By MARTY HOOPER
I think it’s safe to say that most of us understand the value of solid, consistent backups to preserve and protect our data. But as important as backups are, they are only one piece of an overall disaster recovery strategy. A comprehensive disaster recovery plan is essential to any business – no matter the size.
Let’s review backups and the part a good backup system plays in your overall recovery strategy. Some elements of a backup system are generally overlooked. First, it’s important to understand and implement a backup plan that fits your system and your workforce. One of the most important tools in a backup system is a full image backup platform. A full image backup takes a snapshot of your entire data storage – including operating system files – and creates a restorable set of data that can be reinstalled in case of a total system meltdown. Many systems just employ incremental file-level backups that don’t take a full snapshot. In many instances, running programs and other services may prevent file-level backups from concluding, and critical files can be skipped. Backups should run throughout the day so that in the case of a data loss, a full day’s work won’t be lost. Not only should they run throughout the day, but a full snapshot should also be taken periodically.
There are a few other considerations where backups are concerned. The most important is to test your backups. You should fully restore a snapshot from a previous date and run all the programs that contain data in the backup set to make sure the data is intact, accessible and actionable. I have seen many companies attempt to restore data after a corruption only to discover that their backups were not done properly. Those companies spend thousands of dollars on data reconstruction and lost productivity trying to recover from that type of situation.
It’s also important that you understand where your backups are being stored. Are they being transmitted safely offsite? Is the date encrypted in transit to offsite storage, and is it encrypted at rest? Those are all important questions to ask your backup team.
Once the backup system is in place, operational and tested, it’s time to develop a more comprehensive disaster recovery plan. The backup platform is certainly one of the most important pieces of the recovery plan, but there are several other parts that need to be addressed.
Business-impacting situations don’t just come in the form of data corruption. There are lots of other potential disasters that can bring a company to a standstill.
The physical nature of servers makes them vulnerable to hardware, software and power failures. One of the most important and often overlooked aspect of a disaster recovery plan is how to deal with a down server. If your server stops working, do you have a contingency plan? Servers can also be stolen or vandalized, so access to the server room should be restricted.
Another potential threat is a weather, climate or natural-disaster-related incident that may render your place of business inaccessible. Floods, hurricanes, tornadoes, fires and other disasters are threats for which a business must make a contingency plan. What would happen if you couldn’t access the data from your server if your building is uninhabitable or unreachable? Do you have a way to access your data?
Another point of failure that can impact a business is the local network and route to the Internet. What if your router/modem goes down? Do you have a backup router or fail-over Internet connection? If your local network fails, you won’t be able to access data on the server even though it’s in the building. A backup router is an inexpensive insurance policy against local network failures.
A lot of companies overlook the importance of a redundant Internet connection. When your staff cannot access the Internet, and clients can’t get to your website or send you email, that can have a major impact on your ability to conduct business as usual. That’s where a backup router and failover Internet connection should be a part of your disaster recovery plan.
When faced with all the potential failures in a local network, many companies have made the switch to cloud computing. Moving to the cloud can alleviate the need for a local server, remote access to that server and reliance on locally stored data. If your business headquarters is uninhabitable, your staff can access your data without coming into the office. While the cloud is a very attractive alternative to a local server, it’s also important to apply the same disaster scenarios to your cloud service provider and make sure it fits in your total disaster recover schema.
It’s critical to assess and evaluate all potential disaster scenarios – no matter how unlikely they may seem at the time – and develop a comprehensive disaster recovery plan that addresses all potential hazards. It’s just as important to communicate that plan to all staff and reassess at least every six months to make sure your plan keeps up with your company’s changing needs.
Marty Hooper is a senior sales representative for Deltek ComputerEase. He has been helping clients in the construction industry with their software and technology needs throughout the Midwest for the past nine years. Hooper can be reached at (703) 885-9418 or firstname.lastname@example.org.