IT Strategy for Breakfast, Lunch, and Dinner...
You see the term “Strategy” and may exclaim “not this again!”. But hold on just a moment. We do not want to scare you into thinking that you need something elaborate and complex to achieve an effective backup and recovery plan. Follow along and in the next 6-7 minutes, you will be well on your way to building a backup strategy for your business.
What is a strategy? It is nothing but a plan used to achieve your desired business goal. A strategy describes how the goal will be achieved by using the available resources. In this case, the goal is an effective solution to the problem of data backup. A backup and recovery strategy will involve setting the backup goals, determining the actions required to achieve that goal, and how the available resources will be utilized to carry out those actions.
Alright, so the next logical question that comes is:
Why do I need a strategy? The resources available to you as a business owner are limited. Therefore, you need to decide where you need to employ your resource to extract the maximum benefit. It would be wonderful if you could back up everything in multiple locations. However, that is not realistic. Further, a documented strategy forms the basis of your actions and is easy to refer to in case of emergencies. It can ultimately become a standard or best practice that helps you adapt effectively to the changes in your business environment.
Now that the business jargon is out of the way, let us take a look at the core of the matter, specifically, backup and recovery. In the following sections, I will try to address the most common questions that pop up when we talk about backup and recovery.
1. I am a small business owner...why do I even need a backup and recovery plan?
Let’s assume for a moment that you are operating your business without a backup plan. What would happen in case of a disaster? Fires, earthquakes, and similar disasters are not very uncommon and can strike your business without notice. While you may have insurance that covers the loss of property but what happens to your precious data? How will you get your business back to the current working level?
Even in places where such natural events may not be a threat, there is the ever-growing menace of cyber attacks such as ransomware. How prepared are you for a ransomware that locks you away from your files, data, and server? This is any business owner’s worst nightmare. Such a threat will cause long-term damage to your business as customers may never be able to trust you with their data again.
2. My computer data is synced with the cloud, do I still need a backup plan?
Backing up your computer files to the cloud is an excellent way to protect your data. These days one can hardly imagine not using Google Drive or DropBox as a backup for syncing files to the cloud. However, in most cases, this only protects files on your laptop or PC that you have synced to the cloud. What about your system files, critical settings, and other local files outside of the cloud (e.g. desktop items)? Have you also considered how other employees are ensuring that company data is backed up in the cloud and if they are doing it at all?
Moreover, many times, the backup process is so slow that your larger files may not be synced to the cloud. For such situations, do you have a secondary backup in place?
3. What do I need to backup?
Well, ideally you would want to backup everything. The whole point of having a backup and recovery strategy in place is to have the ability to recover from the data loss to your current working level.
If your business has physical servers, backing up these entire systems are critical. These onsite servers often host email, company files, and virtual machines that keep your business running. As a small business owner, this should not be a big task once you have a proper plan. If you feel that this is not feasible for you, you should at the very least backup all your critical servers and mission-critical systems. This will ensure that you will have the ability to get your business at least partially operational in the event of a disaster.
If your business runs in the cloud, you’re one step ahead of those still using onsite servers. However, you are not in the clear! Using cloud services for email and data like G Suite, Office 365, and Dropbox is great because you can be sure that these services will have nearly 100% uptime even in the case of disasters since your critical systems are in the cloud. But there’s still a catch; cloud systems are still at risk to rogue employees deleting files, accidental human error, or ransomware attacks. Therefore, cloud backup systems like Spanning or Backupify are strongly recommended to backup all your cloud and SaaS data, settings, and systems.
4. What kind of backup should I use?
Backup can be of three kinds:
Hybrid of cloud and on-premises
Each method has its inherent pros and cons. When you are using an on-premises backup, if you lose your location due to a disaster, you will also lose your backup. On the other hand, if you need to recover using your cloud backup and do not have internet connectivity, you again lose the ability to recover. This defeats the very purpose of having a backup in the first place. Therefore, a hybrid of cloud and on-premises backup increases your ability to recover from a disaster by having a second safety net.
Further, you would also need to set up your backup goal. You need to decide whether your business needs the ability to restore, to recovery, or to maintain your services in case of a disaster. This varies from business to business and service to service. Keep in mind your business goals and customer expectations while deciding.
5. What am I protecting against?
This is an excellent question. It is very important to know what you are protecting against in order to have an effective recovery plan. Below are a few examples of possible disasters:
Loss of data
Loss of system
Loss of applications
Loss of business location
Loss of business operations
Deciding which of the above disasters you want to protect against will help you determine the backup and recovery process. The solutions can range from restricting critical folder access to creating a system-wide image-based backup.
6. How to handle the data recovery?
Your entire data backup strategy will not amount to anything unless you have an effective recovery plan. There are two important questions that need to be answered when creating a recovery plan:
How long can the recovery process be without impacting your business operations severely?
What needs to be recovered first?
How long your business, department, or system can wait for the recovery process will determine the type of backup required. You also need to determine what are the critical systems that need to be online first. This can be decided based on the impact of the disaster on your business. For example, when there is a loss of an application, you may need to run the recovery on only a few systems to get your business back on track.
Most of us have experienced loss of a device at some point in our lives. We know how painful it is, especially the loss of data. We are able to live through the personal anguish and in time it becomes an amusing story you share with friends. However, when it comes to your business any such loss can bring your operations to a standstill. Impact of such an incident on your business can be devastating and long-term.
When you put everything in perspective and consider the risks, it will be evident that you should invest in a backup and recovery plan. A backup and recovery plan is an important part of any IT strategy. A comprehensive backup and recovery plan will help minimize downtime and help to keep your business functioning seamlessly even in the case of a disaster such as a ransomware, virus attack, or a natural disaster. A reliable and efficient backup and recovery plan is worth infinitely more than the time and resources you will spend on it as it will ensure that your business will be operational and productive even in the case of the worst disasters.
If you found this useful, you should also check out 5 IT Best Practices for Growing Businesses for even more IT tips for building your business. Also if you'd like to learn more about backups, call or email Jones IT today!