Imagine that you’ve suffered a data loss or system failure. How would you feel? Many business executives and IT professionals can tell you that only a few things compare to that sinking feeling you get when you realize it’s time to restore from backup – because very few are really prepared.
While many SMBs say “we already have a backup solution,” the harsh reality is that most are not adequately prepared for a disaster. In fact, according to Small Business Trends, 58% of SMBs are not prepared for a data loss at all.
Through consulting with SMBs around the country and across many different industries over the past 25 years, I can attest to the fact that by the time they find this out, it’s too late. Data loss due to security breaches, system failures, human error, or natural disasters can have devastating effects on a small business. While it’s true that establishing an appropriate backup and disaster recovery solution takes some effort, it doesn’t have to be an overwhelming burden. It is well worth the time and investment to ensure that your business avoids the significant problems that can arise if you are not properly protecting your systems and data against loss.
Not sure where to start? Let’s look at some of the common mistakes organizations make regarding their existing backup solutions. If you find out you’re making them too, it’s time to up your backup and disaster recovery (BDR) game.
Mistake #1: Not understanding your business objectives
Performing a Business Impact Analysis (BIA) can help you understand your Recovery Time Objective (RTO) and Recovery Point Objective (RPO) so you can invest in the right BDR solution. Confused? Let’s translate this tech lingo into “plain English.”
The first step in evaluating any BDR solution is to understand the impact that system failures or data loss can have on your business. Ask yourself these three questions:
- What data do I need to protect?
Do you have mission-critical data such as customer records, inventory, or accounting information? Identify where this data is stored and which systems run the apps that use it.
- How much data can I afford to lose in the event of a failure?
This is your RPO. If you lost your sales transaction records, shipping data or case files that were created or updated over the last hour, how would that impact your business? What if you lost that data for a whole day, or even a week?
- How long can I afford to be down in the event of a failure?
This is your RTO. If you couldn’t process sales transactions, access inventory or get that important RFP delivered on time, how much would your business suffer? Would you lose revenue? Customers? Reputation?
Ask yourself these three questions, and use the answers to establish your goals (for example, “I need this system back up and running in 4 hours” or “I cannot lose more than 2 hours of this data”). Then you should be able to understand whether your existing BDR solution allows you to meet these goals. Don’t guess – know – how much time and how many resources it would take to restore a file, a database, and a complete server.
Mistake #2: Focusing on the backup, not the recovery
It’s called backup and disaster recovery for a reason. Yes, your data is important and you need to have it backed up. However, the real value is when the data is available to you so that you can run your business. That means you need to be able to quickly and efficiently restore failed systems and lost data to truly meet the business goals you’ve established in your Business Impact Analysis. With many traditional onsite or cloud-only backup solutions, restore time may take many hours or even days. Make sure your solution isn’t one of them.
Consider this example: Your main application server experiences a hardware failure and crashes. You contact the manufacturer, who will be there the next business day with the parts to get the server back up and running. Let’s presume the work is completed by midday the day after the failure. Now you must restore the operating system, the application files, and all the data on to that server before you can conduct business again. You are in for at least another several hours of time to complete this. At this point, you’ve been down for at least 2 days. Does that meet the business goals you established earlier? Today’s backup solutions offer advanced technology and capabilities that can get you back to business within minutes or hours, instead of days – which can translate to thousands of dollars in savings.
Mistake #3: Not protecting data offsite
Protecting your data onsite is a must, right? This makes for faster and more efficient restores of files, folders, and even complete systems. But what would happen if your entire site were impacted by a fire, flood, or other disaster? If your production systems and your backup data are in the same location, you could lose everything! Modern BDR solutions deliver automatic and secure replication of data, and in some cases complete system images, to the cloud. This ensures that your data and systems are available when you are ready to get back to work.
Mistake #4: Not actively managing your backup
Merely deploying a great BDR solution does not ensure that your business is protected over time. Backup jobs fail. Data, systems, and applications change. An effective BDR solution requires focused attention from skilled resources to configure backup jobs as needs change, monitor backup job success, resolve failures, and maintain the technology. This is a challenge for all businesses, but especially SMBs, who typically have limited IT resources. If these important functions are not addressed consistently, it can lead to failed or corrupted backups, missing backups, or other issues that can prevent you from restoring the data that you need. To solve this challenge, many SMBs are looking to outsource backup and disaster recovery to a Managed Service Provider (MSP) like TPx.
Mistake #5: Not testing restores
As I mentioned earlier, the majority of SMBs are not prepared for data loss – they only figure this out after a disaster hits and they cannot successfully restore their data. You can alleviate this concern by testing your backups ahead of time to ensure that they are recoverable. Unfortunately, fully testing backups can be a complex and expensive endeavor, which is why SMBs very rarely perform regular testing. Today’s leading backup and disaster recovery solutions address this issue by leveraging advanced technologies such as screenshot verification, which automatically boots up a backup copy of a protected server as a virtual machine on the backup appliance and takes a picture of that login screen so you know the server can be restored. That’s great peace of mind for any business executive to have!
Ensuring your business has an appropriate backup and disaster recovery solution in place should be at the top of your to-do list. Avoid these common mistakes and seek the advice of an experienced provider like TPx to help you get there.
About the Author
Joe Royer is the Product Manager for IT/Cloud services at TPx. He has 25 years of industry experience in sales, consulting, and product management for several leading MSPs.