I wonder if, whilst at school, you ever forgot about an assignment and tried the age-old excuse of "the dog ate my homework"? I recently read about someone whose cat actually ate their homework - there were pictures with cat-sized teeth marks in the shreds. Bizarre, certainly, and I would have enjoyed being a fly on the wall when they had to explain what happened…
However, if we substitute homework for crucial business data, and dog (or cat) for fire, it quickly becomes less farcical.
World Backup Day is on the 31st of March, and prompts us all to ask "what would you do if you lost everything?" For the home this might mean something like your digital photographs. Disappointing surely, but life would still carry on.
What about at work? You suddenly lose all your e-mails, project information (perhaps the stuff you were meant to keep for several years), client details, payroll data… you get the picture. We live in a day and age where that kind of loss may spell the end of the business. You might say that you have insurance in place to cover such disasters, but will that give you back your intellectual property and allow you to continue to function as a business?
All that being said, in reality most business data loss is not due to something so sudden and dramatic. The IT department often must get involved if data has been accidentally deleted, and the industry still has to contend with the ongoing rampage of malware such as Cryptolocker (a virus that will encrypt all the data it can find on your systems - and then hold you to ransom for it). A recent survey into cloud data loss revealed 32% of companies had lost data from a cloud service, and over 60% of that data was lost due to user error. Another survey suggested that 1 in 30 businesses had been hit by Cryptolocker, or a variant of it. You can do as much as you can, but ultimately you still need the failsafe of a backup.
It is worth looking at the difference between backup and disaster recovery. Backups are generally point-in-time copies that are kept for a longer period. These will protect you against accidental deletion, or malicious activity. Disaster Recovery (DR) is more about the wider provision, including processes, that you may need to ensure continuity of service in the event of a disaster. Backups are there to go back in time if you need to, but there's generally an acceptance that it may take a while to do that. DR should be there to keep the business running - or get it back up and running again as quickly as possible. It is surely the case that a business should have both.
Most people will still refer to backups as being an "on premise" facility. Cloud services have undoubtedly changed the way that we think about data storage and resilience. Office 365, for example, promises a practically unlimited amount of storage. But, did you know that this data isn't backed up in the traditional sense? Microsoft make sure to replicate the data across multiple datacentres to protect against large scale failures - but that doesn't stop you from needing to access data that was accidentally deleted several months ago; here's where you may need to consider a separate service to supplement the original.
We often suggest that businesses follow a simple 3-2-1 rule; three copies of your data, stored on two different types of media, with at least one of these being offsite. In practice this could mean that your live data is backed up on a regular basis, with a copy of the backup data being taken offsite - perhaps to tape, or a cloud service.
World Backup Day is here as a call to arms. It's there as a prompt to think about your backup and disaster recovery provisions. Here is a checklist of things to think about, if you haven't done so already:
- What do you consider as important business data?
- How often is it backed up, and how long do you keep it for?
- Where do you store your backups? Have you considered the 3-2-1 rule?
- Do you have a business-level plan for continuity in the event of a disaster?
- How will your users continue to access business systems in this plan?
- Have you recently tested your backups?
- Have you recently tested your disaster recovery provision?
Take the World Backup Day pledge: “I solemnly swear to back up my important data.” But let's go further than that - let's test those backups regularly, and make sure to review the plans for disaster recovery. You will hopefully never need to use them, but should you do - you'll know you are protected from the worst.