You aren’t backing up your data the way you should be

What if one day all of your data was totally gone? Many places would simply go out of business. Backups are cheap insurance, but insurance won’t help you if you get the wrong policy!

What most people don’t realize, and too many computer technicians ignore, is that how you backup your data is a business decision and has very little to do with technology. The technology doesn’t factor in until the very end of the decision making process! There are five questions you must answer that will dictate how you backup, and you’ll notice that only the last question is a technology question.

Answer these questions:

  1. What am I protecting my data from?
  2. How long can I live with downtime while the data restores?
  3. Do I have a reliable human to manage the backups, or should it be 100% automated?
  4. How frequently do I need to backup and how far back in time do I need to go?
  5. How much data do I have?

1. What are you protecting your data from when you back it up? Many people don’t have a good answer to that question because they’ve simply never thought about it. Yet this is the most important piece of the puzzle and the first question I ask my clients when discussing a backup plan. Think about this, if you want to protect your data from fire or flooding then it doesn’t do you any good for your backups to be just sitting right next to the server! Threats to your data come in five basic varieties: environmental factors (E.G. fire, water), physical theft of equipment, accidental or malicious deletion, viruses, and general system failure. Identify which of these general threats you want to protect yourself from.

2. How long can you survive without your data while restoring it? Another way to ask this is, if your main data server crashed and had to be completely restored from backup, how long would it take before you would start losing money? A few minutes, a few hours, a day, a few days? Different types of backup plans have different speeds of restoration. Know your tolerance for down time.

3. Do you have a reliable human to manage the backups? Many types of backups need to have a human available every day or week to swap tapes or external hard drives, and maybe take them off-site as well. This task often falls on a random office worker. Think about who this will be and if you REALLY trust them to do it reliably and properly. If not then you should take steps to make the process totally automated and free of the possibility of human error.

4. How frequently do you need to backup and how far back in time do you need to go? Another way to ask this is, if the server crashed then how much work would it be okay to lose? If your servers process customer orders then you might want up-to-the-minute backups to ensure you don’t lose a single transaction. However most small businesses only need nightly backups to remain current.

5. How much data do you have to backup? Is all you care about your QuickBooks data or do you have hundreds of gigabytes to save? Add it all up and don’t be stingy.

The answers to all of these questions (and maybe a few more) will dictate what type of backup system you should be running. We can help you sort it all out, just give us a call.

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