Avoiding data disaster

Written by Lee Oliver

Just when you thought you were done making New Year’s resolutions, it’s time to make a half-dozen more. Here, courtesy of Bill Margeson, CEO of Toronto-based CBL Data Recovery Technologies Inc., are six simple resolutions to help your company avoid data disaster in the coming year.

  1. Overcome the “it couldn’t happen here” mentality

    According to Margeson, data disaster happens everywhere. “In the 11 years we’ve been in the data recovery business, we’ve seen ice storms, floods, mudslides, fires, equipment thefts, blackouts — it’s not a question of if, it’s a question of when.”

    And according to a recent study conducted by Virginia-based data disaster recovery specialists Vyant Technologies, backups fail about 40% of the time. Why? Mostly human error says Vyant vice-president Don Schrenk. “Someone forgot to put in the tapes or doesn’t set a long enough backup window.” Even worse, storage administrators often aren’t aware that a backup failed — especially in multiserver environments — until disaster strikes and they go searching for crucial data.

  2. Identify “diamonds”

    It’s obvious that you need to keep order-entry data up to date and backed-up, but many enterprises overlook the importance of safeguarding things slated for future use. “For instance,” says Margeson, “somewhere in a computer in your engineering department there are, or were, the plans for next year’s invention. Or perhaps it’s next year’s forecast stashed away on the CFO’s laptop, or source codes or whatever. We call those things ‘diamonds’. Everybody thinks about keeping the lights on, but most people forget about the diamonds.”

  3. Decentralize the responsibility

    It’s easy to think that your IT people will know what needs to be backed-up, but that’s not always the case. Would you ask your sales staff to backup for IT? Or your shippers to backup for finance? Of course not. So why assume that IT will understand what’s really important in other departments?

    Instead, spread out the responsibility by demanding, at bare minimum, a month-end backup from each department. Have each department manager identify the material, including the diamonds, that needs to be protected, and then make them responsible for the backup. “Have each person physically backup their key department data on a disc,” says Margeson, “and then make sure they store that disc in a safe, easily accessible spot. That way, each department knows exactly what has been saved, when it was last copied, and, perhaps most importantly, where that backed-up data is stored.

  4. Implement a universal backup identification system

    Once you put individuals in charge of backups they tend to name the discs according to personal style. Don’t let them. Establish a name / date / number system across the board, thus ensuring an easily navigated system.

  5. Have a backup server on site

    All the backed-up material in the world won’t do you a spot of good if you don’t have the hardware to run it. If your main server fails one morning, what do you do? The answer is to have a comparable machine on site that can do the job, even if it’s doing something else. So if the server dies, you can replace it immediately, load the backup and get back to work.

  6. Test the plan

    “We call it a fire drill,” explains Margeson. “Why wait until there is a major issue before you figure out if there are any problems with your plan?” By doing random data-restoration tests you can identify and correct shortcomings before they become disasters. “At the end of the day you need to be so confident in your backup system that you are willing to walk up to any machine, including your primary server, and pull the plug just to see what happens.”

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