Poof. . . it's all gone.
by Kevin Tubbesing
In a typical small business network, data is often stored in many locations unbeknownst to the staff. All too often, users store important data on their PC's local hard drive.
You're sitting at your keyboard staring at the black abyss. Moments ago you were referencing the financials, running sales reports, and calling up historical documents. The panic sets in and you begin to sweat profusely as you realize you've lost everything! You scream and jump up--only to realize the blaring racket from your alarm clock has awakened you from this nightmare. You're safe for now.
If you can honestly walk into your office tomorrow and not be affected if all of your data was gone, you may turn the page and move onto the next article. If you're among the other 99.9% of small business leaders, the information in your computer systems is invaluable. I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but the $199 tape drive and the one tape cartridge you haven't replaced for four years is just not doing the job.
In a typical small business network, data is often stored in many locations unbeknownst to the staff. All too often, users store important data on their PC's local hard drive. Sometimes the information is on the server, but the database software you use won't allow your backup software--that you THINK is working--to back it up. Perhaps you have all that handled but then fire burns the office--in-cluding that cute little fire safe you bought at Wal-Mart--and the nightmare is reborn. Although each backup situation is different, there are a few key concerns most companies should consider. First: Get a server. This is not a waste of a perfectly good PC someone can work on--this is the proper allocation of valuable resources that everyone in your company will live on. Servers act as both a backup resource as well as a consolidated, central meeting place for all your company's data.
Servers are unique to each organization's individual needs but consider these three features in any server you implement: 1. Have redundant hard drives that will keep you up and running should one of your drives fail; 2. Install a tape drive with the native capacity of backing up all of the data on your server onto one tape cartridge (to answer your question--no one ever does put the requested second tape into the drive the next morning!); 3. Purchase the right backup software that has the features (open file agents, etc.) you need to backup the data you think is being backed up now. Often, clients confuse redundancy from backup. Having redundant hard drives is a matter of efficiency because the surviving drive(s) keep the company up and running in the event of a drive failure. But, remember that corruption, viruses, and data deletion are also replicated on redundant drives. Tape backup (or a similar, removable media solution) is essential to both off-site storage and the recovery of data in the event of catastrophic loss or corruption. Next, get the data off the PCs and onto the servers. This can be accomplished in many ways; one of our favorites is to redirect the "My Documents" folder on a PC to actually reside on the server. This is a relatively simple method that is normally transparent to the user who does not even know the information is now being stored down the hall instead of at their feet. Training and policies to encourage the user to use this folder (instead of their desktop) and other server resources are essential to success.
Finally, move the user's "Outlook" or other contact management/email software onto the server. The best way to do this is to implement a mail server (such as Exchange) wherein the user's data is stored on the server and simply called up by the user onto their PC screen. Alternatively, you can redirect the data file all email programs use to be stored on the server instead of on the PC.
Perhaps the most common oversight--besides not backing up at all--is the absence of verification that the backup was successful. If the first time you try to recover information from your backup solution is as a result of a hard drive or data loss, there is a good likelihood you've waited too long. After determining a proper backup solution for your organization, perform recovery tests of key data to verify it will be there when all else is lost. Then, go out, buy a gentler alarm clock and sleep well.
Kevin Tubbesing is the CEO of CIO, Inc. He can be reached at: 913.562.5608 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.