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How Reliable is Your Current Data Backup Strategy?

March 14, 2004

By Jennifer Walzer

In a recent survey, the National Archives and Records Administration determined that a staggering 90% of Jennifer Wallzerbusinesses that lose their critical data go out of business in less than two years. In the face of such overwhelming odds, you have to ask yourself – how reliable is your data backup system? If you lost your primary data storage, could you recover your records, or would your business become part of the 90%?

Technology has increased our reliance on computers to manage all aspects of our businesses: from simple word processing tasks, to creating award-winning multimedia presentations, to invoicing clients, computers are now central to running any successful organization.

That said, there are hazards to relying so heavily on technology. Data is now being stored in bits and bytes, typically on the same machines used to produce the data. And what has become painfully obvious is that technology is vulnerable – whether to software/hardware fallibilities, man-made issues (virus, employee error, sabotage), or natural disasters. All these threaten the vital data sitting on those machines.

Unfortunately, many companies still rely on the old technique of backing up on magnetic tape. The basic problem with storing your data on these types of media is that most of the work relies on you to make sure it gets done. Besides having to manually perform the backup each night, you also need to ensure that these tapes are being stored off-site in a cool location so that they do not oxidize.

There are other reasons why this method is not safe. If your tapes are stolen, they can easily be read on another computer since the data stored on the tapes are not encrypted. Worse, if the tapes oxidize or get a bad sector, you will never know it until you try to restore your data. This is a very common occurrence with using tapes. And although some companies have tried storing their data from one computer to another computer in their office, if you have an office fire, you can kiss your data goodbye. Gartner Group research has shown that over 40% of computer data is not being properly backed up each night.

A disaster recovery solution is not something you can implement after the fact. Once data is gone, there is minimal chance of recovery. But since computers – and by extension the data on those computers – are considered part of the IT world, many organizations assume there is already a reliable data recovery system in place. That was the general feedback I received during my discussions with the attendees of a seminar given recently by the New York Chapter of the Media Communications Association – International.

There was a consensus that data backup and recovery were important, yet many could not detail their organizations’ processes or who was responsible for the backup system. Another common theme was that focusing on data backup was not a priority, especially in the current competitive environment. Business personnel should be focused on driving revenue; to establish a system and train all personnel on that system would not make much business sense, even given the dangers associated with data loss.

And it’s exactly this requirement by businesses that is driving the huge growth in online data backup solutions. Outsourcing data backup has freed organizations to focus more on business objectives, while protecting their data. These providers offer an automated data backup and recovery service via the Internet that is secure, cost effective, available anywhere Internet access is available, and that safeguards important data off-site.

The typical setup for online data backup requires a simple software installation, scheduling of the data backups, and that’s it. The software initiates the process through three steps: 1) authenticates the user backing up or accessing the data, so as to ensure no unauthorized personnel are looking at sensitive materials; 2) identifies the data to be backed up, and the schedule by which to run the backups; 3) compresses and encrypts the data. (Compression ensures your broadband connection can handle the transfer of data; encryption prevents anyone from accessing the data without the proper passwords.)

Once the files are compressed and encrypted, they are transferred over the Internet to an off-site offsite data storage facility. The data remains encrypted once at the facility; and that facility is itself backed up to a second data center, providing added assurance that the data remains intact. Now, if you ever lose a file or experience a major data disaster, you can restore your files immediately from any computer with Internet access, with one click of your mouse. It’s as simple as that.

So how do you know if your data backup system is up to the task? Here are some basic questions you should be asking:

  • How is your data backed up (tapes, CD’s, Zip disks, etc.)?
  • Who is responsible for backing up your data?
  • How often is your data backed up?
  • Who is testing your backups to ensure the data has been captured and will restore properly?
  • If the data is stored on removable media (tapes, CD’s, Zip disks, etc.), where are they housed? How secure is the housing? Can you gain access to the media if you can’t reach your office?

The reality is that the computers in your office can and will fail…its just a matter of when it will happen. The question you have to ask yourself is – will your company be prepared when it does?

An online data backup solution can provide you with secure encryption, privacy assurance, and the ability to perform your own restores without any IT staff help. Best of all, it is available to you 24/7, which can prevent you from any lost productivity. If you are like most business oweners who are working hard to build your business but don’t really have time to deal with the nightly backups, an online data backup solution might very well be the solution for you.

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Jennifer Walzer is the founder and president of Backup My Info! She can be reached at or toll free at 866-444-BUMI.

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