|By Jenifer Novak |
Loss of Information is Loss of Power...
Your data is irreplaceable. You need to set up a redundant system of copies—called backups—that preserve your company's information assets and keep you functioning smoothly. You can lose data in a number of different ways, and you want to be prepared to continue to operate your business normally if this should happen. You'll need to back up data on a daily, weekly, and monthly basis and then take them to off-site repositories to protect yourself from the risk of losing data from hardware failure, viruses, theft, fire and acts of nature.
If you lose data, this can cause your business to cease functioning. In some cases, such as the loss of a document, it is merely an inconvenience, and results in lost productivity when the document must be re-created. In other cases, such as the loss of a customer database, it could put you out of business. For many businesses, there may also be liability associated with downtime, in addition to lost sales and employee productivity. For example, advertisers may demand money back if your site is down.
Failure can come from many sources, including hardware failure (e.g., hard drive failure or a desktop PC or server machine failing to boot), file corruption, operating system failure, accidental deletion by a user, or loss due to theft or destruction of equipment. Additionally, a rash of new viruses spread by email attachments (such as the Melissa virus) threaten to corrupt their victims' files or reformat their hard drives. Reconfiguring data from a failed hard drive instead of recovering from a backup is expensive and time consuming.
One of the things that we at ASI Computer Systems talk to our customers about every day is the need for preventive maintenance and system care and the most important of those steps is the regular, reliable data backup. No matter how well you treat your system, no matter how much care you take, you cannot guarantee that your data will be safe if it exists in only one place. The risks are much greater than most people realize.
How important is your data to you? You can respond to this question with words, but the steps you take to protect your data are the real answer. I find it troubling when people lose large quantities of data--because they have no backups--and then they get very upset, talking about "how important that data was!" If it's important, why wasn't it backed up? If it matters enough to get upset over losing, it's worth protecting, and backups are an essential part of data protection.
There are many reasons that people neglect doing backups:
- They don't understand how important they are, because they haven't had a disaster happen to them (yet).
- They don't know how to do them.
- They forget to do them because they don't have a routine for doing backups.
- Doing the backup is a time-consuming chore and they can't be bothered.
It will Never Happen to ME!
Take a look at your PC and think about what is on it. Think about your data and your programs. Consider how much time it took to create the data, and to set up and tweak your PC so that it works the way you like. Now imagine that one morning you go to your desk and the PC has vanished without a trace. What will you do?
Recovering from a disaster such as a total disk crash or theft of a PC box can be a very traumatic event, much more than most PC users realize. This is true even if backups exist; when they don't exist the situation is much, much worse. The pain of recovering from a disaster is almost always very high, and the cost is primarily in the time required to recreate the lost data. For even a small business, this can run into the thousands of dollars very quickly.
Here is a short but scarey list of things can cause you to lose your data:
- Hardware Failure
- Power Outage
- Software Crashes
- Hard disk Corruption
- Accidental Deletion
- Virus Infection
- Natural Disaster
What Should You Do?
There are many different methods that you can use to back up the data on your hard disk. The primary difference between these is the gadget and material that is used to store the backup. Different media (material) have different characteristics, such as capacity, speed, ease-of-use, commoness, etc.
One very, very important factor to consider when looking at backup alternatives, is matching the size of the backup medium to the amount of data you need to backup. As hard disks continue to increase greatly in size, it becomes more difficult to find backup solutions that can handle the entire contents of a PC using a reasonable amount of media. It is essential that the size of the backup medium be matched to the size of the data being backed up.
It is tempting to ignore this issue as unimportant, but our experience is very clear: the more disks or tapes it takes to perform a backup, the less likely it is that they will be done on a regular basis. The reason is simple: when it takes a lot of media to back up the disk, backup becomes a chore, and when it becomes a chore, people avoid doing it.
Here is a list of some devices/media to consider for your backups:
- CD-Recordable - These are write-once read-many drives with a capacity of about 650 MB. Despite that they are not re-usable, the cost is so low now to make them an inexpensive insurance policy.
- USB Hard Drives - These gadgets can hold up to 250 billion bytes (gigs) of data, are fairly easy to transport and can be reused.
- USB Flash Drives - For smaller sized backups, these handheld devices can hold 2 gig of data and be carried easily in your pocket to an offsite location.
- Online Backups - Many firms offer automated backups through the internet. Prices and service vary widely. A Google search frevealed 1,000"s of companies offering the service.
Scheduling and Offsite Storage
In order to provide maximum safety for your data, it is important to plan out a backup schedule that will allow you the most flexibility and reliability in recovering from potential disasters. This means a backup schedule that dictates when backups should occur.
You will want to keep those backups for some time. The longer you keep the older backups, the safer you will be. Very long retention periods are not that important; they need only enough to enable them to deal with problems that may take some time to notice.
Be sure to always keep a copy of your most recent and current backup in a different location than your offices. Some people keep them at home for convience, while others utilize safer places like safety deposit boxes.