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The Declining State of Data Backups

Posted May 12th, 2017 in Security, Backup and Disaster Recovery

You may have heard of bad practices for backing up your company's valuable information. Read about what you should not do.

If you look at my LinkedIn profile, you will know that I have worked in the IT business since 1992.  A lot has changed since then, but I won't go into all of that here.  I want to bring up what I see is the declining state of data backups.

In 1992, Local Area Networks were still new.  The internet was just commercialized, and email was hobbled together by using strange protocols such as UUCP (Unix to Unix Copy Protocol).  At that time I started my career with a nascent IT Value Added Reseller and was schooled in the art of IT by my colleagues and by many NetWare courses I took on the proper way to do backups.  

Back then, we used tapes, lots of them, to ensure we always had a redundant set of backups.  Tapes backups were not incredibly reliable so having multiple tape backups were necessary. 
We used a simple tape rotation scheme called Grandfather/Father/Son which was a method brought over from the mainframe

Fast forward to 2017, and now we have a lot of different ways of performing data backups.  From the next generation of tapes to removable hard drives to NAS systems and then into the Enterprise Disaster Recovery systems.  There are so many options on the market to choose.

During my career, I have walked into many new clients offices and reviewed their systems for them, and more often than not, I have to make a recommendation to do a complete overhaul on how to perform Disaster Concept. "Disaster" Red Roadsign Arrow on Blue Background..jpegtheir backups.  Many clients would not be able to properly recover from many kinds of data loss, let alone a natural disaster.  

Here is a small list of bad practices that we have come across over the years on how many companies backup their valuable corporate informaiton.

Using thumb drives.  

Most low-cost thumb drives are not the greatest quality.  There is also a finite amount of times data can be written to them.  So if you are using them over and over, it won't be long before these become corrupted.

Removable USB Hard drives.  

These seem like a good idea.  They're small, and they have high capacities.  But they are delicate.  People do not treat them well and will throw them into a back pack and carry them to the car.  The bumps and jarring can eventually cause mechanical issues.  They also leave these devices in a very hot car, or overnight in the dead of winter.....because the car IS your offsite backup..... and this may cause warping of the delicate mechanical systems inside them.  Temperature is critical, especially when you don't allow the hard drive to acclimate to the office room temperature before you start using them.

Not enough data retention

The majority of companies using these cheap methods of backups will only use 2, 3 or maybe four devices and rotate them every day, or every week.  There is simply not enough backups that go back in time.  Consider a database application.  In our experience, databases can run happily along but periodically corruption can sneak in.  This corruption may not present itself right away but only during a time when the corrupted cell is required.  If the database tools can not repair the data, it will need to be restored from backups.  Often, the corruption goes back days, weeks or even months and if you do not have enough data retention, then you have a big problem.

 

Inadequate backup software

Using purpose-built backup software is vital to make sure that everything is backed up and verified.  We have seen people just dragging and dropping files and folders into backup media, or by using shareware programs that do not integrate with database engines to take proper snapshots of the data.  Simply put, by trying to save money here you may not be backing up your data.

Lack of a plan

A disaster recovery plan.  Remember that saying? "Poor planning on your part does not constitute an emergency on mine".  Every business should have a disaster recovery plan.  It doesn't need to be a large document.  For small companies it can be as simple as saying:

  • This is how we perform backups
  • This is what is required
  • This is how we recover from this kind of data loss
  • This is how we recover from a major catastrophe
  • Here are the people to call to make this happen

And storing this in your server room, at your house and at your IT provider.

Legal firms, accounting firms, engineering firms, manufacturing, medical, high tech....it does NOT matter what your industry is.  The company you own or work will produce unique information that is invaluable to you.  It would be a tremendous problem should that data be destroyed or lost.  It is your Intellectual Property, make sure you have the kind if insurance required to protect it as you would your car, home and business.


If all of this has you questioning the state of your data backups, we would be happy to review this with you. Contact Us for a Backup Review

 

Picture of Henrique (Rique) Reis, President of Reis Information Systems

Henrique Reis

Reis Information Systems