1 Are You Prepared to Recover from a Disaster? Offsite Backup of Your Data is Essential. There was no sign of fire when our client, a podiatrist, closed the doors that Thursday night. No smoke, no smell, and certainly no alarm. Yet the fire came in the early morning hours Friday, and the damage it caused was substantial. A sprinkling system contained the fire, but also created damage of its own. Further complicating the situation was a fire department order that no one enter the building. The bottom line: In a span of a few hours, our client had lost access to virtually every piece of data the business had ever recorded. How did he respond? By opening for business bright and early Monday. Seems almost impossible, doesn't it? He and his staff had a busy weekend, to be sure. They scrambled to find new space and procure the necessary equipment. As for recovering the data, that was easy. They called Comstar. We provided all the information that would have been lost without proper backup, and helped download it to new computers in the new office. The patient information, the insurance background, the financials, the appointments all were recovered. The staff made a few phone calls to patients, informing them of the new location, and the doors opened Monday as if nothing had happened. The business survived a blow that would have been devastating, and perhaps fatal, without the proper backup. GETTING AROUND TO IT Restoring data after such events goes by several names. Some call it disaster recovery, others data recovery.
2 Whether using those terms, or one of your own, the fact is businesses need electronic backup of information. Without proper backup, there is nothing to recover. Everything can be lost. Larger companies usually have solid backup plans. They typically rely on in-house IT departments to make sure the proper processes are in place. But smaller businesses rarely have IT staffing. They outsource those duties, or have someone on-site handle various aspects of IT such as purchasing, maintenance and upgrade needs. Unfortunately, those employees rarely have solid data recovery plans (though they might think they do, which can be extremely dangerous). These staff members are not experts in backup, and often are pulled away to handle their day jobs. The data recovery plan lands on the back burner. If that fire should arrive or a flood, or a lightning strike, or a roof collapse, or a computer virus, or a disgruntled employee with an eye toward the delete button, or an incompetent employee with the same end result that lack of planning can kill the business. It sounds dramatic, yet most of us know firsthand how debilitating a loss of data can be. We have been plagued by a laptop meltdown or some other such sobering crisis. There are solutions, as the podiatrist proves. There are methods of backing up data so there can be a fire one day, and you can open for business the next. And this is where it gets really interesting there are recent advances in the data backup world that can help small and medium businesses protect themselves from tragedy at a very affordable cost. CURRENT PRACTICES Most businesses back up their data, to varied degrees of success. Sometimes they re doing a great job and need no additional help. When we run across these businesses we compliment them and are on our way.
3 However, our experience has taught us that many smaller businesses have peace of mind when they really shouldn t. If disaster struck they would be either out of business or close to it. What are some of the current backup methods these businesses typically use? Take-home backups. Some businesses back up key files to tape, DVD or a hard-drive. A manager then takes the backup offsite to his or her home, or even a safety deposit box, every week (or so, depending on when they get around to it). The problem is the lack of a process, and the reliance on people to not become complacent. Yet becoming complacent is what humans do. First, the data has to be backed up copied to that hard-drive or DVD before it can be carried offsite. This becomes a significant obstacle for most businesses. A staffer has to (a) remember to run the backups and (b) find the time. If it s a busy week, when backups are most essential, humans become stressed and forgetful. In addition, projects with urgency or billable hours likely take precedent. But, for the sake of discussion, let s assume the backup is completed. Even then the business is only halfway home. That data still has to make its way offsite. The manager has to remember, and it s been a busy week for them, too. Another concern: These backups are never 100 percent current. Valuable data and work that was created between backups is lost. The cloud. There are cookie cutter solutions to seemingly every component of web development and security. Backup is no exception. Some businesses offer inexpensive backup in the cloud. Essentially, your business can be backed up over the internet. The provider runs a program from a remote location that backs up your data. The storage is then offsite and out of harm s way if disaster strikes. Sounds good, right?
4 Yes, at first glance. But problems emerge if you take a closer look. First, where is your data? When it goes to the cloud, is it secure? This can be a very serious concern for most businesses. Bandwidth is often another problem. Your operating system can slow considerably while the backup occurs. Sometimes the national cookie-cutter companies will back up in the middle of the day, when it s most convenient for them but not so much for you. Then there s cost. The national firms that do a thorough backup can be expensive because they often back up every nugget, every time. It s how their systems work. Those that are cheaper often don t back up as thoroughly, which of course has its own significant drawbacks. Recovering the data can be problematic if disaster does strike. Your contract might state the provider need only transmit the data back to you electronically. That can take days or even weeks. Once again, your business is a slave to their preferences. THE BEST SOLUTION Knowing what NOT to do is easy, but what action can a smaller business take to protect itself and not spend a fortune in the process? There is good news. Recent technology has eliminated many of the costs and headaches traditionally associated with data backup. Your business can be as safe as any Fortune 50 company. Comstar now provides service beyond tapes and hard drives, yet at a fraction of the cost of the traditional daily duplications. The goal is to provide the necessary backup and bring value to the small businesses. How does it work? The backup is offsite, at Comstar. That eliminates the need for the owner of your company to run to the bank with a hard drive every Tuesday.
5 The backup is done online, but you know it will be secure. It s not going to the cloud, it s going to Comstar servers. It is done when you want. No slowing down your business in the middle of the day with huge file downloads. Those are nice features, to be sure. Yet cost might be the biggest benefit. The service utilizes technology that backs up only what you want and only what has changed. That means you don t pay for a system to reinvent the backup wheel every week. Comstar software assesses the changes made between backups, and saves them. It does not copy all your data every time, saving Comstar considerable time and you considerable money. Still, few want to pay for a daily backup. How can Comstar make sure you don t lose, say, a week s worth of work? It goes back to the details of the process we use. It starts with a hard drive at your business that transmits data to Comstar via the internet as frequently as you like. You re covered on the timing, and you re not spending a fortune because the changes are limited. There is another cost benefit to this process: You still have access to that local hard drive. So if something fairly minor occurs, say a file was accidentally deleted, you can recover it from the hard drive at your office. It s cost-effective, because you re doing the recovery (though we will help and actually handle it completely if you prefer). It s fast because the hard drive is at your workplace. No transmission of data over the internet. These types of recoveries are the most common, so the cost-savings can be a significant factor. If catastrophe does strike, we have most or all of the latest changes stored for you. Remember, your hard drive sends them to us at a regular interval that suits your needs.
6 In the event of a disaster, you ll need that data in a hurry. We speed the recovery process, and typically provide the data in hours, not days. (If you prefer, you can purchase a new computer and we ll upload the data.) The result: 1. You can have recovered data the day of the disaster, compared with the weeks it can take some services. 2. The Comstar system is affordable for the smallest businesses. 3. You pay only for the time spent recovering the data, compared with front-loaded costs of some national companies. There are data backup solutions, and they can be cost-effective. Now it s up to you to protect your business. Call us if you have no backup plan, or know yours won t save the day if disaster strikes. We can provide that peace of mind. And if you do have a plan? We advise taking a closer look to ensure it s not simply a false sense of security. It s better to face the realities on your own terms, instead of having the fire alarms issue the wake-up call.