Backup basics for business

By Adam Turner

From fire and theft to something as mundane as a burst water main, there's no shortage of threats to your business's precious data. If you can't afford catastrophic data loss, you must put a robust backup system in place.

Identify all critical data

The first step is to determine which data is actually mission critical. Play devil's advocate and think of the easiest ways to cripple your business. Could you keep trading if you lost everything in your calendar and your email inbox? What if your customer database was wiped, or your financial system crashed? What if all your current projects were accidentally deleted? Could you get back on your feet and would your customers ever trust you again?

Once you've identified your critical data, think about where it resides. Is it stored on a central server, which might be located in your back office or perhaps in the cloud? Is it spread across your desktop computers? Is it floating around on notebooks and other mobile gadgets that regularly walk out the front door? How secure are these mobile devices and how often are they backed up, if at all? The more dispersed your data is, the more vulnerable you are to data loss.

It's also important to consider what form your critical data takes. Are you simply talking about Word and Excel documents living in your 'My Documents' folder, or is your most precious information locked away in databases linked to your email, accounting, customer relationship management (CRM) or enterprise resource management (ERM) systems? If your data is locked away in such systems, you need to think about the most effective way to back it up as well as how you'll restore it after disaster strikes.

The importance of disaster recovery plans

There's little point in backing up your data if you have no way to access it in an emergency. The best backup systems incorporate a disaster recovery plan as well as a business continuity plan - the latter is how you'll keep the business up and running while you execute your disaster recovery plan. The more reliant you are on specialist software, services or devices, the more complicated your disaster recovery and business continuity plans become. Developing a robust backup regime might present the perfect opportunity to re-evaluate the flexibility of your work flow and mission-critical systems.

Whatever backup system you choose, it's vital to include an off-site element that safely stores your data far from your place of business. Any disaster that claims the computers in your office will most likely claim the USB or network backup drive sitting on the shelf as well.

Is your business prepared for the worst? How will you cope when disaster strikes?


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