06/07/10

By David Blackman, General Manager of Northern Europe, Acronis

One thing you can be sure of with computers is that, eventually, they will break down. When you’re busy running an organisation, checking your backup and recovery strategy can be the last thing on your mind. However, according to a recent study conducted by Acronis and research house Vanson Bourne, 63% of SMBs would take a day or more to recover from system failure*. Just imagine how your business would cope without its systems and data for a day.

Despite living in a world where businesses operate around the clock, the majority of small to mid-sized companies are still putting their systems, and therefore their productivity and profitability, at risk by failing to protect them adequately. It really doesn’t matter what causes your systems to fail, be it a virus attack, software bug or a hardware breakdown the results are pretty much the same: hours or even days of downtime and, the potential loss of untold amounts of work. If you’ve got a recent backup, however, and a well conceived recovery plan, the financial and productivity impact on your business can be minimised.

Dual protection

Feedback from our customers shows that organisations out there are backing up their servers. In addition to this, they are often protecting them automatically, meaning regular backups are in place. Servers are the lifeline of any IT infrastructure so it’s critical that they are safeguarded and backed up regularly.

However, despite backing up their servers, our research found a shocking 25% of organisations still back up their PCs and laptops manually, while 19% do not carry out backups at all. While employees are sometimes encouraged to back up to a network, unfortunately this doesn’t always work in practice. Many employees save folders loosely on their desktop or make updates to documents when they are out of the office.

In fact, according to analyst estimates, 60% of an organisation’s data is held on workstations, not servers. This means that the majority of your data could be seriously at risk. In addition, consider the cost of sending out an IT administrator to fix or reinstall a remote office worker’s laptop. Not only does the employee have limited access to data, they are also without a PC and their applications unable to work. In short, you need to make sure both your workstations and servers are safeguarded, backed-up automatically and preferably centrally managed.

Remember, backup does not equal recovery!

We used the Freedom of Information Act to ask three key government departments in the UK how many occurrences of system failure they experienced in one year. In total, they reported 608 incidents. That’s 11 a week! While this may seem like a high figure, failure is not a concern if you have a stringent backup and recovery policy. However, all too often companies think backup equals recovery. This is not the case.

A survey of storage managers by IDC showed that 87%** are confident or highly confident that their DR processes would allow them to restore the data for their business critical applications. However, only half of those 87% test their DR strategies more than once a year. Even if you are confident that you backups are running frequently, you should ensure that they are regularly tested otherwise you could be left out on a limb. Make a point to run tests on your backups every quarter.

Examine how comprehensive your strategy is

Many SMBs rely on an ‘end of day’ backup strategy. Our research unveiled that 72% of businesses only run their backups at the end of the day. However, this can cause problems. If a disaster strikes five minutes before the next backup is due to be made, all the data created that day will be lost. How much would a day’s productivity cost your organisation?

In addition to this, some backup systems can only recover file level data, and can’t restore applications or systems settings. Redeployment is therefore labour-intensive and time-consuming, requiring you to find the original software disks and reset preferences manually. Imagine if all the PCs in your organisation were hit by a virus attack. How long would it take you to reinstall each machine from scratch?

Put DR at the top of your list

The financial and productivity implications that the loss of data has, coupled with the disruption and downtime caused by failure, is enough to make anyone shiver. Of primary concern to business leaders is business continuity, providing employees with their IT systems to work on and customers with the ability to communicate and transact with the organisation. However, the reality is that backup and recovery does not need to be difficult to achieve, so make sure you put it at the top of your priority list.