When we ask business owners whether their data is backed up, we generally get two responses. Ten percent of the time, they have no idea. The other 90 percent of the time, they think for a moment and then say, “I think so.” The lack of confidence blows us away because backups are about so much more than a company’s data.
When most people think of a backup, they think of dormant data safely tucked away. In reality, these individual pieces aren’t just important to have stored somewhere, they’re crucial when it comes to conducting day-to-day operations.
It’s a matter of continuity — how long can your business go dark?
Certain data is essential for a business to function smoothly, including accounting data, customer data, and production, sales, and marketing data. Say, for example, that your accounting database is backed up. That’s a great start, but imagine your production environment fails. Having a backup of your accounting database is just one piece of the puzzle; if you haven’t backed up the program that uses the accounting database, you’ll be treading water until you can get a copy of your accounting program, install it somewhere, and then restore your backup. That can cost your company valuable operational time.
For e-commerce companies or organizations that must remain accessible 24/7, the price to implement these types of backups will pay for itself the moment the system shuts down and the backup takes over. Stopgaps in operation just mean lost profits, after all. Of course, in cases where downtime is less crippling for a business, a retail or off-the-shelf backup solution from a company such as Mozy, Carbonite, or any of a hundred others will probably suffice.
The Best Way to Back Up Your Business
Backing up data is important, but it’s really only the first step to protecting your business. As you focus on your own system readiness, we encourage you to pay attention to these best practices.
- Determine your company’s breakdown limitations
A practical way to assess your vulnerability is to measure the amount of time it would take your business to get back up and running when various pieces are removed. Then ask yourself how long you can afford to be down.
To protect our clients from downtime, we establish an on-site device that stores a complete copy of their entire production environment. It’s not just pieces of data — it’s the accounting program, the inventory tracker, the operating system: in short, everything in the environment.
- Maintain a virtual copy of your production environment
In the event the production environment goes down, your backup functions as a virtual copy that can be turned into a production server very quickly. Instead of days to restore a system’s functionality, our solution accomplishes the same goal in mere hours. For businesses that require 99.9 percent uptime, a hot failover redundant environment can be created so that things can be seamlessly migrated from one environment to another in order to maintain uptime with zero interruption.
- Make sure your backups are both automatic and tested
Any backup solution that requires human intervention is destined to fail. People take vacations, get sick, or just plain forget. The system should be automatic and report on itself without human intervention.
Testing those backups should also be automated. While backups can be tested manually, we have seen again and again that anything both labor intensive and non-urgent — like manually testing backups — gets pushed to the bottom of the list and will often not be done. Don’t wait to test those backups until you need them because it will already be too late.
As you consider what level of backup you need, it’s natural to have questions. Simply having a basic backup of data doesn’t guarantee your business can remain functioning when something goes wrong. If you don’t know where to start, give us a call, and we’ll help determine your backup needs.