The Best Way To Prepare For The Worst

Disaster recovery has its own urban myth. It appears in different forms, but it runs something like this:
  1. ”70 percent of companies go out of business after a major data loss.”

The statistic is attributed (when it is attributed) to various sources. Sometimes it’s the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) in the US or it might be the former Department of Trade and Industry in the UK.

Although the statistic is not correct — or at least there is no source for it — the question it poses warrants pause for thought. How much would losing data cost you? How many days could your business last? And what would the long-term effects be?

The best answer you could give to questions about data loss

The best answer you could give is that it does not matter because no disaster will take you offline. You have a well-thought-out disaster recovery plan, and you are executing on it.

Putting your plan to the test

A quick test should put your mind at ease or give you some action points to make changes.

1. Check your backups

It has happened: a great backup plan, backups taken on schedule, everything seemingly bulletproof until the backups were found to be empty.

Try not to rely on the automated email claiming “success”. Look at how long the backup ran, how much data it captured and whether anything is different from what you're used to seeing.

2. Review annually

At least once a year ask if you’re backing up everything you should be. And could the process be easier? Do you have a business continuity plan in place? Picturing your workforce with nothing to do and your customers unable to order is a motivating reason to spend some time on these questions.

3. Consider your storage options

Onsite backups allow for the swiftest data retrieval. They are also vulnerable to the same threats as your primary systems. Thieves, for instance, are unlikely to take pity and leave backup hardware behind. Fire and flood are equally heartless.

Your backup plan needs to involve another site or the cloud. The best backup plans include both because there are pros and cons to each. A natural disaster in your area might take out your offsite backups in the same town. More simply, people — the weakest link in any IT system — can forget to take the backups offsite.

Cloud backup can be automated, but it can take days (or more) to retrieve significant amounts of data. But do not use that as an excuse to backup selectively to the cloud. You still need everything backed up — operating system, programs, and data.

4. Test those backups

What is the least accessible, hardest to test backup you have? Take that and test it at least once a year.