06/07/10

By David Blackman, General Manager, Northern Europe

One thing you can be sure of with computers is that, eventually, they will break down. When you’re busy running a company, ensuring that your systems are backed up is often the last thing on your mind. But with financial figures, competitor information and customer data all resting on your PCs, it’s not surprising that, according to a recent survey from YouGov, 40 per cent of SMBs would suffer severe impairment to business operations in the case of a system failure.

Downtime and the associated potential of data loss can be costly incidents for SMEs. There are multiple threats to systems — natural disasters can strike, but actually a failure is far more likely to be caused by human error, a hard drive crash or virus attack. You might find this reassuring — but don’t. The potential for data loss and system downtime is a lot greater than you might have imagined. The loss of data, coupled with the sheer disruption and downtime caused by system failures, is enough to make any business person shiver.

It is not just internal users who demand constant access to data, without your laptops or computers in working order you may struggle to meet customer SLAs, which can impact directly on customer retention and the profitability — and for many it could actually lead to going out of business.
Stop your business going down with your systems!
But it’s not just about making sure you back up your data. You need to examine the method and strategy you use.

Relying on a traditional ‘end of day’ backup strategy can cause a number of potential problems. If a disaster strikes five minutes before the next backup is due to be made (or 23 hours and 55 minutes since the previous one) all the new and/or amended data created that day will be lost.
Furthermore, it could take days to recover the previous day’s data.

It’s also worth noting that some backup systems can only recover file level data, and can’t restore applications or systems settings. Subsequent redeployment is therefore a labour-intensive and time-consuming procedure, requiring the person in charge of IT to find all the original software disks and reset system preferences by hand.

Improve your image

There is an alternative. Imaging software has the capability to capture all of a workstation’s or server’s contents, including files, applications and the operating system. In the event of disaster, the entire contents can be recovered quickly and efficiently.

Once the backup images have been created, they need to be stored on appropriate storage media. The most effective way to guarantee data and application recovery is to store a copy of the backup image offsite — either physically taking the disk image off-site or sending it over a secure Wide Area Network to a separate location.

Top tips for recovery

Whatever type of backup you chose, the following guidelines should be useful:

•Select where you are going to store your backups — it’s often best to ensure you have at least two targets to back up to, locally for fast recovery, plus externally such as to a tape drive or a networked storage device. On site storage doesn’t go far enough as it does not offer protection from physical damage to your premises.

•Document your backup policy — who is responsible for looking after backups? How would your business react in the event of system downtime?

•Educate users — ensure that everyone in your company understands the importance of backups.

•Don’t forget to test your backups on a regular basis — once they’re set up it’s all too easy to forget to check if they are working until it’s too late!