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System Backup Procedures

Most companies today rely heavily on their computer systems, but often their methods to backup this data are flawed or non-existent, especially in small and medium sized businesses. Losing even a week’s worth of data could be extremely costly, time consuming, and possibly difficult or impossible to recover from. This paper outlines some methods you can use to protect your important data and ensure that even a simple hard drive failure can be recovered from quickly.

Backup frequency
The first thing that a company needs to decide is how frequently to perform data backups. Smaller companies may only require daily or, in rare cases, weekly backups. Larger companies may want to look at system backups twice a day.

In order to determine how often a backup should be performed, a company needs to determine at which point loss of data would move beyond being a nuisance to a severe problem. Would losing a day’s worth of order entry, production, shipping, billing, text documents, e-mail, etc. be devastating to your business?

Backup method
Many businesses that perform scheduled backups perform their backup, and then the next time they perform the backup it goes to exactly the same media and overwrites the previous backup. If you follow this routine it is better than having no backup at all, but there are two reasons why this process is incorrect.

A proper backup procedure preserves your backups for as long as you feel necessary. This is known as a cyclical or rolling backup. An example of this type of backup could consist of the following features.

Your own situation may dictate that you alter these procedures. For example, you may find that you need to keep all the weekly backups as well as the monthly backups. This would require 56 sets of labeled media (4 daily media, 40 weekly media, and 12 monthly media – 58 sets of media are required if you perform Saturday and Sunday backups). Or you may not want to overwrite any of your backups during the year, in which case you would need 365 sets of labeled media (366 in a leap year) if you have Saturday and Sunday backups.

Backup storage
Backups should never be stored at any location where the backup was performed. For example, if there were a fire at your company and you had stored your backups locally, it is likely that both the original data and the backup media would be lost.

If your company has more than one office and each one performs their own backups to different media, they could possibly do an exchange and store each other’s media. The best option for many companies is to locate a company that provides off-site backup storage and use them for this purpose. Another option is to perform online backups using an internet based company.

No matter where you store your backups, make sure that the location is secure and that a third party could not easily access your backup data, even if it were to fall into the wrong hands. Password protection for your backups, if that is an option in your backup software, and/or encryption of the data will help safeguard your company’s valuable information.

Backup media
There are several options for backup media. The one you choose will depend on factors such as your company’s budget, the company’s system landscape, and the storage options available to your company. Some of the options are listed below.

Some of the factors a company should consider when choosing backup media are listed below.

The following table compares the various factors for different backup media.

  Durability Speed Cost Capacity Reliability Portability Comments
CD 3 3 3 1 1 3 Not advisable to use due to their low reliability
DVD 3 3 3 1 1 3 Not advisable to use due to their low reliability
Tape 2 1 1 3 3 1 Best choice due to their high reliability
External hard drive 2 2 2 3 2 3 If you are not using a tape backup, use this method
USB flash drive 1 2 2 2 2 3 Seem to experience failures over time, so not advisable to use
Online backup 3 2 2 3 2 3 If you choose this method, investigate any security concerns very carefully

What files to backup
A general rule of thumb is if it cannot be reloaded from some other source, it should be backed up. This means that there is no reason to backup software or your operating system, which could be reinstalled from their original source. Documents, multimedia files, e-mail, downloads, and other files that cannot be recovered from an original source should be part of your backup strategy.

Disaster Planning
Hopefully you will never need to use your backup to recover files, but it pays to be prepared for this possibility. Create a plan that outlines the following points.

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