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Protecting your data
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Data backups are
like a car's spare tire. You never think about them until you need
them, but when you need them you REALLY, REALLY NEED them. Here's how
to create a layered protection system that will help you whether you've simply
overwritten a valuable file or lost the entire office to a flood.
By Stephen Worden / Illuminova Technical Services, (c) 2010
It can happen to you. In fact, odds are it WILL happen to you unless you take come steps to avoid the loss. The failure rate of disk drives is 100%! All hard drives eventually fail.
It stands to reason that the most complex mechanical component in a computer system is the one most likely to fail; that component is your hard drive. Think about it — "Failure" is a normal event in the life of a hard drive.
However, many of these failures are premature. The photo above shows flooding along Greenbank Road, a few miles from our office. I was on my way to a client in Hockessin, Del., on September 5, 2003, when traffic on Kirkwood Highway came to a halt. I detoured over to Greenbank Road but was stopped at the bridge over Red Clay Creek because the water level there had risen at least twenty feet completely covering the bridge. I have walked under this bridge with my kids and dog many times. To see such a vast amount of water where it had never been before was shocking.
Businesses located along the creek were wiped out. Most have since reopened. Some have not.
I spoke with the owner of one of these companies forty-five days after the flood. The company's facility had relatively minor damage but she had not been able to revive her business because all of her billing information, customer lists, direct mail database, marketing data, pricing information, accounts receivable (and all other accounting files), scheduling data, and other vital information had been stored on one company computer. She had no backups. She told me the data was unrecoverable.
Today, years later, the company is still gone. When the data was wiped out, so was the business.
I mentioned "layers" of protection. Here's what we typically do with our clients. 1) As part of our technology assessment we identify the locations of your corporate data — databases, email files, contact lists, accounting records — whatever it may be. 2) Next we build an online repository. This could be an older machine, repurposed to maintain a hot copy of your corporate data. Depending on the amount of data to be copied, several copies may be maintained. 3) An offsite copy is required for disaster recovery purposes. We are so serious about this that we built a complete remote backup service for our clients. (We don't recommend tape drives or external hard drives for a variety of reasons.)
The online repository has the same ACL's (permissions) as your regular data, except for Delete. Users may read from the repository, copy files back from the repository, but they cannot delete anything. It is accessible on your Local Area Network by all authenticated users. It is a simple way for you to recover accidentally deleted, misfiled, or misnamed documents without having to call for tech support. You just drag-and-drop the files you need back where you need them. The repository is usually updated daily.
An offsite copy of repository data is made periodically, usually weekly. You can do this with magnetic tape but using a remote backup service is a better idea. Using a remote backup service reduces hardware problems, eliminates the possibility of human error (changing tapes, etc.) and facilitates recovery in the event of a true disaster. With our remote backup service you just download your data to get it back. You can restore to the original location, or to an alternate location in the event of a true disaster.
Some clients prefer to use external hard drives for offsite storage. This is not as good as a secure, offsite data storage but it's a start. The main problems are 1) Who is responsible for rotating the external drives, 2) Being single drives (typically) they are more prone to failure than Internet-based servers, 3) In the event of a disaster, the drives would need to be located and transported to the new facility. They may have been lost, damaged, or the person caring for them may be unavailable, 4) External hard drives introduce a security risk not present when using a secure offsite backup system.
ANYTHING is better than nothing. If you don't have any backups, then go buy a big external hard drive (Maxtor OneTouch drives are fine) and get started. When you've copied your data, pack the drive back up and put it in the trunk of your car. Update the data weekly. Next, sign up for our inexpensive online backup service. Now you've got layers of protection at a very reasonable cost.
Thanks for thinking of Illuminova Technical Services. If there's anything we can do to help, kindly give us a call at (302) 737-1000.
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Copyright (c) 2010 Stephen Worden / Illuminova Technical Services.