A business without a backup and recovery strategy is asking for trouble and taking an unnecessary risk. IT staff should never allow this to happen. There are no excuses; backups should be given as much importance as the overall protection of the organization’s network.

Imagine for a moment that one day you go to work to find that all your company data – meaning – your email, your Word and Excel documents, PDFs, databases, contact lists, accounting data, billing information, etc. – has simply vanished, permanently. Gone is everything that makes your company what it is and that has allowed it to operate and grow as a business since its inception.How will your company recover? Permanently losing data is a completely preventable disaster, all it takes is a backup and recovery strategy.

There are innumerable types of disasters that may strike your data — some are natural and some are man-made. Here are the most common reasons:

  • Hardware failure: Hard drives can have mechanical failures, develop bad sectors, or just completely stop working one day, all of which can cause your data to disappear.
  • Software failure: Operating systems crashing, software application errors, and lockups can all cause data to become damaged or corrupted, not to mention the destruction that may occur if your computer becomes infected with a computer virus.
  • Viruses:  Viruses can propagate silently from one storage device to another, and then strike to destroy data. All rewritable data is potentially vulnerable to viruses (even on Macintosh), so any hard drive data is at risk. Write-once storage, like Optical disc provides the best protection against virus.
  • Malicious damage: Your archive can be exposed to other malicious damage, either from anonymous hackers or perhaps from people targeting you personally. Any computer that is online is theoretically vulnerable to hackers, although an enterprise-level firewall can offer lots of protection. The best protection is offline, and preferably offsite, storage of backups, as well as write-once media storage.
  • Natural disasters: Floods, fires, tornadoes, and hurricanes don’t occur every day, but when they do, they tend to have quite an impact on computer components involved and the data stored within them.
  • Human error: Someone may inadvertently change or delete important data. You may even accidentally slip with the mouse yourself, perhaps permanently deleting a document when you shouldn’t have.
  • Transfer corruption: Any time data is transferred from one device to another, there is some possibility of corruption. This can be because of problems with the RAM, drive, connectors, bridgeboard, network, or cables. The best protection against transfer corruption is to transfer files with a utility that performs a validated transfer. Use of write-once media can also help to prevent transfer corruption (after the initial creation of the disc).
  • Other disasters:  Theft is a possibility, from a stranger or from someone working for you (who may be working for your competition). What is your backup plan if your computer suddenly is gone?

Although these occurrences may seem very remote to you at the moment, one of these may occur. It’s only a matter of time. If you place any value on your data, spending a small amount of time making backups will be well rewarded when you encounter one of these situations.

What kind of data does one normally need to back-up? Here are the most common:

  1. Documents: Usually located on the C: drive, My Documents is where many applications save your data by default. Back up this and any other folder you normally use to store data.
  2. Databases: These are personal information files, such as bank account or tax information, stored by programs such as Quicken or TurboTax. These files are often stored in their corresponding program folders. This may even be your list of contacts and addresses, clients and other data (like client preferences).
  3. E-mail: This is an important collection of data that many people forget to back up. It includes all of your e-mail correspondence and your address book.
  4. Favourites: This file contains all of your bookmarks.
  5. Anything you think is important: If you have data you believe to be important, then it is worth backing up. Some examples are:
  • Accounting, Financial, POS & tax files
  • Microsoft Office & database files
  • Sales and Personnel records
  • Website and Marketing files
  • Programs, Documents and Settings
  • Photos and videos which may be personal but nevertheless precious to the owner.

How do you protect your data? Electronic data can be protected by taking the following precautions:

Protect access to data

Data protection should be a part of every project’s plan for data storage.The best way to protect data, whether in written or electronic form, is by limiting access to the data.Electronic data storage offers many benefits but requires additional consideration and safeguards. Don’t make your system available to many. Have only a chosen few who will also act as additional “police.” Always have an iron-clad password that is not easy to hack (like birthdates, anniversaries, 1234567, etc).

Never store your documents on the same drive as your operating system

While most word processors will save your files in the My Documents folder, this is the worst place for them. Whether it is a virus or software failure, the majority of computer problems affect the operating system, and oftentimes the only solution is to reformat the drive and reinstall the operating system. In such an instance, everything on the drive will be lost.

Installing a second hard-drive in your computer is a relatively low cost way to take care of this problem. A second internal hard-drive will not be affected if the operating system is corrupted, and it can even be installed in another computer if you need to buy a new one; further, you’ll be surprised at how easy they are to set up.If you’re skeptical about installing a second internal drive, an excellent alternative is to buy an external hard-drive. An external drive can be attached to any computer at any time simply by plugging it into a USB or firewire port.

Protect your system

  • Keep updated anti-virus protection on every computer.
  • Maintain up-to-date versions of all software and media storage devices.
  • If your system is connected to the Internet, use a firewall.

Back up your files regularly, no matter where they’re stored

Just storing your files in a different location than your operating system isn’t enough; you need to create regular backups of your files, and let’s face it, even your back up is subject to failure: CDs get scratched, hard drives break, and floppies get erased.

It makes sense to increase your odds of being able to retrieve a file by having a second back up of it; if the data is truly important, you might even want to think about storing a backup in a fireproof vault.

Protect data integrity

  • Record the original creation date and time for files on your systems.
  • Use encryption, electronic signatures, or watermarking to keep track of authorship and changes made to data files.
  • Regularly back up electronic data files (both on and offsite) and create both hard and soft copies.

Beware of email attachments

Even if you’re certain they don’t contain viruses, email attachments can cause you to lose data. Think about it: if you receive a document with the same name as one on your drive, and your email software is set to save attachments in the same location, you run the risk of overwriting the file that’s already there. This often happens when you’re collaborating on a document and send it via email. So make sure you set your email program to save attachments in a unique location, or, barring that, make sure you think twice before saving an email attachment on your hard drive.