Growth Insights for CEOs

True Business Continuity-Why just backing up your data can let your business down

Posted by The Chief Outsider

computer cloudsToday's blog is by guest blogger Mark Chinsky.

Part I:  The following blog is the first in a 2 part blog series on the problems with today’s backup solutions, and why you need to think about business continuity solutions instead.

Even if some of your business solutions are ‘cloud based’ such as Salesforce.com or Hubspot, you still likely have other servers in your office(s) that are used for other business critical functions like email, accounting, manufacturing, collaboration, file storage and the like.

Because of this, virtually all (sane) businesses have some type of backup solution.  Whether it be tapes, hard drives, or even with a cloud service like Carbonite or Mozy.  However, what many people don’t realize is that backup solutions are designed to allow you to retrieve you data in the event of a data loss, not to actually minimize your down time in anyway.

There are two types of backup models.  Files based, and image based.

  • File based backup solutions are designed to backup your important documents.  Typically files like Microsoft Word or Excel.  If your server were to crash or need replacement, you would have to reinstall the operating systems, all of your application programs and then use your backup solution to restore your files.
  • Image based backup solutions are designed to backup and clone your entire server(s).  It backs up your disks in their entirety such that if your server needed replacement or new hard drives, you can restore them to exactly the way the disk looked when it crashed.  This avoids all the time associated with reinstalling all the applications, operating systems, settings, anti-virus etc.  It can easily save you about a day of time per server in terms of how quickly you’ll be back up and running again in the event of a total drive or server failure

As a business, most ‘consumer grade’ desktop and online backup solutions aren’t adequate.  For example, Carbonite is primarily a file based backup solution which is great if you accidentally overwrite an important powerpoint presentation you are working on.  But if your whole server hard drive crashed, you would multiple problems relative to being able to be up and running again.

Problems with Consumer oriented Cloud Backup solutions

Although typically very inexpensive typical online backup solutions like Carbonite have the following problems for business applications:

  • They claim ‘unlimited storage’ but usually will only allow you to backup one machine per subscription.  In addition, their fine print in their legal contracts actual state that their term ‘unlimited’ is far from unlimited.  In some cases, capped out at 500 gigs or so.
  • They typically require you to make your initial backups over the internet.  A few will offer a hard drive mailing option for a significant fee.  A typical Small or Mid Size Business (SMB) will have somewhere between 1 and 3 Terabytes (TB) of data to backup.  Marketing data tends to be larger because it often contains high resolution photos, drawings and artwork. It could take 4-8 weeks to back up all your initial data and just as long to retrieve all of your data if needed depending on the speed of your internet connection.
  • Consumer solutions usually can’t safely backup in use files like databases, email servers and the like.  Your CRM solution, or your accounting system files would likely be skipped or unusable if restored from the cloud due to this problem
  • Support is usually via email or chat to foreign help desks with slow response times and mixed quality of technical personnel

Problems with Business oriented Cloud Backup solutions

Business grade backup solutions like VaultLogix or Backblaze for Business typically cost significantly more than consumer solutions and rarely include ‘unlimited’ data capacity.

  • Business solutions usually have more sophisticated software for your servers so they can safely backup your line of business applications like CRM, marketing automation or accounting solutions
  • They typically include some type of ‘round trip’ or ‘seeding drive’ service that allows you to backup your data initially to a supplied hard drive and have it shipped to their data center for uploading.  They offer the same ability to retrieve your data in the event of a crash.  This eliminates the multiple weeks of time waiting for data to upload and download through the internet which could be crippling in the event of an emergency
  • Still, it can take two weeks or longer to order and receive a new server in the event of a situation where the server can’t be fixed (fire, out of warranty etc).  Then a day or longer to restore your applications and data assuming you can get a technician on-site when the server arrives.

Statistics show an average SMB (Small and Mid-sized Business) loses $15,000/day of down time.  A two week server outage could cost $150,000 or more (assuming a 5 day work week).  That doesn’t take into account the lost customer goodwill or possible complete customer loss due to a lack of service on your part.

Even if you use traditional backup like tapes or hard disks and reliably rotate them off-site,  you still have this days or weeks of downtime waiting for replacement hardware, technicians, re-installation etc in the event of a serious failure.  If you suffer a relatively minor problem like a virus or bad patch and if you have in house IT folks, it can still take hours to restore and test your backups.

In addition, the vast majority of current backup solutions are typically a ‘daily’ backup so if your server crashed at 4pm, you could easily lose a day’s worth of work once the system is restored from the night before.

Testing

Most traditional backup solutions rely on you or your IT people to regularly test the restoration of your data to ensure everything is working ok.  The vast majority of backup problems are discovered when you try and restore your data.  Just think about what that means… How often are you doing test restorations to a separate server to make sure that in the event it was needed, you can fully restore everything and that it works ok?

About the author

Mark Chinsky is Managing Director at Clients First Technology solutions, a division of Clients First Business Solutions.  Clients First markets and supports Business Continuity solutions like EverSafe! as well as line of business solutions such as ERP & CRM solutions from vendors like Microsoft, SAP, Epicor and Sage.

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