Disaster Recovery - Backups

In this blog post I am going to talk about backups and disaster recovery. I was recently asked to talk about Disaster Recovery and what this meant for small businesses. I am going to talk about a few things related to protecting and backing up your data and recovering if the inevitable happens and you loose data or suffer a hard disk failure.

The blog post will cover a few important questions and areas that you need to consider. I have listed the few key points below:

  • How important is your data?
  • What would you do if your hard disk failed?
  • How quick can you get up and running again?
  • How easy it is to create backups.
  • The different options available to backup your data reliably.

How important is your data?

One of the first questions you need to ask is 'How important is my data?'. This is important as it determines what you need to backup and tells you if you could work without that data for any length of time. What I mean is that your family photographs are different to your work documents, this in itself can help you determine the location or options you have available to you when backing up your data. This basically covers how important your data is and what you would do if your hard disk failed or data got corrupted.

How easy is it to create a backup and recover your data?

This is probably the most important step to understand about Disaster Recovery. It is incredibly easy to backup your data and also incredibly cheap to get extra storage. The process of backing up your data is often perceived as complicated, the truth is it is as simple as copying your files from place to another. What can be complicated is the process and this depends very much on the type of data your backing up and when. The majority of the time you just need to initiate the process of copying your files (backing up).

You can manually copy the files, or set up some sort of automated process. It is entirely up to you, and how often you do this. There are many different strategies for this, which I will discuss below. The important aspect is to find something that works for you.

Options available to you?

So you have decide what to backup and that you need to conduct some sort of backup in order to protect your self. What options are available and how much do they cost you.

The simplest and easiest way of backing up your data is to get another hard drive. These are cheap and easy to get hold of. Your best bet for straight forward backup of your files is to get an external hard drive, connect it to your computer or laptop and either use the software that cam with it or copy the files. Job done. You just have to follow the process regularly and keep it up.

If you want something a little more robust or even as a second method then there are many to choose from. First of is to use a NAS (Network attached Storage) device this is essentially a server designed to host a large amount storage on your network. You would then use a piece of software to initiate the backup and store your data on the NAS.

The second and very popular method is to use 'The Cloud'. This is becoming increasingly popular and always worth a look. Essentially you are using the vast amount of storage that is provided by others connected to the internet. There are many different ways of doing this and many different providers. I have picked out just a few of the ones I would recommend.

For documents and spreadsheets you can always look at Google Docs or Google Drive, Sky Drive or Dropbox. For something with more options and generally cheaper and no limit to storage size, is AWS S3 (Amazon Web Services Simple Storage), Glacier (AWS Glacier), Rackspace, HP Cloud and a few others. Essentially they all offer the same sort of thing storage at a low cost, the more you store the better for them and often cheaper for you. For small companies the cost of storing your data in the cloud can be a matter of a few dollars. One of the biggest downsides is getting the data into the cloud or to there storage. This is not a problem if you have a fast upload connection or a small amount of data. They all offer different incentives for different needs. AWS has a nice web console that you can use to upload small files, for larger files there any many different options available that beyond the scope of this blog. If you are looking for something that could be managed for you or integrated nicely into your current system look at HP and AWS. Rackspace is built on similar technology to HP and provides a nice interface for uploading files.

Desktop clients for cloud based storage solutions?

A good desktop application that supports a range of different cloud providers is the CloudBerry Desktop Backup. CloudBerry provide a range of applications that our ideal for different needs for backing up data. The only issue with CloudBerry products is that they only run on Windows based computers. For Mac users I would recommend looking at Cyberduck, which can also be used on windows. Cyberduck is free and open source which has some great benefits.

Strategies

There are a few different strategies for backing up data and restoring it, ranging from easy to more complicated. The thing when creating a strategy is to define how often you backup your data. This could be hourly, daily, weekly or monthly. Choose a strategy that is right for you. If your data changes daily then backup daily if you can get away with weekly or monthly then that is fine. Generally you want to use a incremental process with most data and documents and this will avoid backing up everything all the time and will save you time and disk space. The first backup is a full backup and then incremental after that, it detects the changes even if files are deleted. This is useful as well if you accidentally delete a file as you can recover a file at a certain date.

Summary

In summary the most important thing is to decide on a process and a strategy that is right for you. It is important that the strategy works for you, if in emergency you should be able to recover your data easily and quickly. There are as discussed many ways of doing this, if you just break it down and work out what is important to you it will work.

Please feel free to leave a comment about your experiences with Disater Recovery and Backups on a small scale.

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