Failure to back up brings spectre of data loss

While the Twitterati is busy comparing Sam Smith with our own Welsh singing legend Shirley Bassey after the release of the latest Bond theme, the forthcoming release of ‘Spectre’ got me thinking about its title.

The word ‘spectre’ means something unpleasant and menacing, and when I relate that to online business, one of the biggest threats all of us face is data loss.

There’s an oft-quoted statistic from the US which says “60% of business that lose their data will go out of business within six months.” Whether you agree with that statement or not, the one thing that is clear is that data loss can be massively disruptive to any business and occasionally catastrophic.

In my time in the IT industry, I’ve seen more system failures, hard disk corruption and other data loss to hardware failure than most will see in a lifetime. I’ve also seen what malicious hackers, viruses and malware can do – everything from the destruction of data, to encrypting data and literally holding it to ransom. I’ve witnessed the anguish on the faces of clients who had no backups and the relief of those that did.

So my question to you is: Do you back up your data? For the majority of small business customers and sole traders I’ve worked with, surprisingly and shockingly the answer is no. Whether you’re a small company or even a household name, there’s an assumption that if you operate online your ISP will do it for you.

However, many fail to check if this is the case. It’s more likely that the ISP will back up data only for their own system integrity purposes rather than for their customers to request restores from. Customer backup facilities are normally provided but they may well be chargeable.

Even those who do back up their data often don’t test the process very often. For many, the first time they test a restore is when there’s a problem. This is usually when they find out they weren’t backing up everything they thought they were, or that the backup tasks they were running were actually failing and what data they do have is hopelessly out of date. As a colleague often say: “Backups are good, but restores are golden.”

Ask yourself: How long can we afford to be without our data? Assuming you have a valid backup to hand a few files may take only a short time to restore, but entire systems can be another thing. I’ve seen system restores take 48 hrs+ on servers with tens of thousands of files, when inappropriate backup technologies were used. Your ISP should be able to advise you on the best strategy and solution to ensure minimum downtime should the worst happen. Sure, it’ll cost you money, but not nearly as much as you might think, and it’s an insurance policy you’d be crazy to be without.

Even if restoring from a backup only takes a couple of hours, the time it takes for your business to recover could run into days or weeks. Would it survive that?

So when you’re watching 007 this autumn, consider the spectre of data loss. Think about maintaining backups as another important insurance policy. You wouldn’t fail to insure your home, your office or your car and so it should be with your data.

Phil Parry is sales & service director at Hosting UK, which is based in St Asaph, North Wales. 

Image credit: Sean Ellis