

This brought to light a glaring weakness in most business’ digital disaster plans (assuming the business even has a disaster plan)— their websites. Even if your website is just a glorified brochure for your services instead of a full-blown e-commerce site, you did pay money to have it designed. Ask yourself: who has a backup copy of it? Are you trusting that the hosting company has backups? In the case I mentioned, they did, but they weren’t enough. Maybe you assume the PR firm / web designer / programmer who built your site has backups of it, but they probably do not.

There may be an initial copy of the site as you first had it made, but then over the months and years, you had revisions made to it. Your offerings may have changed, the contact names of your staff as they come and go, graphics, and descriptions all probably morphed as time moved on. (If they haven’t, then your website is in desperate need of a rework) That original copy is now as usable as a faded roll of thermal fax paper.

How many of you have contracted with a backup service for your website? Along with that, how many of you have contracted for an archive of all those years of email for not only you, but for all current and past staff? Are you trusting the first marketing piece a prospect will ever see to someone somewhere in ‘The Cloud,’ who you think/hope/pray is backing it up?

How damaging would it be to your business to have customers and prospects see a blank screen when they expect your website? What goes through their mind when the email they sent you gets returned as undeliverable, not-found, or, even worse, is never acknowledged? All the money you spent on advertising, marketing, and web design all goes for naught in the case of a failure like that.

Email archiving is standard practice in some industries, such as financial, but for most it’s never given a thought as everyone thinks the email company “takes care of that”… right? Well, no. Sure email providers and web hosts probably make backups, but in a world where viruses can sit dormant on systems for weeks or months and then trigger without warning, what good is a backup from last week? That backup is infected too. What happens if the server hosting your website is in a building damaged by a fire, flood, earthquake, or tornado and the backup drive was sitting right next to the server?

The ‘how’ of the failure isn’t the important part of this story, in the end, enormous sums of time, energy and money were thrown at the problem by the hosting firm and the data center they utilized and eventually the customer websites were online again, but with a loss of a week and some irretrievable data. Then again, not all providers would go to the extremes this particular one did to make their customers whole again.

The moral of this story is to make sure you have automatic backups and archiving in place for not just your PCs and servers, but for everything you have in the Cloud, as well. Trusting your company’s lifeblood, its data, to just one provider is a bad plan. Put a backup in place separate from your primary vendor. It’s no doubt the cheapest ‘insurance policy’ your company will ever purchase.

I welcome your questions or comments at businesstech@software-to-go.com

Joe Balsarotti is President of Software To Go and is a 36-year veteran of the computer industry, reaching back to the days of the Apple II. He served three terms as chairman of the National Federation of Independent Business’ (NFIB) Missouri Leadership Council. He was chairman of the Clayton, Missouri Merchant Association for a dozen years. He chaired Region VII of the Federal Small Business Regulatory Fairness Board and currently serves on the Dealer Advisory Panel of the ASCII Group, an organization of over 1000 independent computer and technology solution providers in North America.