Data Disasters!

We all know we should.  We've been told time and time again.  Back it up.  But do we?Well sometimes…….. we know we should have……… we did up until 9 months ago and then forgot to……

I sound like a stuck record about backups but every week we still see disappointed people and businesses that have lost data forever.   If you do nothing else with your IT this year, make sure you have a rigorous backup plan in place. Don't let 2015 be the year that you have a data disaster!

So what does backing up actually mean? There are so many different products purporting to be backup systems that choosing the one appropriate for your needs can be confusing.

Whether it is cloud based or on site you need to consider a few important factors before making your decision about what to go for – this list is by no means exhaustive – there are plenty of other things to consider with your IT professional.

A backup with retention enables you to keep data for set periods of time so you can step back to retrieve data from a particular point. You might have a daily, weekly, monthly, annual and even seven year backup for instance.  Should you only have a rotating daily backup, you could accidentally delete a file that in a few days' time might not be retrievable anymore.

Is the data in your backup encrypted in any way to protect it?  Many organisations use a system of rotating external hard drives to back-up their data and these are taken offsite to ensure redundancy. They are however vulnerable for instance either in transit in a briefcase or at a home office. Whilst an external drive might be lost, it is important to ensure the data on them is not accessible in the wrong hands.

Ease of use:
No matter what system you use, it has to be simple to operate while doing what you need it to do.  This includes having the ability to validate your backup on a regular basis.  By validation I mean actually testing that you can restore the data from your backup should it be necessary.  Also make sure that the data restoration process itself doesn't take too long – there's no point in your data restoration process taking days if you run a time critical business.

What to backup:    
There are two main types of backup available to you – either a file backup or an image backup.  A file backup saves a set of files that you nominate- ideal if you have a simple file structure of a few folders.  A full image takes a snapshot of your entire system at a certain point in time.  This includes your programmes, settings and how things look (your desktop etc).  This is great if you don't have your old programme disks, keys etc or have a very complicated set up that would take a long time to reload / programme.

Your backup should be sending you automated alerts to let you know if it has failed. As a general rule, the less reliance you have on a human doing something the better off you will be.

Cloud backups:
Finally a word on cloud backups – not all of these are created equal.  Cloud storage (for instance the entry level Dropbox plan) is not a backup – it is simply a mirror of the data on your computer.  In order to get proper backup functionality from cloud storage, you generally need to go onto one of the paid plans that give you some of the features mentioned above.

Like most complicated topics, seeking advice on backups is time well spent.  Once data is gone it is generally not recoverable and if it is it will not be easy or cheap. Invest a little time and effort in ensuring your data is well protected so that in the event of something untoward occurring, you can be back on your feet with the minimum of hassle or expense