What would we do without our employees? They keep our business running smoothly and our customers’ content. One thing they also do is lose our valuable data. Every so often a call comes in that goes something like this.

Hey Tom. I’m not sure what happened but a very important document that I use on a regular basis is gone. It has a lot or important stuff in it that would take me a very long time to replicate, and I’m not sure I could get it back completely the way it was.

OK, when was the last time you used it?

I believe it was a month or so ago. I’m not the only one that makes changes to it but nobody else can find it either.

OK, so I think you get the point. So…how are you performing this crucial part of your IT preparedness?

Backing up data, whether it’s personal or corporate can take many forms. Is the file created once and never modified? If it’s modified over time do you care or do you only need the most recent version? Are you backing up any type of database? Is your email stored locally or in the cloud? Do you need that backed up? (if it’s in the cloud it’s not being backed up 99% of the time) Where are your backups being stored? How often are backups performed?

For many businesses backing up the most recent version doesn’t work, plus they have a database or two that needs to be included. If they have their email in the cloud most assume that Gmail, GoDaddy or Office 365 is keeping backups. They’d be wrong. Although the sales representative may initially tell you a backup is being done, when pressed for more information they’ll tell you it’s more of a cursory backup for the last 30 days and you shouldn’t depend on it but perform some type of backup yourself if you need one.

Let’s go back to the phone call. We have a client with a missing file that only has a partial name, modified by multiple employees and not clear when it was last accessed. Your backup strategy needs to make sure it covers those bullet points. Searching with a partial name isn’t a problem for most if not all backup applications. Where you tend to run into issues is when you determine that you need the version that was backed up 2 months ago. This is where version control comes into play. It allows you to choose which version you want and ignore restoring anything else.

Now, what about the email? If you’re downloading all the email to local desktops the backup can be performed from there. If not, then an application that has the ability to connect in to your email provider and perform a cloud backup is required. For those of you that may have read last months article on HIPAA and PCI compliance, this would be part of that structure.

Lastly, we’ll talk briefly on another type of backup. A system image backup. Many companies of all sizes depend on their access to the data stored on their servers. If a file is lost, we do a recovery of that file…simple. What if the computer or server it’s installed on crashes? What if not only is data stored on the server or system but database applications accessed by multiple employees is as well? Purchasing new hardware and possibly having to reinstall an operating system plus all the applications, and then the data is not a process that typically happens in a day or two. How long can your business and office run if those systems are down? A few days? A week? For most businesses anything past a day starts to get expensive.

The solution is called a system image backup. In this scenario you have a separate piece of hardware that performs the backup of all your data. This hardware is designed so that if your system fails you can temporarily turn it (the backup device), into your system, giving access to your data and databases within a matter of hours. Your employees continue to work as normal while the new hardware is ordered and replaced as needed. At that point you transition back to your “new” system by performing a complete restore from the backup device and off you go.

I’ve highlighted all the bullet points you should need in order to begin strategizing if and where you need to consider making changes as needed for yourselves. As always feel free to contact me with any questions.


Tom owns and runs Parsec Systems Inc., an IT support and consulting company that’s been providing service in the Boston area since 2003. He can be reached at tom@parsecsystems.netfor questions and comments.