Why You Should Be Discussing Your Backups Now…

and not when something goes wrong.

The humble backup. Since the dawn of time (well since we’ve had computers) the experts have been telling you to backup your data. For some of you, it’s still on the To Do list. But most will have a backup in place.

The basic concept of a back up is really, really simple. You create an important file. You store this on a storage device that you know one day will fail, so you keep a copy on another storage device. When the storage device does fail, you get a new one and transfer the copy to your new storage device, keeping another copy.

The storage device you keep your copy on might, in the past, have been a tape, or a Zip Drive (anyone remember those) or a CD. Nowadays it might be on a USB drive, a NAS (Network Attached Storage) device or it might be on someone else’s device in the cloud.

You might well know what devices are being used. But do you really understand what’s being backed up? And most importantly, and most often overlooked, do you know how those backups would be restored.

The worst possible time to start asking those questions and discussing your backups is when something goes wrong. So start that conversation NOW.

An (occasionally) True Story

Let’s take you through a scenario. A company has an old server. Their IT company has been telling them for some time it needs replacing. They dismiss this advice as they know that electrical items with moving parts last forever.

The inevitable happens and the server fails. The MD calls the IT company and shouts at them for not making him listen to their advice, for not being able to predict exactly when the old server would break and not installing a new server that he refused to pay for.

I digress.

The server fails. The company is not too concerned because they have a backup. The IT company has mentioned on a number of occasions that there’s issues with this. It needs improvement. But the MD knew a backup is a backup and the IT company was just trying to ‘upsell’.

Cue this conversation:

MD: ‘So when can you get my backups restored’

IT: ‘Instantly. Where would you like them restored to?’

MD: ‘What do you mean?’

IT: ‘Well as we’ve been telling you for 3 years now, you have a very simple backup solution. It’s really cheap and you’ve saved literally tens of pounds each month so, well done you. However, in the event that your server fails you have nothing to restore your backup to. So, you are now going to have to wait while we order a server. That’ll take 3 days to get to us. We’ve then got to build that server and put back all your operating systems and software, another 2-days. Then we’ll deliver to site, get everything connected and then we will ‘instantly’ restore your backup. So, your entire business will be shut down, unable to operate for 6 days’

MD: &#%!@&?&#%!@?&#%!@?!#

IT: ‘Indeed. As you can’t access your email, or your banking – can you pop over and collect your invoice? Bring your cheque book.’

Of Course This (Almost) Never Happens

Hopefully you’ll forgive me the dramatic licence but the lack of understanding of what is, and isn’t, backed up and how long it takes for it to be recovered is very real.

What You Need To Do

Start discussing your backups now! Strictly speaking we are talking about 3 separate things here. Backup, Business Continuity and Disaster Recovery. If you want to understand what they are in a bit more detail here is an article that explains what each of those is.

In short; backup is the copies of your data, business continuity is how you run the business if your systems fail, and disaster recover is how you get back to normal.

You need to be talking to whoever you work with on your backups and start by answering this critical question:

What software and files must I absolutely have in the short term in order to run my business?

Say it’s going to take 5 days to restore everything – what do you need to run your business for those 5 days? The answer to this informs everything else. It’s the starting point for discussing your backups. As long as you are then working with a reputable provider or a good in-house expert they should be able to put together a solution that:

  1. Identifies your most critical software and files and backs these up with appropriate frequency and to suitable devices and locations.
  2. Backs up all of your other data – this may take place less frequently, and there may be fewer copies.
  3. Includes a method of getting access to the critical software and files quickly in the event of a problem.
  4. Includes a method to restore all software and data in an appropriate timescale.

It’s easy to see here that 1 & 2) is backup, 3) is business continuity 4) is disaster recovery.

Identifying your key data is a way to save money. The most robust, and therefore expensive, solution is applied only to your most critical data. A cheaper solution can be applied to less critical data.

Don’t rely on someone else

Your IT support provider may provide a backup for you. As far as the conversations the two of you have had they will believe this is suitable – or will have told you it needs to be looked at.

Your data, your software and your business are ultimately your responsibility. This is why you should be discussing your backups now. As a provider we understand the critical software for our clients, but we might not know every critical file. Only you know that. It’s often when something goes wrong that you first flag up that that One Note Notebook, or Excel Spreadsheet, is pivotal to the business.

Take responsibility for your backups today, start a conversation and get the right solution for you.