Data Backup

100 Companies Relied on Backups: Why Only 32 Survived

backups fluid it servicesYou’re probably running regular data backups and have a sense of security that your business critical data is safe from failure. There’s an old saying, “Your data is only as good as your last backup.” But that’s only half of the story. The other half is: “Your backups are only as good as your last restore.” You’re already on top of the game by backing up your data, but you need to do more. You need to test your backups.

If you aren’t testing your backups, you’re not alone. According to an article in CIO Magazine, a survey reported that 59% of SMBs were backing up their data, but only 32% were testing their restore processes at least once a month.

The ultimate test for any backup is to restore it. Only then will you know if you’re backup system is performing properly, and user errors haven’t been introduced that might skip important data.

Benefits of Testing the Plan

In this article, we discussed the importance of having a checklist in place for restoring your backups. Here are two ways to test your backups:

  • Go through your checklist periodically confirming steps are still valid, noticing any areas that can be improved
  • Perform a full restore simulation

 

A full restore simulation will stress your backup plan. It will also let you know who is needed, how long you can expect a restore to take, which systems are affected and if all data is accessible and on hand.

Why do backups fail?

Even if you have a great restore process in place, sometimes things can still go wrong. Knowing what they are can you help you head off additional problems. Here are a few reasons why backups fail:

  • The full backup is corrupt because something in the system corrupted it.
  • Backups create a chain, and when something in that chain is corrupted, a restore cannot continue past that point in the chain.
  • The backups worked, but the data contained corruption before it was backed up.

 

Validating backups on a set schedule can minimize unexpected disasters.

We know that there’s always an excuse not to perform restores to validate your backups: limited time, no formalized process for it, not enough disk space, etc. But making sure your backup is good to go in case of emergency can mean life or death for your business. We can’t stress its importance enough.

Are you ready to integrate backup testing into your process?

Testing your backups can be the difference between doing down and coming back up or simply going down for the count. Don’t go into this process blindly.

Having an experienced IT team on your side to help you through the backup restore process on a regular basis greatly increases your chances of minimal downtime with a successful outcome. Don’t hesitate to contact us here at Fluid IT Services – we can help you create a backup testing process that works for your business.

What in the World… Series Went Wrong?

 

Anyone in the United States or much of the world for that matter, is very aware of that giant of sporting spectaculars, the fall classic known as the World Series.  The first game was an absolute thriller, starting off with a leadoff first pitch inside-the-park homerun (last accomplished in a World Series in 1929 and first leadoff since 1903), continuing for 14 innings over 5 hours and 9 minutes, tying the record for the most innings in World Series history.  Pretty heady stuff, but that wasn’t even the big story.

“We are experiencing technical difficulties”

What stole the show was the inexplicable 4 to 5 minute blackout that literally shutdown the game and made millions of viewers blast four letter tirades at their televisions.  The problem - the Fox broadcast lost power, which would never have been noticed had the first generator not failed, but the backup generator also failed.  What are the chances of that?!  Both backup generators ‘failed’.  I’m sure someone at Fox will become the ceremonial fall guy for that one.

With Fox paying around $500 million for the broadcast rights to the World Series this is a no laughing matter and a very expensive “technical glitch”.  It is very obvious what the immediate impact is in a situation like this – millions of pissed off viewers, panic stricken Fox technicians, irked broadcasters (Joe Buck was NOT happy) and mortified Fox executives.  But what about the aftermath?  Is there any lingering negative effect on the Fox brand, trust, and goodwill?  Only time will tell.  The point is, it was the worst possible thing that could happen at the worst possible time on the world’s largest stage.

But they did everything right, didn’t they?

Technically speaking, Fox, if they did as they say, had the right setup – a backup generator with a second backup generator in the event of a power failure and unlikely failure of the first generator.  This is what we call N+1 in technology speak.  It means for critical systems, always have one more than you need to failover to if there is an issue.  This certainly met the criteria for a ‘critical system’ and they had N+1, but it still wasn’t enough.  You can bet Fox is opening their wallet today to spend whatever it takes to avoid issue again, even if it means having four generators on standby with a person physically watching each one throughout the broadcast.  By the way, having more redundancy than one more backup than you need is typically called 2N+1, where you have twice the redundancy, or in this case 3-4 generators.  We may see just that outside the stadium on Wednesday night.

