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Data Backup – Why Bother?

In this age of cloud services, a lot of your personal and business data is retained on remote servers. Take Facebook, or any web based mail service, for example. All your mails, contacts and history is retained there for access at any time from any device you use, anywhere in the world where you have internet access. So, is it relevant to carry out regular data backups?

The question to ask yourself is if you decide to replace your device for any reason— hardware failure, data corruption or simply an upgrade—how long will it be before you are back to work as normal? As an individual you need to examine exactly what critical data you retain and where it is.

If your only engagement with your computer is to access documents, pictures and videos, and mails— then a policy to retain this data in the cloud would be the best way forward—and yes, you could ignore a local data backup procedure.

If, however, you use your computer to produce and store data in the form of spreadsheets, documents, programs and media files, amongst others, and it is not always possible to access the internet – then backing up this data locally is essential. The easiest way to do this is to backup this data to an external drive of some sort, or to another device via a home network.

If you are an enterprise, then you really do not have any choice. Your company will no doubt be carrying out most business critical data processes via computers and the network. Lack of access to the data on the network— for even short periods of time—will almost definitely lead to a reduction of business efficiency and probable business losses.

We have all come to expect immediate business responses enabled by technology. Waiting on a quote, or company stock information, or bank details can be not only frustrating but can lose you considerable business.

However, most users do not even consider data backups until it is too late. This is where efficient systems administrators stand out. A comprehensive and efficient data backup procedure is usually invisible to most users, who will be happy to know that their recent work is readily available to them when needed.

There are a multitude of backup service providers and applications on the market, and businesses need to test these against their specific needs before committing. However, automating a corporate procedure should be the first priority – as it cuts out human error. The first step in defining your company’s backup procedure is to analyse what and where your business critical data is held on the network.

The next step is to identify the impact of the loss of this data on the daily operations. Whilst it may not be essential to have access payroll data—for example— on a day to day basis; losing access to your stock list— if you are in the wholesale or retail business—would lead to business losses.

The final step is to assess how long it would take to bring the services back online in the event of a disaster—and the only way to know this is to simulate a disaster and record downtime. Do this last step regularly, at least every 3 months, so you are very clear about what is required and how long it will take when everything grinds to a halt. This is about the only time IT staff and systems administrators become company heroes!

There are a number of different types of backup— and you need to consider what is best for you. Incremental backup is one of the most popular, where your backup is carried out in full at spaced out intervals and only changes to this data is backed up on a daily or hourly basis. Companies also use snapshot (file system imaging) applications, which take a virtual picture of your data rather than copying the complete bits. Look out for de-duplication, data mirroring and compression amongst other things. And finally consider where you wish this data to be held, in the cloud, on a remote local site using Network Attached Storage devices, or centrally in a secure environment.

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