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B – Backup your data. Every year we run across a company that does not back up their data. Think of it as cheap insurance or a spare tire to keep your business going in a disaster. Or better yet, it is a chance to go back into time and get something you lost. It’s the ultimate do over button.

A – Archive your backups. The other day I overheard a cloud company say they backed up customer data and retained it for an industry average of 15 days. 15 days? I sat there wondering when that became the norm. Storing data is relatively cheap. I would suggest trying to backup every day during a month, then retain the last day of the month. Keep 12 months of backup and in December keep the final year end backup. The goal would be to have roughly 43 backups that you could go back to. Many of today’s archive systems have hybrid incremental archiving which would allow you to keep way beyond that amount with very little redundancy. In this case, more is better.

C – Check your backup. In keeping with the spirit of the blog, this one is a little out of order, but the point here is make sure you check your back up. Routinely, pick a non-essential file and restore it. One customer had a state of the art IBM back up system. Each night it ran backups, sent the administrator a list of all the files it backed up and set the status flag of the back up as complete. It wasn’t until they needed to restore from a backup that the company found out the consultant had left the device in test mode and all 30 tapes were blank. Had they tried to do a restore they would have been able to fix the mistake before it became critical.

K – Keep the backup off site. With the advances of cloud storage, this is not much of an issue anymore. But during my IT audit days, I was amazed at how many people would store tapes, CD’s or hard drives in a fire proof safe on premise. Most safes have a burn rating – it means that after that time the safe will fail, but even more important is how hot is it going to get inside that safe. Your paper documents are safe up to about 450 degrees; however, you can melt plastic at a much lower temperature. Plastic is the main component of portable media – so any place that is going to be exposed to fire means your backup could turn into a lump of melted plastic.

U – Understanding the process. All too often there is a disconnect between what is being backed up and what should be backed up. First, understand how to use the software. There is nothing worse than needing data from a backup and having to wait until someone can get it for you. Second, understand what you are backing up. Some people are only worried about data. What about the programs that read and display that data? Do you really want to go through the install and unlocking of all those programs again? What about the operating system? When that server drive lets loose, it would be nice to have a backup image of that too. Finally, understand the whole disaster plan. More about the disaster plan coming up.

P – Plan, make a disaster recovery plan. DRP for short is a science in itself. But simply put, the disaster plan is the hand book of what to do when a disaster strikes. It could be just lost data – restore from a backup - which includes a list of who to notify, who does the restore, where to get the backup data and the steps to validate it after it is done. The plan should also include checking your backup (C from above). Additionally include people who are key to a successful disaster recovery. Think of the internal people such as the IT department and the data owners. External people such as the local IT company or the 800 number for the server manufacturer. The disaster plan can be as little or as complex as you want to make it, but in the end, it is worth its weight in gold when you need it.

So, to recap – B A C K U P!

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