It’s 1:15PM on a Friday, and you’re on a call with a prospect who wants to make an appointment to meet with you. You open your Contact Management program, which doubles as your inventory and billing solution, and suddenly your computer starts acting really funny. You maintain your cool with the prospect as you reach for the mouse, give it a shake, and nothing…
You initiate a diversionary conversation as you look at the power button and measure whether your should give it a push. Another shake of the mouse, a deep breath, and the long slow push.
The screen goes dark, and then that familiar Startup image flashes on it. The computer finally gets to a point where you can enter your password. Something still doesn’t feel right, the PC is behaving sluggishly. It gets to the Desktop, and there’s a message you’ve never seen before: all of your files have been encrypted and someone wants you to pay a ransom to get them back! What the – ?!?!
The prospect says something else, but you don’t really hear it. Your eyes are dancing all over the screen looking for your stuff, only to find that it’s gone! Shifting focus back onto the prospect, you say you’ve got a couple things going on and would like to check back later, ask for a number, and after a few more friendly statements, you hang up and start cursing.
If you’ve never experienced this, count yourself lucky that you’ve never encountered a cryptolocker virus. This nasty little piece of code affects all Microsoft Office documents, PDF files and related content., rendering them unreadable. Some are nasty enough that they rename your files to something unintelligible, leaving you guessing as to where they went.
Your only recourse: hours of hunting for the virus while in Safe Mode, eliminating that, and then – get out your backups…
Backups, you ask? Now, we’re in trouble.
Whether your business is large or small, you know how utterly reliant on technology you are to help you run it, or soon will be once someone takes it away from you.
Whether your business is large or small, you know how utterly reliant on technology you are to help you run it, or soon will be once someone takes it away from you. Any impact to your business can be classified as a disaster. It represents a break in the flow of your revenue stream, and given how tightly we manage our time and resources to eke out a profit, we realize there’s no room for a broken computer or a lost database. This is why Disaster Recovery has become so important to even the smallest of businesses.
Unfortunately, there’s no Silver Bullet to resolve everyone’s unique circumstances. Disaster Recovery solutions encompass the various aspects that make up a business’ computer environment, which include backups of your crucial files, a robust infrastructure that houses mission critical applications, and security mechanisms to protect points of entry. Your best bet is the adoption of a comprehensive strategy that addresses all of these aspects and incorporates solutions into a Disaster Recovery program for your business.
In this article, we will discuss the first of the three aspects. Additional articles for the remaining two will be posted shortly. A link to those articles will be posted here.
It’s crucial that you back up your files and databases for safe keeping, this goes without saying. But I’d be willing to bet that you would not be surprised if I told you that there are still times when I see just the opposite taking place. In fact, I’m sure there are a lot of you nodding in agreement with me right now, just thinking about your own environment. Heck, the computer on which I’m writing this blog isn’t protected, and I’m shaking my head just thinking about what if I lost everything on it.
Backup strategies don’t have to be complicated to be effective. Even something as simple as copying your key documents to a thumb drive constitutes a backup – although I wouldn’t recommend it for security reasons, which I’ll get into later. To be effective, a backup must make its way onto some kind of “removable” media, away from where it’s normally kept. This is the best way to ensure you can recover them after you’ve lost your normal storage location, which will happen, it’s just a matter of time.
In a business environment, your backup strategy must consider the following aspects:
- The tools used must be effective and reliable;
- The backup and recovery methods should not take a rocket scientist to figure out;
- I should not have to jump through hoops to get my data back;
- I should be able to restore my stuff to anywhere I want, and do it quickly;
- I should be able to trust that my data is safe where ever I store it.
Effectivity & Reliability
This one is simple: when I run a backup of my data, it should back up what I tell it, and do it like that every time. If I want it to run daily, it better run daily. If I want an alert to tell me everything’s okay, or worse, something’s not okay, I want it to send me one. Anything that doesn’t provide me this is just junk and not worth my time.
