Backups and the ‘Kermit the Frog’ effect

August 17, 2015

Arguably, the most valuable piece of a company is it’s history; the work, the records, the files. Without it, you could be in for some very problematic and serious issues. So why aren’t you taking your backups seriously?

I call them “Kermit the Frog” customers. The ones who come tearing into the office waving their arms and shouting “MY WHOLE LIFE IS ON THIS COMPUTER”. Of course having “your whole life” on a computer would generally imply that you would back it up, but unfortunately this is far too often not the case. One of the real problems with Information Technology becoming so commoditized is that people have lost their respect for computers. We expect that they will operate as smoothly and consistently as the coffeemaker or microwave. Sadly, this is often not true, and the combination of hardware failures, software corruption, and the actions of malicious software can render your data useless and irretrievable.

The real tragedy in data loss is that there are so many affordable (and usually automated) backup solutions. For home users the integrated backup software available in Windows 7, 8 and 10 is adequatefor most instances. All an end user needs is an affordable storage device, which can range from an inexpensive USB memory Stick (<$50 for a 64GB Stick), to an external hard disc (~$100 for a 1 TB) or if you have multiple computers at home you may consider a NAS (Network Attached Storage) solution that can handle up to 12TB of storage and will also provide audio and video streaming for your home network.

For Business customers the challenge becomes a little more complicated. When considering data protection one much consider several factors including:

  1. What type of data are you backing up? File and Folder backup, for example is not compatible with a “live” database like SQL.
  2. What is your tolerance for data loss? One Day? One Week? One Hour?
  3. What is your plan for disaster recovery? Do you have an offsite storage? Are your on-premises backups protected from theft or environmental damage (i.e. fireproof safe)

The primary types of backups for business can be broken down into two main categories:

  1. File / Folder backup. Backing up user’s documents, photos, etc.
  2. Disaster Recovery: Backing up of complete Operating systems and configurations.

For most small businesses the integrated backup software is suitable for file and folder backups. For larger customers or customers with larger servers or customers looking for disaster recover solutions NovaBACKUP Server from Novastor is a perfect solution. The NovaBACKUP program offers comprehensive file and image backups, bare-metal restore (including dissimilar hardware), disaster recover, and flexible options for data retention lengths. For customers with on premise Exchange or SQL applications the Business Essentials version of NovaBACK also provides backup for these applications along with more robust recovery options, including granular Exchange mailbox restoration.

These solutions are usually of a daily nature, however, and therefore the threshold for data loss can be up to a full day if the failure occurs very close to the scheduled time of the next backup. For customers that have extremely time sensitive transactions and cannot lose even a day’s worth of data there are real-time backup solutions such as StorageCraft ShadowProtect. ShadowProtect takes a sector-by-sector snapshot of your entire system in increments as small as 15 minutes. In the case of a complete failure of the system, the backup image can also be booted into a virtual machine on another computer in a matter of minutes. This would allow the operation to continue operating in the virtual environment while the hardware is repaired or replaced.

A new wrinkle in the backup world is the availability of Cloud Storage and Baas (Backup as a Service). Sensible Cloud Backup is an option to off-load the responsibility of the backup process to us.

The biggest question about Cloud based backup is “Where is my data? Sensible Cloud Backup utilizes a 100% Canadian workflow and transmits and stores your data using Advanced Encryption Standard (AES) 128 or 256 bit. The data is stored encrypted so only your key will enable decryption. We will discuss the advantages of Cloud Backup and BaaS in more detail in upcoming blogs.

So to summarize, when it comes to data loss from either hardware or software failures is it not a question of “if” but “when”. Planning and protecting your data and having a robust disaster plan goes a long way to mitigating the impact and costs of these failures. If a failed hard disc is sent to a certified data recovery company (minimum of Level 5 Clean Room) the costs run into the thousands of dollars and the data can be unavailable for over a week.

Also remember that a key part of any backup strategy is to regularly attempt to restore and test your data to ensure that they solution is operating properly and the necessary data is being backed up. We have had an instance of a new client whom was faithfully swapping out tapes in their backup drive every day. When we took them over as a client we reviewed their backup solution and discovered that the tape backup had not functioned for over a year!For most companies a test restore should be performed at least every quarter.