Storing data from your I.T. network is something that is often just taken for granted. After all, what is the purpose of the systems we all use at work? Is it not to produce and manage information that is constantly flowing between internal and external contacts. Whether it is customer data, supplier data, marketing material, product reference material or internal employee data this material is the substance of what makes a business tick and run smoothly.
Losing access to this data quickly becomes a nightmare which has cost businesses hundreds of thousands of dollars each year. Think what would happen to your business if your accounting data including all your pricing, receivables, payables and inventory got irrepairably lost.
So data is an important part of your business and the safe management of its storage is an important part of your I.T. network strategy.
Make sure you consider all of your critical and important data. The biggest mistake that businesses make is to forget about the data that is stored on individual employees hard drives. Some companies attack this by having employees use shared hard drives on a file server to store their important data. A great solution but it does ignor the data which is stored when people use separate folders on their workstations or laptops. Consider what is being done here and put a strategy in place either to backup data files from the workstations or put strick storage rules in place forcing use of data locations being backed up daily.
Understand how long you need to keep data and manage accordingly. This step is critical in helping the IT department to manage the overall backup strategy. If data is not purged the backup just grows and grows and continues to chew up time, dollars and manpower in its management. The rule here is if the data is not need to meet government or other regulatory requirements, client support requirements or an internal business need; then get rid of it!
Put a rigorous and solid backup plan in place. It used to be ok to simply backup to tape and take one off site each week. Not anymore. With the rapid changes in data common to the modern business minimum daily backups of all key data sets are required with a copy being removed from the premises each day. Often weekly and monthly backups are also stored and taken off site for secure access.
Consider recovery time in your backup plan. As data storage quantity grows you have to consider how long it will take to restore from your backup in the event their is a system failure or a corruption of your working systems. As storage has grown into the terrabyte and multiple terrabyte range the time rebuild data bases even with fast hardware is still considerable. The most important factor here is going to be communication speed between your stored backup and the system you wish to reload onto. Because of this tape is much less prevalent with USB hard drives and off line storage replacing them.
If you are going to use off line storage over the internet to backup to a data centre then consider speed, encryption and recovery download speed as part of your equation. Often having a primary backup located on site with secure off site secondary storage is used as a way to improve the potential of recovery speed.
Look at the location where your off site data is being stored, especially if you are using a cloud based off site backup solution. For most Canadian based organizations storage in Canada is a preferred solution and you must be explicit about making sure your solution encompasses this not only for primary storage but also for any secondary backup storage the service might be using. If you are in another jurisdiction similar concerns may affect your source of provider.
Decide if data backup is all that you need. If there is a major hardware or system failure in your IT environment just having access to the data store may not be enough to meet your recovery targets. Even if you can get access and reload your data quickly, if it takes a couple of days to rebuild your servers or to recover hardware or software then you are still down for a couple of days. Most business cannot accept such delays in our increasingly fast paced transaction economy so a more sophisticated business continuity approach to data backup may be needed. With this capability your build in redundancy of the overal centralized IT infrastructure to reduce the down time protential of the whole system not just data files.
These seven considerations are the basics but the nuances of building the right solution for your business are considerable. Unfortunately there are no hard and fast structures that can guarantee a perfect data structure for your business, however with thought and understanding you can build one which is going to give you excellent protection and reduce the chance your users will have to undergo the challenges and frustrations of a major data failure.
One of the key considerations in any environment is cost and the nice part of the impact of technology is that the cost of building a secure and safe data structure is much less than you might think. There really is no need to put your operations at high risk if some basic planning is undertaken and then applied. Of course it is possible to spend many thousands on this type of work if your risk tolerance requires ultra secure operations but for the average business this is not an unmanagable expense.
How have you structured your data stores? Are the right procedures in place? Have you considered what your maximum down time could be? Will you be able to recover and meet your targets?
Photo credit: By DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA)) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons