Is Your Business Ready for the Unexpected?

Is Your Business Ready for the Unexpected?

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It’s unfortunate that the expression “up a creek without a paddle” accurately describes many small and midsize businesses these days when it comes to disaster preparedness. While your first thought around disaster is “hang on…South Africadoesn’t suffer Hurricanes, Earthquakes, Tornados etc.” but what about the disaster when your computer crashes or when you delete that important document or file by mistake?

The shocking fact is that 50% of SMEs don’t have disaster recovery plans in place. Rather than implement automated backup and data recovery solutions, many simply cross their fingers and hope for the best. The reason these companies leave their data protection to chance is simply explained – backup has become too complicated!

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As a small business, your data is your direct connection to your customers, your product and your bottom line. Your data is arguably your most precious resource. Most SMEs know they should back up their information like corporate data, customer records, legal documents etc. but for many businesses it stays on that to-do list until it’s too late. This is a hard and costly way to learn a lesson. It’s worth asking: what is preventing you from implementing a successful backup strategy?

So, don’t get on the information technology river without all your necessary equipment: grab your life jacket, get your paddle and start shooting right through the rapids unscathed. Disaster recovery just became a whole lot easier.

Here are five of the most common SME disaster preparedness mistakes we’ve seen that you can hopefully avoid:

1. Not having a plan at ALL

It’s odd to think that in this day and age businesses would be operating by throwing caution to the wind and avoiding a Disaster Recovery solution altogether. Unfortunately the aforementioned is more common than one would imagine. Common excuses include: “We have paper records,” “Backup is cost prohibitive for as little data as we have,” “Backups are complicated and time consuming,” and “I’m not an IT guy – and don’t understand such things.” Sound familiar?

Given the abundance of relatively cheap technology and a little know-how, even the most basic of environments can be protected in a manner akin to, simply making a copy of a file on one’s desktop. While it’s hard to estimate the costs associated with line of business systems going down and critical documents going missing (as they vary from business to business), not having even the most basic plan in place will, without exception, serve as a recipe for disaster.

2. Lack of proper planning for disaster

While backing up a file system is generally a straight forward process, it stands to reason that many SMEs are dealing with a considerably larger backup burden than just files. Every properly fought battle has always had a comprehensive plan at its roots, which morphed over time to suit the combat theatre.

Make no mistake, Disaster Recovery is a continual fight where the foe appears occasionally, and without ample warning, delivering a swift blow to the heart of your organisation. Things to keep in mind when planning for Disaster Recovery could include: How frequently are you backing up, and will you be able to tolerate a disaster in between backups? Will you have enough space to protect everything needed down the road (be it four months or four years)? When you install new applications, can you ensure they will be properly protected with your current solution? Does your retention policy make sense for what you need to protect? When you need to recover items, will you be able to do so quickly and efficiently? Which brings me to my next point…

3. Unwillingness to test a recovery scenario

While I can appreciate the mindset of letting sleeping dogs lie – practicing recovery for your environment while it is performing optimally is probably more important than taking backups in the first place. Do your backups provide recovery? Are you dealing with databases, and does your backup leave it in a consistent state? What are the steps required to deal with disaster (be it a ‘by mistake’ file deletion or an all-out catastrophe)? Having a tested plan in place prior to an incident occurring can make worlds of difference when the rubber hits the road.

The last thing one needs to be doing is learning recovery “on the fly” when it matters most. Only when a solution is tested and proven can one rest easier knowing that “all things considered, the protection is comprehensive and functional.” While I can appreciate the awkwardness of wrecking a perfectly good server – the initial awkwardness will turn to confidence when the unthinkable occurs, because you’ll know that all your ducks are in a line and that recovery will be a snap.

4. Not storing backups offsite (or storing them on the server that is being protected)

I always get a laugh out of the customer that calls saying their backups have gone down with the ship. Be it via an Act of God, fire, theft, or run-of-the-mill hardware failure – storing business critical backups in proximity to the operation site is a critical misstep. While most SMEs go to backups to get the occasional file that gets moved / deleted, the core ideology of a complete Disaster Recovery solution is to have an “out” when the worst conceivable situation arises. Taking backups offsite typically only requires an additional step or two (with a little human intervention) and will serve to complete the circle of any recovery scenario. It doesn’t matter if you use tape, removable disks, or the cloud, putting some space between your business and your backed up data is a prudent practice.

5. Falling victim to the “set it and forget it” mentality

While most businesses start out with the best of intentions and vow to monitor their backups, it never fails that after a long string of successful executions, business owners are lulled into a false sense that “everything is ok,” allowing them to pay less attention to their scheduled jobs. As a quick fix, most all modern backup packages have the ability to hook into a notification engine to provide status updates. Be it notification via email, SMS, or simply checking the console, it is imperative to keep a finger on the pulse of your Disaster Recovery solution.

Adhering to the aforementioned suggestions can help ensure a stable base to begin building a successful Disaster Recovery solution for your SME. While there are many ways to skin a cat in the way of Disaster Recovery, it is important to note that backup, much like a snowflake, is a unique experience for each and every SME. Above all, choose that which makes you most comfortable and guarantees expedient, complete recovery for your environment to give you the utmost confidence that your organisation’s lifeblood is protected. Better Backups For ALL!

David Ribeiro
David Ribeiro is a Partner Account Manager at Symantec South Africa. He is responsible for managing the relationship between Symantec South Africa and the managed reseller Channels. During the past years with Symantec, David has been recognized for his dedication and achievements both locally and on a global level. In addition to receiving the Small Business Team of the Year awards for EMEA in 2008, he was also named the Small Business Salesperson of EMEA for FY10.