By Bryan Gregory
During last week’s torrential rains in Houston and recognizing tornado season is not far behind (DFW is the largest metropolitan area in Tornado Alley ), storm protection is a real issue for Texas businesses. Business continuity should be a primary goal during operations every day, but especially in the event of a natural disaster. Dealing with the aftermath of critical data loss can be far more expensive than implementing a data protection solution from the start, and in a worst-case scenario, it can potentially spell the end of a small to medium sized business.
Here are six ways to ensure data stays safe during bad weather.
- Perform a data assessment and ask the right questions when evaluating the disaster recovery plan. Begin by asking, “What’s required to achieve a full data recovery?” and, “What information can we not operate without?” Be aware of the logistical nuts and bolts – from where the client information is stored, to which data files are heavily accessed and used. To develop a well-rounded backup plan, businesses should think of the worst and work their way backwards. Answering questions like, “Can my business continue operations in a short period of time after a natural disaster occurs? What about during restorations?” and “How will my employees access data off-site?”
- Back up all data. Backing up data is a best practice, even on a day-to-day basis. Yet many small and medium sized businesses don’t have a process in place for doing so. Companies should store back-up copies of all important and essential business information such as employee and client data, accounting records, contact sheets and passwords. In case of a disaster, businesses should have an IT solution in place to perform automatic back-ups, guaranteeing access to the most recent versions of data files.
- Make sure all critical applications are available at all times. A business cannot function without the tools it uses for its everyday procedures, so make sure critical tools can be readily accessed under any circumstances, especially a natural disaster. Applications critical to a business’ operations can be virtualized in the cloud, allowing employees to use such tools even when the onsite IT infrastructure is affected.
- Include laptops and mobile devices in the disaster recovery plan.According to Gartner, nearly two-thirds of business data exists outside of the data center, meaning laptops and mobile devices. Laptops and phones can both be easily damaged or lost in the event of a natural disaster and should be considered when evaluating the disaster recovery procedures necessary to maintain data redundancy and security.
- Store multiple copies of the data off-site. Businesses should store three copies of data on at least two different kinds of media devices, and store at least one copy off-site. If possible, store copies of data on servers in a different city or another state, especially if the disaster zone has a wide range. If a natural disaster hits an entire region, the data may still be affected, even if it’s stored off-site. Analyze the risk involved with the off-site storage facility in consideration, and the natural disasters considered common in those particular regions. Cloud-based solutions are a very good option for off-site data storage. Cloud service providers, especially those that are public, can often offer businesses a choice as to where in the country or world, to store data.
- Have a written disaster recovery plan and test the solution. Finally, a formal, written disaster recovery plan should be developed and reviewed with employees. That way, if a disaster hits, there will be less internal chaos. Regularly test the effectiveness of the data backup and recovery solution. One test is not enough to be sure there will be access to the most important and critical data.
Many businesses should prepare themselves for a natural disaster even when there are no imminent threats. Keeping a business secure and protected against any threat, big or small, natural or otherwise, has unlimited benefits including peace of mind.
Bryan Gregory is Senior Vice President and General Manager of Aldridge, a Dallas-based IT outsourcing company.