World Backup DayMarch 31st, the last day before April Fool’s Day, is Backup Your Data Day – Don’t be an April Fool!

Those of us who live in the Midwest’s “Tornado Alley”, along with our friends and in many cases family who live along the USA’s southern and eastern seaboard, are aware of the terrible, awesome and destructive power that Nature brings with Tornadoes & Hurricanes. No one who has witnessed first hand the destruction that a twister brought to a community can ever forget! The destruction of just about everything – landmarks, utilities – can be overwhelming.

The average small business computer network consists of a server – much of the time just another PC; an uninterruptible power supply (UPS); a router/switch; cables and workstations. The business owner is usually the system administrator, with the assistance of a local “computer guru”, from the local high school. Unless the guru is very knowledgeable, it may be doubtful that they know where all the vital files to be backed up are located. For instance the location of the Microsoft e-mail files (those infamous pst files) vary from operating system to operating system and even from workstation to workstation.

“60% of companies that lose their data will shut down within 6 months of the disaster.”

“93% of companies that lost their data center for 10 days or more due to a disaster filed for bankruptcy within one year of the disaster. 50% of businesses that found themselves without data management for this same time period filed for bankruptcy immediately.” (National Archives & Records Administration in Washington)

The statistics for businesses that lose data from disasters is frightening. Consider the following…

“34% of companies fail to test their tape backups, and of those that do, 77% have found tape back-up failures.”

“Companies that aren’t able to resume operations within ten days (of a disaster hit) are not likely to survive. (Strategic Research Institute)

There is a very important concept in engineering that comes in to play – MTBF. Mean Time Between Failures is engineering-speak for “Nothing lasts forever, especially not mechanical devices with fast-moving parts.” Your computer data storage consists of mechanical hard drives. Remember that these are mechanical devices which rotate at speeds ranging from 5,400 rpm to 7,200, 10,000 or 15,000 rpm. That’s pretty fast!

The results of an informal survey shows that most businesses backup their data to an external hard drive, which is placed – thrown (?) into the trunk of an employee’s vehicle to be stored offsite. The next most popular method is to rely on a memory stick – which always seem to go missing…, followed by online backups from nationally available services (who flood the airwaves with ads). Our experience with those services is that when – when, not if – you need the data, they will provide it via the same path you used to back it up (your sloooooow DSL). Typically they will not assist you in recovery. They may provide you with articles, but the job is yours. Good luck with that!

By all means, backup your data and keep it a safe distance from your workplace or home office and in a fire-resistant, secure container. Ideally, you should be backing up your data to a remote server and have the assistance of an IT professional, who will set it up, test the backup scheme before the real thing, and be there for you when you need to restore for real.

Hopefully the IT professional of your choice will bring up the need for a disaster recovery plan. The best time to think about a disaster is before it happens.

Have a happy Backup Your Data Day!