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What Your Organization Needs to Know About Data Loss

By: Barry Utesch

Data lossMost small businesses that lose their data for more than a few days are out of business within six months.

I would suggest to you that protecting your data is the most important IT function that you need to deal with daily.  Almost all small businesses put data backup in play, but then they make the mistake of assuming it's working and that means no one is checking on it.  

We support hundreds of clients and every day we confirm that backups are working for all those clients.  On average, daily, we see three to seven percent of backups show errors, for example, if one of our clients has an exponential growth of data, this can lead to an error alert in our monitoring system and we need to look to make sure they are working properly and take corrective action if they are not.  Sometimes it’s as simple as needing a reboot, other times it is more involved. The point is that we are watching daily so that our clients don’t go days or even weeks without backups. Who at your company is watching backups daily? If you aren’t watching your backups every day you’re putting the organization at risk.  



In the case of Ransomware, if you were infected, we could restore from backup, if a server is being backed regularly. Ransomware typically enters your network via an email that a user mistakenly clicks on.  Most of these malware infected emails are so well disguised that it is easy to understand how a user can be tricked.  The ransomware infection encrypts your data so technically it isn't lost, but it is locked, and you are unable to access it until you pay.  With a full image backup, it is a simple recovery process to reach back to a time before the infection and restore from that point. 

We recently were invited in to audit a prospective client’s environment and we found that their most recent backup was more than six months old.  Nobody was checking! 

hat is your organization’s point of recovery plan? When discussing data loss there are two phrases that become extremely important. The first is recovery point objective and then the second is recovery time objective.  

Recovery Point Objective

From what point in time in the past do you need your data?  If you lost four hours of data how big of a problem would that be for your organization?  If you back up nightly at 1:00 AM to hard drives or maybe even to a tape drive, then your recovery point is 1:00 AM last night. That is the closest point in time at which you would be able to recover your data.  If you had a catastrophic failure at 5:00 PM on Tuesday evening your recovery point would be 1:00 AM Monday night, so…Tuesday, would be lost.  This may be acceptable for your organization or it may be something that you've never thought about.  Many of our clients cannot tolerate that kind of potential loss and so we have solutions in place that back-up every two hours throughout the day so that their biggest loss would be 2 hours of information.  Their recovery point is always 2 hours or less. 

Recovery Time Objective

This deals with how long does it take from the point of a catastrophe until your operational again.  For example, if you have a catastrophic failure of a server and it is not repairable, it may take several days to get replacement hardware and then another day to install the operating system the tape drive if using tape and then copying your data and reinstalling applications. Three days to get operational might be fine if you have lost your entire building but if it was a water leak that ruined the server three days might be unacceptable.  I would suggest a backup solution that provides you with a full image of your server.  With a full image, it's possible to do a “bare metal restore” which means that once the new hardware is in place the entire operating system, applications and data can be restored in one step.  This still may take hours and even days depending on the amount of data stored on the server.  If this timing is unacceptable then you may be looking at a high availability solution that enables you to recover from a catastrophe in minutes or at the most an hour.  

Some of our clients ask about online backup options because of their apparent low cost. While I don't reject these as an option I do encourage you to consider some things.  One is that your recovery time objective has the potential to be very long.  If you need to copy data down from their website, you have limited bandwidth. Even if you have 100 MB it's unlikely that they would give you 100MB of theirs and if they do it will still take hours to copy 5GB of data across a 100MB circuit.  Also, online backups are not normally image backups and so there is no ability to do a bare metal restore.  This means your recovery time objective needs to be significantly longer.  

There isn’t one backup solution that is right for all businesses and cost is always a concern. Your organization could be at a loss if you do not have backup solutions, this could cost you to lose everything. 

Need help exploring your options?  

Call Total Computer Solutions today at 336.804.8449 or click here, we can offer a no obligation review of your current solution and make recommendations on how to improve. 

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