Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Are you backed-up?

Here's an all-too-familiar scenario. Someone calls our office and says, "Help! My system's dead." Reflexively we ask, "Are you backed-up?" Of course not; would he be calling if he was? Besides, most people do not bother with backups.

So, why do we ask? We do it to remind people that they are responsible for the mess they are in. If/when we rescue them, we become heros; they tell their friends. Round these parts, you can find more than one child named Keystone in gratitude for our work.

The pain and cost of a system failure and resulting loss of data can be substantial. Most businesses that lose their financial records, customer lists, inventory data, etc. they go out of business. But, it is only after a brush with disaster that most people seriously consider developing and implementing a backup plan.

Products exist which claim to provide "backup protection." However, too often, all they provide is a false sense of security.
  • Scheduled backups fail for all sorts of reasons. If you don't monitor the logs, you don't know when they don't happen.
  • People store important files in folders that are not included in the backup set.
  • If the backup goes up in flames with the server, you have no backup.
  • It might take a week to get new hardware to replace the failed machine, during which you are dead in the water.
  • Today's backup overwrites yesterday's so if you want to restore a version of a file from last week, you are out of luck.

So, what's the answer? Are you backed up? The best that most of us can hope for is 'maybe' or 'somewhat'. Unless you are a financial institution or other organization with DEEP pockets, it is almost impossible to be completely backed up; protected against data loss under any possible scenario.