Not Backing up Your Data Can Put You Out of Business
In this information age, your data and your computer systems increasingly ARE the business. Imagine if you suddenly no longer had access to that data or those systems. How long could your organization continue to function?
For some businesses, law firms for instance, the simple loss of e-mail could significantly hinder their business and result in loss of big customers. A manufacturer might also be quickly shut down without the data management systems on which it depends to run its production lines. While service-oriented businesses like hair salons or auto dealerships could probably limp along for a few days without access to its scheduling or inventory management software.
Regardless of what kind of business, every organization has to think about and prepare for what to do if, and when, essential data and systems become unavailable.
You Need to Do More than Backup Your Data
There are three different kinds of scenarios to consider:
- Loss of your data – from data corruption or hard disk failure
- REMEDY: File level backup (a backup copy of your data somewhere else)
- Loss of your hardware – your server crashes and needs to be replaced
- REMEDY: Business Continuity (file level backup + bootable copies of your Operating Systems and applications – to restore everything on completely new hardware)
- Loss of your systems altogether – your office is destroyed by fire or flood, or your building is evacuated for several days (or longer)
- REMEDY: Disaster Recovery (a fully redundant system, including your backup data, in an alternate location that can be switched on instantly if you lose your ability to operate
Each of these situations requires its own preparedness model due to what’s involved in each scenario to return things to normal. One thing they all share, though, is first figuring out how prepared you want, and need, to be.
Critical Strategic Backup Business Decisions
Organizations must first make some firm decisions about these two critical strategic business issues:
- How long can the business afford to wait to before being back up and running?
Organizations must establish for themselves their RTO (Recovery Time Objective). How soon do you need to have things back to normal? Within the hour? Tomorrow? Next week?
- How recent must the backup data be?
Organizations must also establish for themselves their RPO (Recovery Point Objective)
This is the point in time you will go back to with your backup data. How much potential data are you willing to lose? An hour’s worth? A day’s worth? A week’s worth?
The answers to these questions are unique to each business. A bricks-and-mortar retailer, for instance, may not be able to afford turning customers away for more than a few hours if its point-of-sale system is unavailable. But even then, that time sensitivity may vary from retailer to retailer. On the other hand, a general contractor may be OK for days without its computers, although being without e-mail might be a problem.
A Backup is Only As Useful as When the Backup was Last Done
And how up-to-date must the backup data being restored be – i.e.; how frequently must you backup your data? Every second, every hour, every week? Thinking again of retailers, being able to access current sales data right up to moment of failure might be critical, while for that general contractor the loss of a few days data might be acceptable if it can be readily re-created.
These are not just IT decisions. They are strategic operational business decisions that can only be made by all of the relevant stakeholders in the organization.
Backup, Business Continuity and Disaster Recovery Are Not the Same Thing
Compounding data and systems recovery planning is the wide range of technology choices available for each of the three tiers of keeping the business running. Looking briefly at some of the options for these three scenarios:
- BACKUP: Loss of your data
Backup to tape or HDD? Offsite storage, or in the cloud? How quickly can backup data be accessed and restored?
- BUSINESS CONTINUITY: Loss of your hardware
How quickly can a new server be purchased and installed, all your apps be re-installed, and your backup data be restored? Should you be running a redundant on-premises server for quick cut-over?
- DISASTER RECOVERY: Loss of your systems altogether
Should you be running a redundant off-site server for instantaneous cut-over? Your own server in a secure data centre, or rented co-tenancy? How will staff access the redundant off-site system, what PCs will they use?
These scenarios successively build on each other, with increasing complexity and costs associated with each of them.
Backup, Business Continuity and Disaster Recovery is a complex subject. You may need outside assistance, like that provided by Manawa Networks, to build meaningful cost-benefit analyses of all the options that best fulfill your chosen RTO and RPO business strategic objectives.
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