Flirting with Disaster

Ten years ago, when I would meet with clients & prospects to discuss backup, the biggest concern was the threat of wind storm.  Living in hurricane-prone Florida, everyone knew it to be a very real risk.  But over the last few years, cyber-attacks have become so much more prevalent than we all but forgot about the threat of major storms.  Then hurricane Michael reminded everyone of the swift devastation that such an incident can bring.  Once the damage to property is assessed and primary services restored, there’s still months of clean-up and recovery to complete before things get back to normal.

While most businesses can’t move their facilities out of the way of an impending storm, more and more of them can move their data center operations to the cloud, even if just until the facilities can be restored.  Compared to a decade ago, there are very few workloads today that can’t be run remotely with a broadband connection.

I find that those responsible for their company’s data aren’t familiar with the difference between a “backup” and a true “BDR” (Backup & Disaster Recovery) system.  While backing up your data is important, modern BDR systems offer not just protection against data loss, but will dramatically reduce the interruption to business operations when a disaster occurs.  A full-featured BDR system can typically restore business operations within an hour or two.  Simply having a backup may require several hours to days for recovery.  This time to return to operations (RTO) is becoming more critical to more industries as the business environment evolves to become more competitive.

This higher level of maturity is the new waterline for what users are expecting.  Not just a backup, but backup with a recovery plan built right into the very design of the system.  And, while it’s good to have a plan for recovery, you don’t really know how it will go until it’s been tested.  A responsible service provider will also perform a scheduled “fire drill” test on the system to ensure that everything has been considered and that the transition is smooth in the event of a need to fail-over.

As you might imagine, true BDR does cost a little more to implement and operate, but for many, the reduced risk may well be worth the cost.  Plus the popularity of the technology is making this type of service more affordable for everyone.

Let’s consider a few scenarios:

While local backups will protect you from most types of cyber-attack, they won’t do much good against lightning strikes, fire, flood, wind storm or theft.  The last item, theft, is something that’s rare, so it doesn’t often even make the list during discussions about backup strategy.  But this last year we had two clients who experienced theft in/of their data center where not only was the server taken, but the backups along with it.  Thankfully the story ended well for both of our clients, but it brought home the importance of not just a backup, but the value of a known process to follow when such a disaster occurs.

Another unexpected and rarely considered threat, reared its ugly head for a client when an employee who had been fired decided to delete all of his email histories.  Since the client had a legal obligation to retain this data for a period of years, they were understandably concerned when they contacted us.  Although insurance often may cover the cost of cases like this under the category “employee dishonesty”, the actual value of the data is very hard to measure.  Thankfully this client had an archive of all emails, so we were able to recover everything in a matter of minutes.

When one of our clients had a fire break out in their building, they brought us the burned equipment that had been in the server closet.  This room had been significantly involved in the fire and the equipment had not been spared.  Everything was lost and even our data recovery center could not retrieve the data from their drives.  Thankfully the client had a cloud backup, so their data was recovered, but they did end up having to rebuild the prior day’s work.

In my decades of working in IT, I have experienced quite a range of unexpected scenarios.  The one thing I’ve learned from all of it is that technology is becoming more prevalent in our lives and protecting our critical information requires regular reassessment.  If you haven’t examined your backup solution in the last year, I encourage you to both schedules a call with your provider, but also to put a reminder on your calendar for March 31st to perform this review regularly.  Why March 31st?  Because it’s National Backup Day!  Because nobody wants to feel like a fool on April 1st.

If you have any doubts about whether your backup is sufficient for your current business needs (something that does change over time)

contact our team at (850) 426-4370 to find out what would be the best fit for your organization.