Are we getting the message about backup?
Australian businesses are still under-investing in the technology required to keep data recoverable, so when it comes to the subject of backup – I have a lot to say!
Firstly, I wish to point out that replication is not backup and there must be retrievable versions of data stored off-site. I’ve noticed some common mistakes being repeated on a regular basis, so I’d like to recommend some possible alternatives.
In this blog, I wish to specifically discuss server backup. If you want to backup a PC in a small office or home, there are lots of good online solutions with one external hard drive and a web-based iterative copy, that are now cheap and easy to use. If you have data on a PC that is of sentimental or commercial value, I suggest that you subscribe. If you have a server though, read on…
The first mistake is not having a backup that you can recover from in the event of systems failure. When the systems fail, you will suffer badly.
The second common mistake that I see all too often is data replicated to a second storage facility – such as an external hard drive or NAS with no version control or iterative process. This mistake will replicate data corruption and leave you with nothing! In the event of a virus, a hack or a simple mistake with file management, it will place you in disaster recovery mode with limited and expensive options.
The other mistake that I see is backup that is set up with multiple on-site tapes or hard drives to rotate in an orderly manner, which is good, but the storage media devices don’t get cycled.
There was a time when quality backup software ejected or locked tapes, so they couldn’t be used for a predetermined period. This prevented today's backup from overwriting yesterday's backup. As the backup software bundled with servers improved, the inclination to buy expensive software with these quality control features has dwindled. As a result, many servers utilised in small businesses today will keep writing to the same device every day, without reporting errors. This leads to having only one suitable data-set to recover from and, therefore, corruption is being replicated to the sole backup set.
Where the backup device is a tape, the odds of corruption caused by the frequent re-use of media increases with each use and so, after not changing the tape for a few weeks, the odds of corruption escalate rapidly.
The solution here is to have a work process in place that ensures the storage media is cycled daily and that the media are replaced often enough to ensure the efficiency of the recorded data.
Even better, spend a little more money on your backup software so it forces you to rotate the media and manage your media sets properly. Once the software is correctly installed and configured media change schedules can be drawn up, allowing the local admin team to manage the ongoing process and the remote IT department able to maintain accountability.
I’ve discussed online backup solutions that offer great backup for multiple servers, but it’s worth noting that I’m seeing mistakes with these too. Such solutions focus around scoping of the data-flows required, which leads to less than desirable lags in the currency of the data stored off-site. If you do budget to install online server backup (which I highly recommend) make sure sufficient bandwidth is allocated to ensure the technology works as it should.
It’s also important to note that there are now many of these off-site offerings on the market, but you should look closely at where your data is being held and the total quality of the solution. Unfortunately, this technology has attracted some get-rich-quick providers, who charge full price but deliver systems that are not as robust as they should be.
The message, in short, is don’t settle for a poorly designed or poorly configured backup solution that could leave your business exposed. A great case in point is Distribute IT who are now no more. Don’t be next!
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David Markus is the founder of Combo - the IT services company that ensures IT is never an impediment to growth.