World backup day: how to survive the day after

The World Backup Day is right opportunity to take a moment to to review (or set up) your backup processes.

The forthcoming 31st of March is World Backup Day. It is a special day to remember that we could lose our precious data… if we do not take care of them.

And there are many different ways to lose our data:

- They can be stored on a device that might be lost

- They can be compromised by a technical incident: a hard disk crash, fire…

- They can be stolen

- They can be temporarily unavailable

- They can be blocked by ransomware (many cases have been reported in recent years).

Some figures give us a better overview of the situation:

- 113 smartphones are stolen every minute in the world

- 30% of people do not make backups

- 29% of data disaster happen by accident

- 1 computer out of 10 is infected every month with a malware that impacts data integrity

The risks are various and the means to avoid them, too. The point is to choose the right method in a given situation.

World Backup Day is a great time to take a moment to ask yourself this question. The organizers have chosen the day before April Fool’s day and perhaps this is an interesting way to encourage ourselves to really think about how foolish our business might look if we are not prepared to face a hardware failure or data theft. We propose a few actions to take into order to guarantee the recovery of your data in case of loss.

1st question: where are my data?

Small business owners need to wear many hats and keeping track of the security of their data may fall very low on their list of things to do each day. However, you do need to be aware that a loss of data can occur in several ways.

1. Make a list of the most typical problems that may happen and start writing down the areas where you believe you might be at risk. For example, most people are familiar with hardware failures – like when your hard drive suddenly stops working.

2. Specify where your data is physically stored. Do you use a specialized storage computer (called a server) or do you rely on a network of individual computers?

3. If you already use a cloud storage provider to store your data, what types of files get backed up there and how often? How do they handle their hardware failures? Do not forget to include any SaaS providers, such as your client management system application.

4. Consider software-based failures or attacks. What would happen if a virus was unintentionally introduced into your network? Keep in mind that some malware is designed to steal your data while others – called ransomware – simply deny you access to your data until you pay the ransom (without any guarantee to recover your data). Having an anti-virus solution is a good start, but these programs cannot bring back your data if it becomes corrupted or locked away.

1st answer: everywhere…

Finally, assess what would happen if your company’s hardware or devices were stolen. Theft of your devices almost always implies a loss of, or at least exposure of, business-sensitive data. If the most recent copy of your client contact list is stored on a smartphone, what happens if that phone was stolen? If a dissatisfied employee decides to remove a desktop computer from the office one weekend, what would happen to your business on Monday morning?

Once you have finalized gathering the risks to your business data, you should then take a closer look at what data is critical to your daily operations and what data is not. We all know the expression “time is money”, and it is natural to think that you just need to make a copy of everything. While this might save you some time, it may also cost you more money. By taking the time to identify the different types of data that you have and where it is located, you can make better financial decisions as to what data needs to be protected and what data would not be relevant if lost. Client contracts are important – pictures of the company’s office party may not be.

More and more applications are cloud-based and their data are no longer stored on your devices or internal network. It does not mean they are unsecure. Nevertheless, you need to know how does the owner of the online application store and protect your data. You should have the possibility to make or get recurrent backups of your data in a format that you can easily use in case of disruption of the service. Ideally, you should check that the backups are available and reliable in case of need.

Cloud without a storm?

Now that you have catalogued your risks and prioritized your data, the final step is to decide how best to protect it.

We recommend storing at least one copy of your critical data in a place separate from your physical office location.

Cloud storage can be a solution. This ensures that your data is stored separately from your place of business and can be accessed by any device at any time. But is this solution 100% perfect? It is always a good idea to look closely at the cloud provider’s service agreement. You may find that they have limits and conditions on recovering your data when they experience a failure.

Once you have taken the time to formally assess how your data could be stored, you may determine that a cloud-based storage provider may not be the most effective and cost-efficient solution for your business.

While this may require that you should buy a small hard drive or server to store your data, this method does provide you with a second layer of insurance against data loss. Usually, these types of hardware come with easy-to-use software and do not require specialized knowledge. Many businesses assign the collection and storage of data to a reliable team member and, as your business grows, you will sleep better at night knowing that someone in the company is keeping track of this critical business asset.