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Planned resilience: Creating a backup and recovery strategy

Nobody should be Googling "how to restore from backup" after a power outage.

If you've ever accidentally deleted a file, experienced a power outage, had a server crash, or any other "data disaster," then you know how important having a reliable backup and disaster recovery plan can be. Research has found that more than 90 percent of companies without a disaster recovery plan were forced to close within a year of experiencing a catastrophic event.

Planning is the first step to being prepared for a disaster. Nobody should be Googling "how to restore from backup" after a power outage. 

Backing up data can be time-consuming, though, and small businesses often don't have the time to perform large backups that may take many hours and impact application performance. Backup in hybrid and multi-cloud environments can also be complex, because data may reside in numerous locations. Integrating information from virtualized environments and on-premises servers is a third challenge. 

One strategy is to connect with a trusted partner. For example, Dell offers cloud data backup that helps organizations of all sizes protect their data and improve resiliency. 

Whether you do it yourself or use a solution provider, put your plans in place now and test them regularly. Among the questions your data backup plan should address:

  • What data should be backed up?
  • How often?
  • How do we recover from backup?

What gets backed up?

A business needs to determine how much data it is willing to lose, referred to as the recovery point objective (RPO). In other words, if your systems fail Tuesday but your last backup was performed over the weekend, can you move forward without Monday's data? 

For most businesses, sales and revenue data, profit and loss statements, financial documents, expense reports, and invoices are among the most critical information to back up. Don't forget payroll information, such as employment tax, salary records, and pension/profit sharing plans. A general rule of thumb is that if the IRS recommends saving a specific piece of information for seven years, back it up.

In addition, personnel records require backup. Everything from commendations to salary information to employee injury data should be included.

Marketing material should be protected, as well as business strategy, product roadmaps and research, insurance policies, and property documents. It's likely that these aren't going to change much from day to day; backing them up every week may suffice.

When is a backup performed? 

Ideally, at a small company in which computers are used frequently and documents and data change daily, a backup should occur every 24 hours. No one wants to spend time and effort replacing lost work, so use automatic software that handles the task on a scheduled basis. Backing up during the overnight hours virtually guarantees that network resources are available and reduces the risk of disruption.

Although you'll want to keep most of these backups on-site or on a network for easy access, you should also have copies available in a more secure, off-site location. Using offsite data storage provides reassurance that the risk of catastrophic data loss is virtually zero.

Generally, data backed up to a cloud service is encrypted, and accounts are protected by personal security codes or passwords, assuring you of a secure environment. These backup services may also perform integrity checks to be certain that the saved information can be restored when needed, whether that is following an act of nature or by a careless employee who accidentally deleted all of last night's sales data. SMBs avoid capital expenses when using SaaS, as these services are delivered on a subscription basis. 

PowerProtect Cloud Snapshot Manager, for example, is a software-as-a-service component of Dell EMC PowerProtect Data Manager. It uses snapshot technology (backing up a full 'image' of a server, the application running on it, and its data) to protect a business's critical data and servers in the cloud. 

How to recover data 

If you have your backups on network-connected storage or even a removable drive, restoration may be as easy as copying data back to where it belongs. 

Cloud backup means your server's files have been copied to a server in a different physical location. Chances are, you saved that information using a web browser or your service provider's control panel, and you'll retrieve it the same way. Generally, data is restored to the original location, although an alternative can be indicated if the original is damaged or destroyed.

While determining what data to include in your backups, don't forget to backup the disaster recovery and business continuity plans that outline how to get the business running after a catastrophe. This is the playbook that details and prioritizes all the steps for restoring records and recovering the business. As we said, take the time when you're not in crisis mode to test the plan

Backing up your data is like investing in an insurance policy for your small business. You may never need it, but when you do, it's a relief that you made the investment. 

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