Anti-Buzz: Business Backup

by Andrew Emmott on May 8, 2012

in Anti-Buzz,Security

The Buzz: The best backup solutions are quiet and automated and not worth my concern.


The Anti-Buzz: The best business owners know how to restore their office in an emergency.



I’ve known my father a long time, (all my life, as it happens), and I know that in his experience a common misgiving about “the paperless office” is that you could lose your data. My father’s response is usually something along the lines of “You can lose your paper records too.” Fire, water damage, you name it. But people look at a file cabinet and think, “File cabinets don’t crash.” It’s true, they don’t. But file cabinets don’t copy very well either. Data does. You only need to look to the paranoia of Hollywood to see that a defining characteristic of the information age is that data copies too easily. But anymore this is an old argument. I doubt many of you are clinging to the file cabinet.

Last week I talked about protecting your data, this week I intend a brief follow-up helping you apply that knowledge to your business.

So, back to the original nightmare scenario. What if you came in to your office and all your data was gone? One word: unacceptable…

I shouldn’t have to tell you how devastating this would be. Imagine one of those old shorts where an elf shows the unbeliever a world without zinc or springs or rubber, except this time it is a world without your data. Terrible.

One of my suggestions last week was that you abandon backup solutions that you don’t understand. This can’t work for your business; your business needs the right solution and you need to understand it. A lot of backup solutions will automate many parts of the process for you but none of them will actually do everything. You are required to interact with your backup at some point and if you don’t know what is going on, you might as well not have a back up. So where I cautioned you to err on the side of simplicity for your personal data, I encourage you to learn more when it comes to your business.

Why am I so adamant that you understand your system so well? Many solutions will tend toward automation – they are convenient and on most days you won’t even think about them – but mastery of your backup solution isn’t about all those days when everything works fine, it’s about that one day when it doesn’t. There are two big questions a lot of business owners forget to ask when looking for a backup solution.

How does the backup process work?

This seems simple, but too many smaller scale backup solutions are just “it’s easy, just push this button” or “a script does all the work for you.” It’s great if your backup solution is convenient – nothing wrong with that – but don’t let an IT support guy or a salesman obfuscate the process for you. What is being backed up? Where is it going? How often is it happening? How long does it take? What components of your network can’t be used when the backup process occurs? Is there a copy off-site? Does your network need Internet access? If I unplug this cord, will everything break? And don’t think I’m kidding with that last one. The less you know, the more likely you are to accidentally subvert your own backup. How was I supposed to know things in that folder weren’t getting saved? What do you mean I can’t be surfing the net in my office at midnight? Know your process.

How does the restoration process work?

If you lost your data tomorrow, how would you recover? You have a backup? Good. Now use it. Most people have no idea how you go from “I have a backup” to “my office is back to normal.” The backup process can be done at 3AM if need be, but the restoration process needs to happen right now. If you are shopping for a solution, recovery time should be your top priority, and it’s something few people ever ask about. Similar to the above, you need to be familiar with the process. Even if you have dedicated tech support who will valiantly do the work for you, you need to know what it all looks like. I suggest a practice run. If you’ve just backed up your data, pretend your office was just wiped and run your recovery process. And I don’t mean read a manual and have a training session and imagine what it’s like; I mean actually use your backup and restore it’s contents to your system. Do it with your staff. You need to know that it works, and you need to know how it works, and they need to know too.

Your records are too important for you to blindly trust any system, and if you take ownership of your backup solution, you will feel much more confident in the security of your data./strong

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