It’s not if it happens, but when

The situation was bad enough, but had it happened during one of the 162 regular season games back in April it would have registered as a blip on the radar.  Happening during the first game of the World Series blew up the radar and made every front page – it become the story.  If you are a business owner or operator, you should take notice.  I’m sure Fox thought this could ‘never happen’ but now we know otherwise.  What if this happened to your business at the absolute most critical time?  What would it cost you?  What would you be willing to spend to prevent it from happening again?

Sadly, most small to mid-sized companies do not have redundant systems simply due to the cost and the minimal risk of a critical failure actually happening.  The cost vs. risk just won’t justify it… unless it happens to you.  However, this very public SNAFU happening in the most unlikely of situations to one of the world’s largest companies (number 97 on the Fortune 500) shows it can happen to anyone at any time.

Is your business aware of the risks?

Forget about backup generators. Do you even know where the weak points are in your business?  Do you know every single-point-of-failure that could bring your company down?  If you don’t, you should get busy and find out. Not sure where to begin? Contact us and we can help you start the process.  After all, being in the dark is the worst place to be, especially when watching the World Series.

 

Need more information? Check out our Valued Added Solutions and why Fluid can help.

How to Build Your IT Structure from the Foundation Up

aligning business and ITMy father ran a fence and ranch supply business for 30 years without having any technology. He was quite proud of this. All receipts were handwritten and he did not take credit cards. But the simple truth is his business couldn’t exist that way today. You can’t run a business without technology anymore. Not just because it’s inefficient, but also because technology is now critical to providing customers with the best service and experience.

What are the baseline IT needs for my company?

Every company has baseline, foundational IT needs upon which business-specific technology is built. The great news is that baseline technology is similar for almost every company in every industry – so establishing your technology foundation should be pretty straightforward.

The Foundational Layer

In every company there will be layers of technical solutions, which are stacked to meet business needs. Business-specific technology is built on top of baseline technology, and users (employees, customers, vendors, ect.) are set up on top of it all.

Think about your baseline technology as the plumbing for your house. Plumbing is done first, unseen, and is critical to supporting the daily needs of the household. You build the house over and around the plumbing – and you build your business-specific technology over and around your baseline technology.

So what, specifically, is your baseline technology? It’s the core technology for communication and collaboration. They don’t call a technology network a “network” for nothing – your network connects all the pieces together so you can communicate.

Baseline technology typically includes:

  1. Security
  • Examples: firewall, anti-virus software
  • Examples: network switches, routers, wireless access points
  • Examples: network cabling for computers, phones, video, etc.
  • Examples: physical or cloud-based servers to host business software
  • Examples: laptops, desktops, tablets
  • Examples: Local or remote printers
  • Examples: Windows Server, remote access, email, data backup, accounting
  1. Networking
  1. Cabling
  1. Servers
  1. End-user devices
  1. Printing and imaging
  1. Core baseline software

Keep in mind that even baseline technology is not a “one and done” solution. All technology has a useful life — typically in the 3-5 year range — and must be replaced at the end of its lifespan. Plans and budgets should be developed to replace each accordingly.

The “House” Layer

Baseline technology – or your technology foundation – is very standardized and repeatable. It’s like toilet paper – everyone needs it and it must be continually replenished.

The next layer of technology, built on top of your baseline layer, is your business-specific technology. Think of this as the “house” that’s built over the foundation of the baseline layer. Most business verticals have a range of hardware and software solutions specific to the particular business – so this is where things get narrower in scope.

For example, someone in the oil and gas industry may use Well Pro 101 for their wells and OGSYS for geology data. A home builder may use BuildLinks software for construction management. These are solutions built on top of the baseline technology.

What Kind of Structure Do You Need?

When the time comes to determine your baseline and business-specific technology needs, at least two people need to be in the room:

1)    A skilled technical resource to define solutions to meet all your baseline needs

2)    A business person that can define the business requirements for the right business solutions

This is where the real value is – aligning the technology to the business!

