Hey, Small Businesses - If You're not Backing Up Your Data, Now is the Time to Put a Plan in Place
So where do you start? First, you'll need to begin by answering the following:
What data must be backed up?
Any past and current data needed to run your business. How many GB's or TB's of storage do you need? Consider your current and anticipated future storage needs through the next planned hardware replacement date. Keep in mind that the first time you back up your data can take hours or days depending on data size and transfer speeds.
Where is data located?
You'll need to know where all your important data is so that it can be fully backed up. Be sure to include desktop files and folders, my documents folders, and other locations where staff may store data. Also, don't forget the folders where your line-of-business software stores data.
How frequently do you want to perform backups?
If all your computers failed right now, how much data could you afford to lose since your last full backup? The answer to this question requires careful consideration because it can affect business continuity should you need to recover data from a backup. Unless you've a really good reason, you should fully back up your data after each workday to minimize potential data loss.
Should backups be manually performed or automated?
While staff can manually perform these backups, staff are busy and may fail to perform one or more backups for a variety of reasons. This is true for the smallest of businesses who back up their data on thumb drives. Thus, automated backups are the best option to guarantee backups are performed at scheduled times. Also, they often can be configured to perform incremental and differential backups that can complement your full backups. Automated backups must be set up correctly and settings checked frequently to confirm desired behavior.
Where will you store your backup data?
You must carefully consideration what media: the cloud, external HD's, Network Attached Storage (NAS)-type devices, etc., you'll use for your backups. First and foremost, your current and projected storage needs will dictate what you'll need. Keep in mind that redundancy is critical when backing up data. So, if you're not using a service like our eDesk Suite that performs automated, redundant, online, full backups for you, then the 3-2-1 approach may be appropriate. It's short for 3-backups, 2-different media, 1-offsite. With this approach, you'd make three, full, identical backups two on different, onsite media with the third kept offsite. For example, you might back up data on a dedicated local machine with a large internal HD (onsite), an external HD (onsite) not connected to the dedicated local machine, and in the cloud (offsite). This approach ensures you've quick access to a current, local backup should you need to recover data and access to an offsite copy should something catastrophic happen to the onsite backups.
How often will backups be checked for fidelity and recovery time?
Just because your automated backups are scheduled to run does not mean they'll always run. Sometimes updates and other changes to the system can cause automated backups to stop running. You'll need to periodically verify your backups are being created. How frequently you perform verification is up to you, but keep in mind that if backups stop, your business is at risk. Discovering that your backups stopped eight months ago when you desperately need to recover yesterday's data today can be catastrophic. You'll want to test your backups by verifying their data are recoverable and useable. Testing should be done at least once a year, if not quarterly. Also, you'll want to note how long it'll take to fully recover your data to determine if it meets your business continuity needs.
How should security be integrated into the backup recovery plan?
An often-overlooked aspect of backup plans is security. Your plan should describe how you'll physically and digitally secure your backups, and how and when backups will be retired. For example, your plan might call for backup data to be encrypted, external HD's and other physical media used for backups to be secured in safes or locked cabinets, and old backup data be digitally purged using system cleaners, like BleachBit.
Any special considerations or requirements?
You'll need to carefully think about this one. Contracts, for example, are one area to consider. Depending on who you do business with and what their contracts stipulate, you may be legally required to store certain data for years. So you'll want to review any contracts you've signed and verify data is being backed up and preserved per the contracts. Incorporate these into your backup plan including client, contract information, what data and where it is located (you'll want to find it quickly if you must recover it years later), and expiration date.
Lastly, you'll want to write up your backup recovery plan and review and update it periodically.
You should now have a good idea of how to create a basic backup recovery plan. So mitigate serious risks to your small business by implementing a backup plan quickly. If you need help, contact us or another qualified consultant who can help you develop the right plan for your business.