Japan's one-two punch of earthquake and tsunami has left the country on the brink of a nuclear meltdown, claimed thousands of lives and left tens of thousands of homes and businesses without power. It is also yet another sad reminder that man-made and natural disasters regularly can and will happen around the world.
Planning for catastrophes has been at the forefront of companies' priorities since 9/11. Yet a large number of organizations are still not confident that their data will be restored completely within hours of a disaster, according to a survey carried out earlier this year in the U.S. by Backup My Info! (BUMI), a New York-based provider of managed online backup and recovery solutions.
The cost of 'down-time' can quickly amount to tens of thousands, if not millions, of dollars in lost revenue. But as the amount of data stored by firms continues to spiral, companies are struggling to protect and back up that data, says Jennifer Walzer, CEO at Backup My Info!
Online data back up is the most popular way of backing up information for 65% of firms, according to the survey, followed by internal appliances (34%) and tape backups (29%). The survey was completed by 117 business owners, CEOs and IT professionals at small to medium-sized businesses.
The most efficient way of backing up data is to archive data that is not changing, which allows you to recover much more quickly 'fresh' data that you are modifying regularly, says Walzer. "We focus on data that is changing. If you have to restore 3 terabytes of data [including both new and old, unchanging data], that just takes too long," she explains.
Given that the amount of data residing on servers, desktops and laptops is continuing to skyrocket, businesses must think about recovery first, and then develop a strategy to ensure that their most critical data is in the best position to be restored, says Walzer. "Doing so will protect these assets, keep costs under control, and ensure a fast recovery time," she adds.
BUMI's technology looks at changes within a company's specific data storage vault. If something hasn't changed in three months, the data is stored in archived vaults. In the event of a disaster, this allows a firm to immediately search and recover data that is not archived, slashing the time it would otherwise take to recover a company's entire data. "The system works backwards," Walzer explains.
"The growth of data is out of control," she adds. "IT managers don't mind buying more servers, but they don't think, 'How can I restore or recover my data?'
It's not enough to just have a business continuity plan in place. Firms need to regularly test these plans. But many do not. The survey found that only 52% of respondents said they check their backup process every day, while 14% of respondents said they check on a weekly basis. Worryingly, 9% said they never check.
"Firms need to ask what their recovery objective is, and then test for a year," says Walzer. "Be smart, don't just add servers. Servers will crash 100%. It's not if [a disaster] happens, it's when."
Business continuity needs and technology have changed dramatically in the last three years, says Mildred Copeland, IT manager at Garrison Investment Group, a New York-based middle market credit, distressed and asset based investor, and BUMI client.
"We see the tide changing. We started by putting SLA agreements in place with a 2-day turnaround where we could restore our data in two days, which allowed us to still function seamlessly. Now with new technology in virtualizing machines, we decided we wanted to change those 2 days to minutes," she explains.
"It's become essential now. The technology allows you to do it. But it's also the method of accessing your information. Now with the click of a mouse, my information will back up every day at a set time," she says.