Backups 101

With World Backup Day yesterday, it's an excellent time to talk about backups. Everybody knows they need to back up their data. It’s been drilled into us for years, right? But when we engage new prospects, we're amazed at how few companies are backing up properly - or at all. So let's start with the basics.

Why Do You Even Need A Backup?

According to a recent Cloudberry study, 36% of businesses don’t back up at all. And another 42% back up only “from time to time” - sometimes as infrequently as once a week. First, your business isn't making money if critical systems are down or your staff doesn't have access to important data they need to do their jobs. And let's face it, even if you're a small company your clients expect consistent availability. Studies also show that 60% of small businesses that lose data will shut down within 6 months. Wowzers!

Main Causes of Data Loss

Hardware Failure is the most common cause of data loss. Hard drives go bad. They just do. It's not a question of if, but when. Also, with Apple's move to integrate the storage, RAM, and everything else on the same chipset we're now to a point where if anything fails, your data goes with it. Gone are the days where you could pull a functional hard drive from a system that failed in some other way. Indeed, we recently had a situation where the memory failed on a client's laptop. Because the memory, storage, and everything else was on the same piece, it meant losing the data when the laptop was repaired. (Don't worry, we had it backed up). But we're now in the days where if pretty much anything fails, your data goes with it.

Human Error can run the gamut. From accidentally overwriting a file to leaving a laptop in the back of a cab to accidentally dropping a computer. So long as humans are involved, these things are going to happen. They just are.

Natural Disasters or other major calamities that affect your office building and office space. Wind, tornadoes, heavy rains, theft, and accidents that affect your office space are always a possibility. Your business insurance may cover the physical damage to the office and the computers. They may even cover the loss of revenue (business interruption). But they can't repair the reputational damage that usually accompanies lost data. And don't think it can't happen to you. In April 2018, a tornado roared through my back yard. We were very fortunate. I like to think I'm not complacent, but it definitely hit home - literally.

How Do We Protect Against These?

For Laptops & Desktops, we're generally looking to protect against human error and hardware failure. Like we discussed, files get overwritten, laptops liberated from their owners, and drives fail. To mitigate the effects of these things, we recommend a cloud backup that runs continuously. By backing up files on a constant basis, we're keeping any downtime to a minimum should something happen. Yeah. . .we know that staff should be saving everything up to the server. But our experience tells us that this is hit-and-miss. Some folks buy in and others don't. And humans forget things. So our recommendation is to back up all desktops and laptops.

For Servers we're believers in a 3-2-1 strategy. Copy #1 is the local production data that everyone works from. Copy #2 is a local on-premise backup. This provides the ability to immediately restore data in the event of a hardware failure or human error. Copy #3 is a backup stored in the cloud. This protects against all three main causes of data loss - hardware failure, human error, and natural disaster. Additionally, this cloud backup protects against any problems that may arise with the local backup.

What Needs To Be Backed Up?

When I was a kid, there was a sign in my dentist's office that said "You don't have to brush all your teeth - just the ones you want to keep." And so it is with backup. We want to back up anything that can't be easily recreated or reinstalled. Applications can be reinstalled. But most documents, photos, and such would take a LONG time to recreate - if it could even be done.

So That's It?

Not quite, grasshopper. So now that you have your systems backing up, how are you going to make sure everything happens as expected, and continues to do so each and every day? That's why we saved two of the most critical pieces for last.

Backups need to be monitored! Now that you've set up backups on all of the systems in your business, how do you know they're backing up as scheduled? Are you going around to each machine every day and looking? I've lost track of how many times we've seen businesses whose systems hadn't backed up in months because they thought it was working. When we manage a client's Mac fleet, we use specialized software to monitor the systems - backups included. If there's a problem we can fix it - before data is lost.

You need to test restoring data on a regular basis! There's a joke in IT circles that no one cares about backups. What people care about is restoring data. But it's true. What good is it to back up the data if you can't restore the files you need to get back to work? You want to do test restores at least once a month.

If the thought of data loss keeps you up at night, or if you just want someone to check things over for you, give us a call at 614-218-8798.