Sunday, October 31, 2010

Give Me Data or Give Me Death

TECHNOLOGY BIT:  Give Me Data or Give Me Death!

I've been in the technology industry for more than a quarter century and the most feared words I ever heard muttered were "we don't have a backup"!  Ask anyone on my staff what my biggest pet peeve is, and every single person will tell you "Data Backup".  The reason for this is because as long as I have the data, I can rebuild any system.  

You can use the analogy of blood in your body being the same as your businesses data, without it you will cease to exist...and if you find yourself facing a catastrophic system failure you may be facing the same end from a distraught bride whose "Big Day" moments have permanently lost.

Now that you know the cardinal sin, how do you avoid committing it? There are about as many ways to backup your data as there are to loose it and the price range for the solutions are just as varied.  There are onsite, offsite, remote, synchronized and the list goes on and on.  

There are a few easy questions that you can ask yourself to help narrow down the solution that would be right for you.

1)  How much data do I have now? and how much do I think it will increase over the next 3 years?
Now the first part of this question is easy to answer.  Simply look at the drive where you store your data and check the total size, subtract the available amount of space and you will get the amount of space you need to backup your existing data.  A note on this is that if you don't store your data separately from your programs that your calculation will be including the total size of programs and extras that don't need to be backed up but you'll at least know you have your data covered.

The second part of the question may not be so easily answered and is ultimately an educated guess but one you want to err on conservative side.  If you have a fairly steady process and business model, and you have your data separated by year, you can simply check to see how much data you have for the previous year and multiply that amount by 1.5 and then multiply that by 3.

Previous year data:  100GB
100GB x 1.5 = 150GB x 3 years of growth = 450GB of of storage space needed to backup your anticipated data for the next 3 years with 1.5 times the growth rate.

If you don't know then it becomes a bit more involved and you might want to consider asking our local technology professional to help you.

2)  How often does my data change?
This is important to help you determine how often you should have your data backed up.  If you are only changing things every few days then you don't have to backup every night.  Generally speaking, it is a good idea to backup every day.

3)  Should I have off-site storage or is a fireproof safe onsite good enough?
If at all possible, you want to have a copy of your data at a separate location than your main system.  If your primary location suffers a catastrophic event (fire, flood, etc.) you want to be able to get your data.  It may not always be practical so at minimum you should have an onsite storage container that protects contents from both fire and flood.

4)  What hardware should I get?
There are a ton of solutions out there for this.  One that I have found that has several options that meet most of todays small business needs is made by a company called LaCie.  They have products that range in capacity, features and costs that fit most everyone's budgets.

5)  What software should I get?
You guessed it, there are a lot of solutions here as well ranging from under $100 to several thousands of dollars.  A really nice, inexpensive solution I've had much success with in the field is called HandyBackup.  It's very inexpensive, starting at around $30 and is very easy to setup and use.

Now after you've gone and answered all of your question, you may still want to consult your local technology professional to help find the best pricing for your system.   Additionally, if you aren't comfortable with setting technology up then you should definitely contact your local technology consulting firm and have them come in and set it up and TEST it for you.  You should always perform a test backup AND RESTORE to ensure you have your system working properly.  Having a good backup means that you have to be able to retrieve data from it as well and thus needs to be tested.  Never assume that because a backup says it completed properly that all is well!

While the cost of a technology consultant may be frightening to you, the rate generally depends on the experience of the person that is performing the work.  A going rate of $125/hr for a systems engineer is a good reference point when trying to determine how much it will cost you to have a technology person install and configure your backup.  You should plan on about 2 hours of time to setup and test everything but it is a $250 well worth the piece of mind.  

I hope this has helped answer some of your questions on protecting your most valuable asset...your data!

Be sure to comment and let me know how you like this post and make suggestions on topics that you would like to know more about.

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