Once you confirm your baseline technology needs and your business-specific technology needs, you will then need someone to support it all. Typically, IT support services are also broken down into baseline and business-specific.

Business-specific technologies are more commonly supported by the vendor that provides the solution. For example, BuildLinks, Inc. will support your BuildLinks software, and Programs 101 will support your Well Pro 101 software.

For your baseline technology support, however, there are thousands of IT service firms to choose from, because the technology is basically the same for any company in any industry. Choose someone who understands how all of the technology works together with your specific business needs and requirements.

Not to toot our own horn, but assessing your business requirements is where Fluid always begins every new client relationship – no matter how small or how large your company. We develop an IT roadmap for you and continually update it over time to ensure continual alignment between IT and business. Whoever you choose to work with, make sure they understand your business.

News Flash!!! Data Backup is NOT Disaster Recovery… you should have both!

Data Recovery Showdown: Backup vs. Disaster Recovery

Data-RecoveryAs the founder and CEO of Fluid IT Services, I cannot count the number of times I have had the following conversation.

Me: Do you have data backups of your critical data?

Client: Yes, we backup every day.

Me: Do you have a disaster recovery plan?

Client: Yes, as I mentioned, we backup every day.

This makes me cringe because it immediately tells me the client’s business is at significant risk — and they don’t even realize that they are even susceptible.  It’s time for a little education on backups versus disaster recovery.

Data backups are just that — a backup of your data stored somewhere.  The ideal situation for data backup is as follows:

  • All data is backed up on a daily basis to an external source (like an external hard drive) in your office
  • Mission-critical data is backed up offsite using the internet to a third-party location
  • Periodic validation of the backup data (typically monthly or quarterly)

We often find that companies do numbers 1 and 2, but almost none do the most critical step 3 — validation.  Data backup software can run “successfully” and look good, but that does not mean the underlying data itself is good.  If data is corrupt, backup software will not know this, and it will back up the “bad” data successfully.  The only way to know if the backup data is good is to actually look at it periodically to confirm it is accurate.

We recommend clients restore select files from their backups on a regular basis and examine them for accuracy.  The best method is to execute a full system restore once a year to ensure all files are valid.  However, many companies cannot afford the downtime nor have the expertise to do such a drill.  A partial file restore is better than none at all.

However, data backups do NOT provide the ability for a company to recover quickly in the event of a disaster that compromises their core data.  A disaster could be as dramatic as a tornado taking your building out, or something as simple as flooding, theft or a prolonged power outage.  In any of these scenarios, you may have your data backed up, but you have no place to put that data to get your systems up and running.  Consequently, recovery time can often take weeks.

Disaster recovery, on the other hand, means having not only your data in an offsite location, but the additional hardware required to bring all your systems online quickly — in hours, not days or weeks.

A disaster recovery solution includes the following:

  • Data backed up on a regular basis to an offsite data center
  • Hardware in place to bring all systems online when a disaster is declared
  • Technical resources available to bring the systems online and redirect users to the offsite location

Most small- to mid-sized organizations have disaster recovery as a “to do” item on their list. But due to the high cost of building and maintaining a second location, they are unable to ever cross it off of that list.

The good news is today there are many options for checking disaster recovery off of your to-do list by using third-party solutions, such as Fluid IT Services.

With Fluid Disaster Recovery as your service solution, we can back up your data to an offsite location on a recurring basis and be ready to bring those systems online in multiple ways:

  • Warm Recovery – Data is in the offsite data center, but the actual systems are not made active until the customer declares a disaster and requests specified systems be brought online.
  • Hot Recovery – Data is in the offsite data center and the systems are live and running at all times for an immediate cutover to the disaster recovery site in the event a disaster is declared.
  • We can also do a combination of the two, based on the criticality of your systems.  For example, file sharing can be on a warm recovery while accounting  systems are on a hot recovery plan.

Do not let the fear of high costs deter you from having a disaster recovery plan and solution.  The fact is your business cannot survive without one.