Data Backup and Data Storage Options for Small Businesses - IT Untangled
True story: My friend came to me a while back, and she was somewhere between horribly sad and somewhat terrified. She looked like she was absolutely broken.
It turned out that her laptop hard drive had died, and all of her first child's pictures were gone along with it.
She had downloaded the pictures from her camera to her laptop, and then erased the memory card on her camera… to make room for more photos of course.
She never expected for the hard drive to fail. But really, most of us aren't planning these types of events. And, of course, they always seem to happen at the worst time.
What can we learn from this part of the story?
First, important items shouldn't be stored on a single laptop or desktop. Here's why: most laptops and desktop computers have a single hard drive. Most servers, however, have multiple hard drives. Data is typically stored on them in such a way it's possible to keep that info even if one of the drives fails.
That's one of the reasons why it's important in your businesses environment to make sure critical data is being saved to company servers, not just to your employees' computers.
But of course, there are worse things than single hard drive failures facing us in the world. Let's continue the story.
Data Backup Is Important, but It's Only Part of the Solution
As you've already guessed, my friend didn't have a backup of her pictures. What scared her most was that she had almost two years' worth of images on her laptop, and her son had just turned 2!
She thought she'd lost all his baby pictures, just like my parents lost mine during our house flood. My friend would have been a lot less broken if she'd only backed these files up, and I can assure you she maintains a current backup of essential files now!
And of course, you can see the parallels to your own critical business files, but what about the servers themselves?
If you have only backed up the files themselves, what happens if your entire system fails? I've seen a couple of occasions where a client had water run right into their server. They had files backed up, but how could they access that information without a server running the necessary applications?
Best Type of Backup for Businesses: Image-Based Backups
Fortunately, in the business of backups, there are now methods that allow us to take full server images. There are even cloud options available that keep snapshots of those servers ready for action. If something terrible happens, you will be able to resume operations almost immediately.
This is not brand-new technology, but it's still important to discuss the idea because there are still so many businesses that have backed up their data, but if faced with a major server failure would not be able to run their business without suffering a lot of downtime. Image-based backups of your servers can directly address this risk for your business.
I wouldn't want to leave you hanging on my friend's story - we were able to recover all the pictures!
But, this ended up taking several weeks and at the cost of over $1,200.
Data Recovery Options & Considerations
In business, there are a few important considerations when it comes to recovery.
First, how long will recovering the files or the server take? How much time can you afford to be without access to critical files and applications?
Second, how much of that critical information can you afford to recreate?
If your data is being backed up every 4 hours, or snapshots of your servers are being backed up every 4 hours, even if the recovery only takes minutes - you are still at risk of losing 4 hours' worth of information.
Would you be able to recover from this? How many versions of those files do you need to have available - one day, a week, or even a full year?
Most businesses typically backup server images every 4 hours. This data is usually kept for a full year, but this requires a lot of storage space. If you've ever rented a storage unit, you know: the more storage you need, the more expensive it becomes.
Why It's Important to Test Business Backups Regularly
Finally, I want to make sure to stress the importance of testing.
Most business owners understand the idea of testing their backups. Unfortunately, this is a tiny part of the overall approach; this concept needs to be taken much further.
Testing absolutely must include making sure that the recovery of critical systems and information is possible and falls within your acceptable standards.
Testing the systems can even involve transitioning operations to the backup systems as the absolute proof that your backup and recovery processes and procedures are capable of meeting your needs.
As my friend's story reminds us, we know that unfortunate events can happen in our personal or professional lives. While we cannot typically tell when these things will happen, or what the exact circumstances will be, we can still be prepared for them.
Understanding data backup and data storage is essential. Combining this with adequately tested backup and recovery plans, your business will be prepared to deal with whatever unfortunate event may come along.
Have more questions? We're happy to chat anytime. Give us a call at 800-481-4369.
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IT Untangled aims to provide clarity on IT topics for business people. This weekly blog series will explain and discuss the complex world of IT, in words you understand.
About Brian Modrak
Brian Modrak, Service Delivery Manager for Accent Computer Solutions, Inc., began his IT career in 1996 as a government technology specialist. He joined the team in 2011 as our self-proclaimed Reactive Services Manager with a Proactive Mindset. He says, “I believe in reacting to a situation, but know I haven’t done my job until I have transitioned a problem through to a long-term and proactive solution.” He now oversees all aspects of service delivery, and guides his team to deliver an excellent customer experience with every interaction.