Planning for potential disasters, is the first stage of a Backup Disaster Recovery Plan.  In this article we look at identifying the data that will be needed in order to speed up the recovery process.  Part of data backup planning is looking at what data exists, where it is located and how it is protected. By the end of this blog you will have a much better idea on how to carry out this process in order to identify the right data to protect your business from data loss.

Background

Hopefully, your business is insured against most threats but the loss of business information is one of the biggest contributors to businesses failing.  The UK’s NCSC give some great advice to small business and backing up your data is a key part of their national campaign to protect businesses.  As an IT company we are often asked if we are able to assist in data recovery.  Most of the time this is due to the failure of a hard drive or the encryption of data after a ransomware attack.  Although it is sometimes possible to recover data it can cost hundreds and often thousands of pounds and even more frustrating is that recovery can take a long time and quite often it is not possible.

By taking time to review your entire business and where all of the data resides in your business it is possible to protect the data with backups which allow almost instant recovery with little or no cost.

What data needs backing up?

This might sound like a simple question but the answer can sometimes take a while to answer.  Each business will have its own way of “doing things” so there is no definitive answer but here are a few general rules to get you started.

Server Backup

If your business uses a server the general rule is to take a bare-metal backup.  This essentially means if the server is damaged or stolen you could get another physical box and have it up and running within a few hours.

Some people decide to back up only the files and data stored on the server and this can certainly reduce the cost of ongoing data backup.  However, in the case of a complete server failure this can leave your business vulnerable to a long and costly rebuild exercise.  A server not only has data and programs but also contains information about the computers and staff that are able to access this information.  It does this via a series of tokens which are unique to that particular setup.  Without a full server backup it would be necessary to rebuild the server, add all of the users and computers, redefine the security rules and finally setup all of the computers again so they can use the right tokens.

The bottom line is if you have a server ensure you utilise a full server backup which will protect the server setup and the data contained on it.

 

Workstations and laptops

Should computers, workstations and laptops be backed up?  This is a more complex answer as it depends on how your staff are working.  If your staff are saving documents to centralised storage such as a server, a NAS or even a cloud share such as SharePoint or Dropbox then potentially the individual computers may not need backing up.  If your staff have a habit of saving documents to their desktops, my docs or somewhere else on the physical PC then you need to have a backup in place.

Most of the time a simple file-based backup would work for these computers but beware of programs that are generating data for your business (see below)

 

Cloud Storage

Cloud Storage has revolutionised the way that businesses work by removing the requirement to invest in complex and expensive centralised storage.  However, unless you are paying for a specific backup system there is a high probability that all of this data is unprotected.

It is true that many cloud providers have your data stored in several locations and as such this is protecting the data from a specific failure. Namely a failure of the cloud hardware.  However, it does not necessarily protect data from a ransomware attack which would encrypt everything.

Cloud based storage is easy and simple to backup and having a copy stored in a second location will protect the data from all potential losses.

Cyber Security Concept

Email backup

You may be surprised to find out that unless you are paying for a specific backup, your emails are not protected.  Microsoft for instance does not backup Office 365 emails, calendars, tasks etc.  As a business you are probably more dependent on email correspondence than you realise.  How many customer and supplier contracts and agreements are stored in your email folders?  Do you have copies of these anywhere else?

Once again backing up this data should not be too difficult and whilst you are arranging it you may as well ensure data is retained for 10 years as well.  This means if a member of staff deletes information that you later need to rely on it is possible to recover individual emails right through to entire mailboxes.  For businesses that are regulated (IFAs, mortgage brokers and solicitors for example) the retention of data for a specified period of time may be part of the regulation.  For limited businesses, HMRC expects evidence to be retained for 6 years from end of the accounting period.  To be on the safe side I would always recommend 10 years.

 

Data generated from programs or applications

One of the areas often overlooked is data generated from programs that your business uses.  For instance a CRM, Sage, Quickbooks, customized databases etc.

These types of programs are made up of two parts: the actual application which you install and data which you input into the program.  For some programs a single file or folder is generated and as long as you have a copy of this then it would be possible to restore your program to a working state on another device.

Other programs have data stored in multiple files in multiple locations and they will often have an inbuilt backup utility.  This utility will generate a single file which can be used to recover your data in the case of a failure.

The important thing to note is that where this data is located is often “buried” and you will need to either ensure the entire machine is backed up or that this location is included in the backup schedule.  Backing up the file produced by the programs “inbuilt backup” is the key to easily recovering your precious data.

 

Next blog

Now the data has been identified the question is, what is the best way to back it up?  Next time we will look at the differences between onsite and offsite backups as well as how the method you choose will determine the speed of your recovery.

How can I get help

A good IT support company will be able to assist you with planning for a disaster.  If you would like us to check through your IT disaster planning document we have engineers available.

 

What next?

If your business would like to talk about planning for disasters or secure data storage then fill out our contact form, phone us or click on the appointment button below and lets start a conversation to see if we are able to help you and your business.

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