Backups are undoubtedly one of the most annoying parts of the IT process, not only for the IT consultant trying to monitor the success of the backups but also for the small business employee charged with making sure they swap the tape or portable drive out each night and take it with them to keep it safe in case disaster befalls the office before the next backup runs. This process is also the most crucial, especially if disaster does strike because the only way to get back to work is to restore from that backup. For years, we as IT consultants have drilled into our small and medium sized clients that that method of managing backups is the best way. Backing up to physical media, changing the media out nightly, and then taking it off site in someone’s car was the absolute best way to back up your data and keep it safe. This is no longer true, and the potential risks of data theft and loss while that backup media is outside the office could be devastating to your business.
I have written at great length about the cloud; public and private, and about network attached storage. These technologies are at a point where most of the enterprise features large companies have enjoyed for years are now available and affordable to even the smallest business. The modern backup makes use of both the low cost local storage on your network as well as low cost cloud based storage either public or private. In this hybrid solution you are protected from day to day data loss caused by the occasional user error as well as a major server failure by the local backup on your local network attached storage device. This local backup is much faster to restore from reducing the potential downtime in the event of server failure or accidental data loss. A copy of your local backups is replicated to your cloud based storage where your data is safe from major disasters like fire or flood in which the office is damaged or destroyed. This cloud based storage could be a backup service like Azure Backup from Microsoft or an Amazon s3 solution or even a backup to a service to Mozy if you intend to use the public cloud. If you are using a NAS from just about any manufacturer it can be configured to copy data to another similar NAS located at a remote site. This remote site could be a data center you rent rack space from, a buddy’s network closet at their office across town, your home, or even vacation home. This second NAS can be placed anywhere you can provide internet access, even your lawyer’s or accountant’s office.
Once you have your backups going they need to be monitored and reviewed on a regular basis. Backups are not like those infomercial cooking products that are on TV late at night. You know the ones…you just set it and forget it. Backups need attention. You need to make sure you are backing up what you need backed up. Old unused data should be archived and removed from the daily backups because it is wasting precious time and space in your backup window. The backup window is that period of time you have to back up all the data during which you don’t want anything else happening on your server other than your backup. Once that window closes, any number of activities could hinder your backup causing it to fail or for files not to be backed up.
Now is a perfect time to review your backup strategy. Sit down with your office manager and IT pro to determine what needs to be backed up and how often and make sure those backups are still backing up the data you think they are. Backups are important and you need to know that your data can weather any storm and be available when disaster strikes.