Ease of Use
Backup applications and utilities that are easy to use improve efficiencies and make it easier for non-technical personnel to step in and perform technical tasks, such as emergency file restores, when guided by IT folks or DR procedures. Let’s face it, there will be times when you’re going to need to restore something. Having an application you can walk somebody through is a huge advantage when you can’t be there to do it yourself.
Where you store your backups and how you access them will become very important when you first go to restore something you’ve lost. During a recent emergency, I tried to restore some files from one of those “cloud” providers. It was a frustrating experience. There were no date-stamped catalogs I could browse and the junky files I didn’t want were also in the repository. What complicated matters was the 768Kbps speed at which I was browsing the data store – side note: the speed of your Internet access is a HUGE factor when using cloud-based backups; don’t overlook it when considering this type of solution.
When I saw an icon on the desktop for a local backup solution, I tried it out and found that it was still in use – lots of date stamped catalogs, including one for the day I needed to use to restore the files. The interface was fairly intuitive, but it would not allow me to browse and select files from different directories to be restored. This meant lots a tiny backup jobs, and lots of repetition. Not fun…
After considering the options, I ended up using the local backups over the cloud backups to get the files restored. Using the catalog to get the data back was easier, but perhaps I’m just showing my age.
Now, I’m sure I could have retrieved the files I needed from the cloud provider; after all, what good would they be if you couldn’t get your stuff back. Full disclosure: this was my first outing with the cloud-based solution, and I didn’t go looking for instructions on how to use the product correctly (remember the Internet speed comment?); this was during normal business hours with customers in the lobby, and I was in mission critical restore mode. I opted to use what I perceived to be a fairly intuitive interface to initiate the restore. That one was on me, although I could potentially refer you back to the previous sub-heading…
The point of this topic is pretty straight forward: when restoring files, you’re going to want the ability to restore your stuff to a location that is different from the original one.
When considering the critical nature of our data, the last thing we want to do is lose it by overwriting it with an older copy. Yes, backup solutions do offer, almost all by default, an option to not overwrite existing data, but that’s not the point. When I want to compare two files, it would be nice to restore an older version to some other place so I can open it up and compare it to the questionable one.
And yes, I understand I can restore a file as a “copy” of the existing one using certain solutions, I get that, too. But when it comes time to replace an aging machine, and you want to restore your data to the new one, a redirected restore is going to make it that much easier for you.
When considering aspects to include in your backup strategy, this feature will provide tremendous benefits to you in the long run. Please be sure to keep it on your list.
This subject has become evermore important, given the events we read about in the news regarding cyber crime and identity theft. Even the smallest of businesses today store in electronic form what’s currently referred to as Non-Public, Personally Identifiable (NPPI) information: records that contain Social Security numbers of employees, company credit card information, bank records, even financial accounting data. Protecting the privacy of this information has become paramount for businesses. This includes backups.
Solutions today offer options to encrypt backup data to ensure cyber criminals can’t break into them without a key. Cloud providers put mechanisms in place that ensure the data is unreadable from the time it leaves your computer until the time you retrieve it or throw it away. Locally installed applications offer similar features as well, that include encrypting the data on hard drives or backup tapes that can’t be read until they are plugged back into the system.
There’s a lot that goes into securing your data, and it does add a layer of complexity, but unfortunately in today’s business climate, there’s too much at risk to not add such complexity. Adding features like encryption will keep your data safe regardless of where it is stored.
Our author has a masterful grasp of Enterprise-class operating systems and their relationships to the end-user. With over 25 years of demonstrated experience, he has a “hands-on” familiarity with IT infrastructures boasting High Availability and Virtualization, coupled with off-site Disaster Recovery and Business Resumption. For more information on the topic you’ve just read, or to discuss how Scott Solutions may be able to help you with your backup strategy, please feel to contact us and one of our representatives will get right back to you.