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Data backups just don’t cut it anymore

Disaster recovery is more than just doing backups. It is also about quickly restoring entire systems to ensure business continuity. HERMAN VAN HEERDEN of Neworder Industries warns that data backups just don’t cut it anymore and that although most companies recognise the necessity of disaster recovery plans, some are still relying on old backup and recovery methods.

Few companies can afford to lose a day’s worth of data, let alone a month or more. Salary information, strategy documents, project information, confidential client information and even email communication lost can seriously disrupt business and cost companies money.

Although most companies recognise the necessity of disaster recovery plans and data restoration procedures, some are still relying on old backup and recovery methods that can affect the prognosis for a full recovery.

‚The method, frequency and medium used for data backups can make all the difference between a complete or no recovery from a disaster. Companies with one foot in the dark ages, when it comes to backups, and the other in ‚the now’, where there are lots of data systems at play and business moves at a frenetic pace, will struggle and take longer to get up and running again in the event of a disaster or major systems failure.

‚Disaster recovery is more than just doing backups so that data can be restored should disaster strike. Disaster recovery is also about restoring entire systems quickly to ensure business continuity. The fact is that data backups just don’t cut it anymore,‚ says Herman van Heerden of Neworder Industries, a local technology company that provides specialised enterprise risk management, IT security, virtualisation and storage solutions and services.

He says that although incremental data backups, a method on which many companies rely, may sound good enough, they’re not.

‚Companies need to question how long it will take them to restore a system, never mind a whole host of systems, if they only do data backups. A few hours might be digestible but a day is too long, and in reality it can take much longer than that. This is a waste of time, productivity and money,‚ he says.

The frequency of backups is another cause for concern. He says that some companies conduct backups once a day while others dare to walk on the wild side and only backup once a month or quarterly. Obviously, the greater the gap between backups, the greater the risk of losing bigger amounts of data.

Then there’s the medium for backups that companies use.

Tape backups were once king and some companies still use them. Inherently, tape backup software only caters for file backups and not full systems, and van Heerden says companies that have actually successfully restored from tape are few and far between. ‚Companies still using tapes for backups should switch to disk,‚ he advises.

Failure to have off-site backups is another shortfall in some companies’ disaster recovery plans. ‚Having copies of your system on the same site that your systems run is good for a quick restore if hardware crashes or software malfunctions. However, if an event like a fire or theft takes out your whole business and your backups are destroyed or stolen along with your systems, you’re in a bit of trouble. If you’re serious about disaster recovery, you should keep off-site copies of data and full systems at a secure data centre. If data is not backed up off-site, it is not backed up.

‚It is important to have stringent security measures in place to ensure the protection of your data at the off-site data centre as well. While no data centre will allow just any one into the server room, you are not exempt from hackers gaining access from outside. Your storage and servers must be secured with your own security systems. A shared firewall is like a public toilet: you can never tell when someone will leave the seat up. So own your own security,‚ he stresses.

For the best prognosis for disaster recovery, van Heerden recommends the following:

· Clones of full systems instead of file backups. Cloning is the new tape. Ideally, companies should first clone and then incremental data backups, on disk, should be done to complement system clones.

· Working backups housed on-site as well as off-site in a secured data centre.

· Secure and encrypted electronic communications between on-site and off-site storage. Industrial espionage is real, and not just a thing for late night B-rate Hollywood movies anymore.

· Data backups of differences (updates) rather than full data replicates over the wire.

· Virtualisation of systems.

· Smart planning of the use of storage systems like SANs and NASs to allow 50% of the capacity for snapshots, and the off-site backups being fed from these should be almost real time snapshots.

· Enough technology resources on standby to enable systems to get up and running again even in the event of a complete infrastructure failure or loss. Hardware for this purpose can be hired.

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