Disaster Recovery

We can design and, if required, manage a disaster recovery system for you.

When a disaster strikes - like your laptop being stolen, your hard drive crashing or a major virus infection - are you able to quickly recover your computing functionality without severe disruption to your business?    Backups can usually be automated so it it almost becomes an invisible part of the business process, but they also need to be regularly audited and documented to ensure they are performing how it should be and is being kept up with changes in your business. 

Large businesses can employ full time IT staff who can handle the backup and disaster recovery process.  The process can be simplified by using sophisticated backup and synchronisation tools, and storing data on centralised file, database and email servers which a re backed up over night, or transparently during the day.  Most PCs will use standard disk images and hardware so an entire PC can be recovered  quickly. Backups and recovery becomes almost invisible to the end user.

In contrast, small businesses, and mobile staff often have their data scattered over one or more PCs or laptops.   Backups  often become the responsibility of the laptop or PC user, and are often neglected because they are not simple to do.  Sometimes data is saved to or synchronised with a file server that is then backed up.  Hardware and software is usually not standardised, so if a computer does fail it can take a day or two to reinstall and reconfigure all the software, let alone fixing any hardware issues.

When designing a backup and disaster recovery system for your small business ask yourself the following questions:

Is my backup system easy to use?
A laptop or standalone PC backup should be as simple as plugging in a USB drive and clicking the option to backup.  If connected to a file server on a network, data synchronisation or backup can be done almost invisibly in the background.

Am I backing up all my important data?
Many programs place their data files in default locations that are not obvious.  For example, MS Outlook places its data files under 'Documents and Settings' by default.  Some programs place their data files under the program folder by default.  Another thing to consider is if your backup system can back up files that are in use.  Not all  backup programs can backup data files , such as MS Outlook, MS Exchange, or database files, while they are being used.

Should I be taking disk image backups?
Reinstalling the operating system and all programs onto a PC or laptop from scratch can take a day or two.  A disk image backup will allow the operating system and all programs and settings to be recovered quickly. The occasions where a disk image is useful include recovering from a severe virus infection,  recovering from a hard drive failure, and doing a clean reinstall when Windows starts running slow due to accumulated changes.  The main limitation of a disk image backup is that the image cannot be restored to a different PC or Laptop unless the motherboard is the same as the original.  To minimise the size of a disk image backup it is usually recommended that the hard drive is formatted into two drives: one (usually the C: drive) holds the operating system and programs, the other drive (usually D:) holds the data that is backed up with the normal system.  The best time to take the disk image backup is just after the operating system and all the major programs have been freshly installed on the PC or Laptop.  Some disk image programs allow differential backups to be taken as new programs are installed.

Am I backing up my data frequently enough?

Most importantly, determine how much data can you can afford to loose before it would have a severe impact on your business. For some data it could be a weeks worth, for others, it could be an hours worth of data.  Use this as the basis for planning a backup strategy.

Do I want to keep archive copies of my data?
Do you need to keep old copies of your data files going back months, or years?

Is my backup taking too long?

If it takes a long time to back up your data it could be because you are not using the most appropriate backup media, or not using the the optimum backup technique.

Can I recover my data?
There are several things to consider:
  • has my backup system actually backed up all the data I expected it to?  For example, if the backup system hits a problem during the backup process does it attempt to back up the problem file again or is it simply skipped?  Are skipped files or access issues logged, and are those logs checked.
  • does my backup media still retain data?  Tapes, CDs, DVD, hard drives, and USB sticks all have finite lives and have to be replaced eventually.  Not testing or replacing your media on a regular basis can lead to corrupted backup data.
  • does my recovery process work? Is the data recovery tested on a regular basis by restoring data back to the original, or a new, location and tested to be sure the data is usable?.
Backups need to be periodically auditedto ensure the data on them can be recovered.  If the data cannot be recovered you may as well not be doing backups.

Can I continue working if my computer fails or is stolen?
It is useful to have a spare computer in case your main computer fails.  Since its purpose is just to tide you over until your main computer is functioning again it does not need to be modern.  Often it can be the home computer or even the kids computer.  The important thing is to make sure you can recover your data from backup and continue working.  Emails and calendar data  can often be saved online, such as through Google services.

Disaster recovery means ensuring you have the backups and systems in place so you business is not unduly affected should the worst happen.  Think of it as being equivalent to insurance.  You may not need to rely on your backup systems, but it is prudent to have them.