The word “priceless” comes to mind, every time I think of a backup. It only takes a few minutes and can save you so much time and effort. It’s easy enough to setup a nightly backup of SQL and your server. If you only backup your SQL Database and your Syspro7\Work, Data and Base\settings folders that is enough for us to get you back up and running.
If ever anyone is working on the database itself then always take a backup beforehand. This is a good habit and if it is not needed then simply delete it to make more space but if it is needed you will thank your lucky stars.
If you are ever in doubt about the need to backup consider the following statistics:
- 93% of companies that lost their data center for 10 days or more filed for bankruptcy within one year of the disaster.[i]
- 30% of all businesses that have a major fire and lose access to their servers/data go out of business within a year. 70% fail within five years.[ii]
- 7 out of 10 small firms that experience a major data loss go out of business within a year.[iii]
- 94% of companies suffering from a catastrophic data loss do not survive:
- 43% never reopen
- 51% close within two years.[iv]
There you have it – proof that being fanatical about backup is a sensible business decision. Now let’s go a little deeper.
Review and Improve Your Backup/Restore Processes
For a process so critically important to a BCP (‘business continuity plan’...you do have one, don’t you?), it’s surprising how seldom backup systems are reviewed and tested. A backup is often treated like insurance – purchased and forgotten until needed. Unlike insurance, however, the responsibility for its eventual efficacy rests entirely on you.
These are a few of the questions I ask my clients about their company backup procedures:
- Is your backup system in line with your current IT strategy and infrastructure?
- Are your backup storage facilities (both onsite and remote) safe from fire, flood, earthquake, theft, sabotage, etc.?
- Do backups performed outside of business hours include all of your current and upcoming projects?
- In the event of hardware failure, is your standby IT equipment sufficient to resume operations?
- If backups are stored remotely, will the time required to access them have a significant impact on your RTO? (If you don’t know what RTO is, read on!)
RTO and RPO – Test and Review
RTO (Recovery Time Objective) is a measure of how quickly you need a post-disaster data restore to happen. Will your business survive without data for a week? A day? An hour? Set your RTO accordingly. Then test it to make sure that your requirements are achievable.
Your RPO (Recovery Point Objective) may be an equally important metric: how far back in time does your restore need to reach? It could take a long time to get all your data back in working order – longer than your RTO allows. If you set your RPO to 12 months, you might miss your RTO, default on key contracts, and find yourself filing for bankruptcy. A pragmatic decision needs to be made. If you can keep your business up and running with the last 24 hours’ worth of data, then your RPO should be set accordingly.
It’s important to regularly review your RTO/RPO. An agile company in a competitive economy is a dynamic entity. In consequence, you should regularly review your RTO and RPO, which need to be treated as important and dynamic parameters.
How certain are you that RTO and RPO can be achieved? To answer that question, you should standardise a regular ‘quality test’ for your backup systems. It’s important to remember that innocuous-seeming changes in operations/hardware/contracts/personnel may significantly alter the parameters of your RTO and RPO, which may in turn necessitate changes to your backup procedures (and possibly storage media).
Documentation and Verification
If you want your RTO to succeed, it’s an exceptionally good idea to maintain proper documentation, such as media labels, logs and catalogs. All of your onsite backup media should be properly labeled and stored. It’s no good having a 48 hour RTO if it takes your IT people three days to find and sort through the tapes.
It’s also important to conduct verification operations after each backup and restore. A verification operation compares the files on your system to the files on the backup media. This ensures that all your files and applications are properly synced.
I hope this helps you clear the cobwebs out of your backup closet (perhaps you’ll find a forgotten box of tissues, or a bottle of Chardonnay). In my next blog, I’ll discuss cloud versus on-premises solutions – what’s the optimal backup strategy for you?
[i] National Archives & Records Administration, Washington, DC.
[ii] Home Office Computing Magazine
[iii] DTI/Price Waterhouse Coopers
[iv] University of Texas study on catastrophic data loss