Are you sure your backup is working?

backuptapesIn this economy there’s a lot of uncertainty. Here’s one more thing to ponder: are you sure your network backup is working?

What’s really scary to me is how many people aren’t even bothering with backups, but I assume you’ve got that covered. Maybe you even get some sort of report each day that indicates success or failure. But have you ever tested the recovery process? Murphy’s Law is alive and well in the technology arena. I hesitate to assume anything when it comes to computers, especially when it comes to something so critical as a backup system.

One company we spoke with had “a bad feeling” about his backup. When we reviewed his systems we found his backup hadn’t run for well over four months.

Another company…the backup was working, somewhat. About half the backup jobs finished successfully. But occasionally there was a full week of failures. Imagine if they’d had a server outage during one of those periods.

And then this one horrific situation we ran into…someone had sold this poor business owner on outdated tape technology, and the recovery portion of the software was never installed. When their server crashed, between software issues and slow tape reads, recovery took nearly two weeks.

As bad as that was, the best proof of Murphy’s Law was a story another tech shared with me. This company had a very well-organized backup regimen. Tapes were stored in the basement on a dedicated shelf. Everything was well-labelled and happened exactly on schedule. The jobs ran smoothly. There was no reason to doubt that they had a solid process in place…or was there? Unfortunately, there was. Turns out that shelf backed up to the elevator. You may or may not know this: elevators generate a magnetic field, and magnetic fields erase tapes. Sadly they didn’t discover this problem until they tried to recover old data from a demagnetized tape.

May I suggest you test your backup today?

The latest in backup technology – sexy! (really!)

Sexy coupleI know, I know…computer backups are not exactly sexy. But there are some tremendous new options out there for small business owners, that provide a high level of protection without breaking the bank. That’s gotta be at least a little sexy, right?

Most small businesses back up nightly at best, which means you could easily lose a full day’s data if something serious goes wrong. That can be a lot of work to recreate. Top that off with the hassle of swapping tapes, lugging hard drives, or dealing with slow offsite backups that aren’t done by morning. No wonder backups are so hard to keep running, and such a source of ongoing frustration for business owners.

Now, you can now use a combination solution that keeps risk of data loss to an absolute minimum, with fast recovery in the event of disaster. And while it’s more expensive than basic backup options, it’s affordable. A bargain compared to hours, days, or weeks of downtime.

First, there’s a hardware device onsite at your office, a network attached storage device (NAS). The software takes snapshots as frequently as every 15 minutes. The way the software is written, it only copies what’s changed at a bits and bytes level rather than document by document. It also sends the data changes offsite. That’s usually a little less frequent, to keep from using up your Internet bandwidth. And then all this is monitored round the clock to make sure it’s running smoothly.

If something happens, the recovery options are really impressive, fast and comprehensive. Let’s say your server has a hardware failure, and it’s going to take a couple of days to get replacement parts. Using virtual server technology, we recreate your server on the NAS, on a temporary basis, to keep your business up and running. It can take as little as an hour to rebuild. It might be a little slow compared to your normal server, but it keeps your staff working instead of waiting.

If it’s a worse-case scenario, like fire or flood, have a NAS overnighted and get that up and running the very next day. You’ll have plenty of other problems to deal with, but at least your computer systems won’t be one of them.
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Backup basics

Bad hard drivesWondering what kind of backup you need for your small business? Individual needs will vary, but here are some basic guidelines.

Nightly backups are the norm, usually to tape, an external hard drive or network-attached storage device (NAS), or online backups to a remote server.

You need your backup easily accessible for data recovery when there’s a problem; at the same time you want a copy of your data offsite – somewhere other than your office – in case of fire, theft, or other serious disaster.

Comparing backup options…a NAS is fast but cannot be easily taken offsite. External hard drives can be removed from the office but must be handled with care to avoid damage. Tapes are less reliable but easy to transport – just avoid leaving them in the car on a hot summer day. Online backups require a speedy internet connection and ongoing subscription fees but are offsite by definition.

Combining options gets you the best of all worlds. Use a NAS to backup everything nightly. Then protect your most critical data, like company financials, with an online backup service to ensure you’ve got a copy offsite.

Don’t forget to create copies of all your original software CDs and DVDs along with all the license keys. Keep these in a safe location (offsite) so that you can fully restore all your computers even if you have to reinstall every single program. This will eliminate the need to buy replacement software in the event of a serious catastrophe.

If loss of a full day’s work makes you queasy, nightly backups may not be enough for your business. Affordable backup options are now available to small businesses that provide a higher level of protection. These copy your data throughout the day, providing fast recovery in the event of disaster. They combine a NAS, offsite backup, remote monitoring and service, plus new technologies that quickly “virtualize” your server if there’s a problem. You can be back up and running in as little as an hour.

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