Posted 5/24/11 By Dan Baldwin, ATEL Sales Director, 800-500-ATEL
In general, the biggest worry most business owners have is "lack of sales" since a long term lack of sales pretty much solves all other business problems. After succeeding in sales though, the biggest worry for business owners becomes "loosing what I've got". And while a business owner can store business profit safely in a bank, that which generates business profit – customer data – is often stores as haphazardly as cash stuffed under a mattress.
The only wrong answer is, "I don't know!" If you answer "I don't know" to one or more of the following questions or the answers stress you out, then it's time to talk to your friendly technology business consultant to ask for a "data & backup recovery review". There are many new BDR "in office" and "cloud based" solutions available through your trusted technology advisor that are next to bullet proof, surprisingly affordable and can be implemented in a very short period of time.
12-Question Data Backup & Recovery Test
1. Where is your company's most important data?
On your employee's PC's? On their cell phones? On the network servers in your computer closet? In your "CRM-in-the-cloud" application? Spread over several application servers in several different places? Step one in backing up important data is knowing where it all is and how many individual "data pieces" need to be backed up.
2. Are your data files separate from the application files?
Often the computer application that processes the important business data set is huge. Backing up the application and the data requires way too much space. Classically, the data is separated from the application on a regular basis and then copies of the application software and the application data are stored separately from the application and data the business uses everyday.
3. If your application data files become corrupted, how old is the backup file you'd use to restore from?
The data in your critical business applications change every minute of every business day. If the data file becomes corrupt then all the "new data" collected or created since the last backup is lost. Backing up every hour may be too cumbersome while backing up once a week might be too risky. The best decision is one that…
is regularly considered and revised to reflect your current business environment.
4. How do you know the backup data file does not have the same corruption?
Can you say "worst case scenario"? Nothing's more upsetting for a business owner than to learn that they've invested good money in a backup solution that ends up restoring bad data. The best way to prevent this is to challenge your technology consultant and backup solution vendor – and to regularly test the system. Before a backup data set is put on the shelf and called the "safe data" can it be tested and proven to not be corrupt? This becomes an issue when older safe data sets are deleted to make room for the newer data sets that may have a problem if untested before storage.
5. Are your backup data files in the same physical location as your working data files?
Many business owners back up desktop computer data to a network server but the network server is usually in the same building if not the same room as the desktop computer being backed up. That's fine if just one desktop computer breaks but what happens when the building burns down or all the computers are stolen along with the network server?
6. Does your remote data backup procedures require human interaction?
Many data sets are still backed up to "tape drives" which require that a human (office manager) carefully remove (yank out) the tape with the backup data set and then physically transport it (car trunk) to a safe place (kitchen table). While this "system" may have seemed perfectly reasonable when it was implemented many years ago, many business owners are surprised to learn that no one is actually swapping tapes out anymore. The one and only backup tape just sits in the backup drive 24/7/365 and is written over every 24 hours. More reliable systems now exist.
7. If a key application server died or was stolen, how long would it take to replace the server, load the application and restore the data?
A clean backup data set is only one of three items needed to restore a stolen or destroyed application server. A new server is needed as well as the application software. Is a backup server with upgraded and tested application software being stored somewhere safe for when it's needed? It might seem overkill but I had a customer recently experience a total failure of their phone system server. It took two days to get a replacement server from the manufacturer and when they finally got it their IT guy admitted he did not ever make a backup of the phone system programming. It took another day and a half for all the individual phone suers to be reprogrammed as well as the entire auto-attendant. One unhappy law firm!
8. Do you have a workable plan to replicate application servers remotely and then access them remotely?
In the scenario mentioned with the law firm above, they had physical access to their facility. What if their facility was burned or flooded? How would they replicate their customer files on a new server and then allow access by all their employees from their home or some other remote office?
9. When was any part of your data and application restoration plan last tested?
While it may seem ridiculous to have a business owner "fake steal" his or her own application server in the middle of the night to see how well the data backup & recovery solution provider performed the next morning, but why not? Isn't that the exact scenario the business owner is paying to recover from quickly? When I was in the Navy they taught us a very important lesson, "Don't EXPECT what you don't INSPECT". Test your BDR solution one way, another way and then a different way again.
10. How much does your company pay to have a working BDR plan in place?
A good BDR plan is like buying good insurance. You hope you never need it but when you do need it you hope you like what you bought. Are you getting your "BDR insurance" through an employee who might quit or get hit by a truck? Are you getting it from an outside vendor who's "throwing it in for free" with something else? To appreciate your BDR plan's value you need to know how much you're paying in actual hard or soft dollars.
11. What would it cost your company if your applications and data files could not be recovered?
Do you operate a single hot dog stand on a popular beach? No big deal. Do you serve a large client or prospect base that counts on you to track their information? Super big deal. To appreciate the "BDR insurance" you're buying to protect against data loss you must obviously know what complete loss would cost you so you know the proper amount of money to invest preventing a catastrophic loss.
12. Who at your company is in charge of knowing the answers to these questions?
As a business owner your answer should be "me" but it's likely someone else. Hopefully "someone else" is someone you still employ or a contractor you're still paying. Just as you review your life insurance on a regular basis, as a business owner you need to review the details of your BDR plan on a regular basis to make sure you're getting your money's worth and you'll be happy with what you bought when you need it.
If you don't currently have a trusted business technology advisor to help you with a review of your data backup and recovery plan Telecom Association can refer you to someone in your area. For a local referral please send an email to Dan Baldwin at firstname.lastname@example.org or contact one of the TA members expericnced in BDR solution below:
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