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Don’t Let Data Loss Cripple Your Business – Follow These Three Steps to Review Your Backup Procedures

Data loss can have serious implications on your business. Loss of sales data affects the sales and marketing division, whereas loss of financial data results in loss of contracts and stock value. Studies by Datamonitor have revealed that one-third of IT leaders believe that a major data loss incident will lead to bankruptcy. The degree of damage is amplified in the case of small and medium-sized businesses. 75% of the respondents in a survey carried out by Verio among small business executives confirmed that a single incident of data loss would prove very costly for them.

In my many years of experience as an IT professional, I have seen numerous IT decision-makers relying blindly on the negligible failure rate which the hard-drive manufacturers claim for their equipment and as a result, they do not care to check their backup and restore methods. You should know that although such companies claim less than a 1% failure rate, research carried out by researchers at Carnegie Mellon university indicated that a failure rate of 2% to 4% is more common, which in some cases may rise to 13%. Stats from Mozy online Backup indicate that 34% companies fail to test their tape backups, and 77% of those who do find tape backup failures. It is important that your backups are in a proper and recoverable state when the need arises. That’s why I would strongly recommend and urge you to adopt the following measures to ensure that your backup data storage and recovery procedures are effective enough.

Review your processes periodically

Your backup systems receive considerably fewer upgrades than the other aspects of your business such as your IT infrastructure, the technical staff, company policies and security considerations. Your backup systems must comply with the changing factors. If some of your business operations require your RTO/RPO to be modified, the same must be implicated in your backup process and the storage media must be changed. You need to take into account many questions such as:

  • Do the backups occurring before/after business hours take into account all your current and upcoming projects?
  • In the case of a hardware failure, is your standby onsite hardware sufficient to resume your business operations?
  • If the backup is stored onsite or at some remote location, are they safe from dangers such as natural calamities or theft/damage?
  • If the backup tapes are at a separate physical location, will the time required to access them have a huge impact on the downtime your business suffers?
  • Is your backup system compliant with your ever-changing IT strategy and infrastructure?

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Test your backup/restore processes frequently

I personally find that this is the most important measure to check the effectiveness of your backup and restore methods. You should schedule a “quality test” for your backup systems as often as it needs to be done. But what exactly is a quality test? And how often should you test your systems?

The frequency of the tests depends on regulatory constraints, risk assessment and how critical your data is among other factors. While there is no upper limit on the frequencies of the tests you can carry, make sure you test your systems thoroughly after a major upgrade and at least once a year. A quality test makes use of the best industry practices and considers all the possibilities of failures. Simulate as many cases of failures as you can possibly assess and see how the backup system responds. You can test for either a small loss of data, partial data loss or full data loss. Similarly, you can also simulate conditions in which hardware malfunctions such as your mainframe computer or your data center going down. These simulations will help you assess how ready your company is in the case of a crisis.

The single most useful advantage that testing provides is that it uncovers hardware shortcomings during a trial backup/restore process, which normally are not detected by routine software verifications.

Maintain documentations:

Maintaining documentations such as media labels, logs and catalogs will help you to find missing information quickly when a disaster strikes. All the onsite backup media must be properly labeled and organized neatly and safely.

If your backup systems work properly, make sure you conduct verification operations after each backup and restore. This operation compares the files on your system to that on the backup media and ensures that all your files and applications are synced properly.

Restoring lost data and applications is the most important part of your Disaster Recovery program and ensures that your business operations run on an acceptable level after a crisis. Do not underestimate the effects of a crisis on your business. Downtime resulting from data loss can harm your business and even kill it. Unfortunately, your backup and recovery systems are no good if you do not review the procedures regularly enough. Ensure that your backup systems are compatible with all of your infrastructure as the data center or the data storage unit. The RPOs and RTOs you took into account while choosing the particular backup media must completely agree with all of your current IT projects. Also, you should run timely simulations to assess the efficiency of your backup systems in the event of a crisis. These simulations will help you to detect flaws in your system and address it.

At NIC, we provide managed IT services to businesses, disaster recovery being one of them. We help many clients build an effective DR plan and implement it so that they are ready for the worst possible situations. NIC is a Los Angeles based managed service provider. Contact us to know more how we can help you to protect your business operations.

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