Backup – What do I need?

Deciding on a backup solution to make sure your critical information, think of your data as digital assets, is recoverable in the event of some type of failure could be one of the most important business decisions you can make. Knowing your risks of how much downtime should I expect and how much information could I lose is vital.

Recently I had a client call me looking for ways to reduce his IT expenses (see my post Cutting Costs out of IT) and was also faced with having to replace his tape backup system that was no longer big enough to get the job done. I pleaded with the employee that was assigned this task to not make the decision he was leaning towards but it was too tempting and he did. It was cheaper, no major upfront investments and it was automated. He signed up for an offsite backup solution that would be around $100 per month. Sounds like a great decision, right!?

Let’s review the questions to ask yourself, I’m speaking to the person that owns this data. If you don’t own the data then you should absolutely get this person involved in this decision. You will want the data owner to have a clear understanding of what the risks vs rewards will be.


1. Is this process automated or is it dependent on someone remembering to rotate media (tapes / hard drives)?

2. If data is lost or deleted at what point will it be gone forever? (example: if you have 5 tapes/discs that you rotate and overwrite on a daily basis you will only have one week to go back in time to recover information, after that the media will be overwritten and the information will be lost forever.

3. How is the information being transferred or moved off-site? How often?

4. How often will you test the backup to make sure you can recover? How long will the test take (this will demonstrate your downtime in a real event)? Is this easily done and how often should we test it?

Often times when I’m reviewing this topic with organizations the value of the information or the length of down-time is challenged. I hear comments like “Our data isn’t that important” or “We can be down for several days without a problem” or ” We haven’t ever had a problem so why worry about it now”. Don’t make this mistake, don’t under value your data and don’t delegate your decision because you aren’t interested, don’t understand or don’t have the time to get involved.


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