In response to a blog I wrote on disaster recovery (DR) planning recently, Una Coleman, a bloggertone colleague asked about practical steps a SME could take in relation to rolling out a DR solution. In this post, I write about two possible approaches to ensure that a SME’s data is safely backed up and some pointers on getting access to your data in the event of a disaster.
Tape backups – the traditional approach
Traditionally, companies use backup tapes, typically on a nightly basis, to copy data from their system(s). Usually this data includes email, data files and applications data such as payroll, finance and sales information. It is important to ensure that the backup tape is stored off-site in a secure location and that doesn’t include the boot of the MD’s car ! If the tape is stored in a safe in the office, it wouldn’t be accessible, if staff cannot get access to the office in the event of an emergency. In addition to having a backup stored off-site, you can also keep a copy locally in your office for minor emergencies such as a file or email being deleted by mistake.
Rotation schedule is important
There are a range of service providers who provide tape backup services including off-site storage and if you google or bing for tape backup services, you should be able to find a number of providers. When discussing a backup plan with a service provider, there are two items to clarify;
- A tape rotation schedule which specifies for what period of time is a particular backup is stored before being over-written. A typical example would be the backups from Monday to Thursday are stored until the following Monday to Thursday where they are overwritten. Each Fridays backup is stored until the corresponding Friday in the next month and Fridays backup at the quarter end is stored until the year end or corresponding quarter end in the following year.
- The delivery options to have a backup tape returned from the provider’s secure storage to the office or another nominated location in the event of an emergency. Typically, service providers can return a tape within three hours from when a request is made.
Online backups – encrypted & secure
With the increase in broadband availability and the decrease in storage costs, service providers are now offering online backup services, where the backup is compiled, encrypted and copied across a company’s broadband connection to a secure storage location. The time taken to transfer the backup is related to the size of the backup and the speed of the broadband connection. Typically, an online backup arrangement would start with a full backup of all data and then subsequent backups being for any incremental changes.
It is more convenient than using tapes, although some companies still keep a backup tape in the office in the event of minor emergencies. The online backup service provider also provides a facility to ‘copy back’ any previous online backup if required by the SME. With online backups, a rotation schedule needs to be discussed as well, to identify how long a SME wishes to maintain a nightly, an end of week or end of quarter/year backup. To find your nearest service provider, just google/bing for online backup service.
Access to a server
Whichever backup approach you wish to use, the SME should also discuss access to a server or servers, on which the data can be restored in the event of a disaster which takes down the existing server(s) in the office. Typically, backup service providers can provide this access directly or through a partner who provides hosting facilities.
This blog is intended to cover some of the basics in relation to data backup as part of a DR solution. There are a range of additional technologies and services that I hope to elaborate on in future blogs. I would be interested to hear your experiences in relation to data backups and recovery.