What Happened to All of My Files?!

Quick! List the first fifteen business contacts you have stored on your computer. How about last quarter’s financial results? Or the proposal you are presenting this afternoon?  Stories about data security abound throughout the news media these days, and there is no doubt that the security of your business data is vital. Unfortunately, one aspect of data security that is often overlooked by most small business owners is disaster recovery. Disaster recovery planning can prepare your business to recover from a disastrous loss of data from your computer (e.g. –Your hard drive crashes and all of the information you saved on it is wiped out, or your computer catches a nasty virus, and is out of commission.)

Disaster recovery planning encompasses tactical functions, such as backup routines and redundancy, as well as potential hardware and software investments like USB drives, network-attached devices and commercially available backup software. There are several factors that will help you to determine the strategy that makes the most sense for your business and utilizes your resources most effectively, including:

  • The amount of information to be secured.
  • How long you can allow critical business systems be non-functional.
  • How often you make changes to critical data.
  • How much data you can afford to lose.

A comprehensive strategy and plan for disaster recovery should always include backups of data to be stored offline (not on the same computer or network on which the data resides) and off-site (in a location away from where the computers being protected are housed). The proliferation of USB mass storage devices has driven offsite, offline storage costs down dramatically, so that you can store the data of many computers onto a single device that can be put in your pocket. Oh, and that data can also be digitally encrypted on the device. This protects it from being accessed if you lose it.

Additionally, you can use automation provided in the commercially available backup software to implement your backup routine on a regular schedule very easily. Your backup routine may call for backing up all of your data once a week (Full), and then just the data that has been changed or added since then (Differential). The software can automate this for you as well.

Redundancy refers to the practice of keeping duplicates of existing computers with all applications and data (cloned images) that can be restored onto a computer, or simply another computer that is an exact copy of an existing computer that is introduced into the network when the existing computer fails. While redundancy may not always be required as part of a disaster recovery plan, a strategy for business continuity is a must.

Think about the daily operation of your business. Now think about what you absolutely must have available in order to keep those daily business processes running. This is the start of your business continuity plan. These types of plans are designed for the sole purpose of allowing your business to continue operating despite a system failure or loss of data. Some of the most basic business continuity solutions are Uninterruptible Power Supplies (UPS) that provide battery backup in case of a power loss. These are designed to run your critical systems (phones, data network, computers) for a short period of time, as well as to prevent these systems from “glitching” during a short-term power loss or spike. If your business is located where long-term power losses are common, you may need a more potent solution. Generally, a formula can be used to calculate how much power you will need and for how long.

The investment in disaster recovery planning includes:

  • The time it takes to identify the data and systems that are most important for your business
  • The cost of the hardware and software associated with your strategic plan
  • The time to implement and test your plan.

Disaster recovery planning and implementation is an often overlooked component in small businesses, but it is definitely worth the effort. The potential cost of not creating and implementing a disaster recovery plan could be the loss of your business.

Here’s a link to a free trial download of the backup and recovery software I use personally:

Acronis True Image Home 2010 Trial Download