1. Is Your Data in the Cloud? Can You Get It Back?

    Are you concerned about the safety of your data if it’s stored “in the cloud”? Cloud computing is a relatively new trend among businesses today, and with the right preparation and knowledge it can be an economical and effective solution to data management challenges. You just need to know the right questions to ask when selecting a provider. A few weeks ago, Amazon suffered several days of outage in its EC2 and RDS service, bringing down dozens if not hundreds of services along with it — including such high-profile sites as Reddit, Heroku, Foursquare, Quora, and many others. Although the cause of that outage has been analyzed extensively in many forums, the discussion is interesting and relevant because it brings attention to the lesson that wherever or whomever you entrust your data to—be it in the “cloud” or to a big company like Amazon — it pays to be smart about how you manage your data, especially if it’s critical to your business. Understand your options. When someone else is managing your data, it’s easy to leave the details to them. However, making sure that you at least have some understanding of what your options are in what different service providers can offer you will pay dividends later if something goes wrong, since you’ll be better equipped to make an informed decision on the spot. Things you should look at include: Who is the service provider? What is their history? Who is behind them? What is their track record? Where do they store your data? Do they own the servers where your data is stored or do they rely on someone else? Is your data stored within the local area (i.e., a drive away) or is it distributed all over the map? Do they provide a mirror of your data within your own server, or is everything in their data centers? What measures do they employ to make sure your data is safe? What methods do they employ to ensure you can get to your data when you need it? Do they provide service level assurances or guarantees to back up their claims? These are just some of the basic questions you should be asking of your service provider. Do a test drive. Often you will not know exactly how a service works until the rubber hits the road, so to speak. Ask your service provider for a demo or a trial period. Test how fast it is to back up your data, but more importantly how fast you can bring it back when you need it. This is especially important if you’re talking about gigabytes of data. Understand that doing backups in the cloud can be hampered by your bandwidth and many other components of your system and theirs. Don’t put all your eggs in one basket. Some service providers give users the option of storing data in multiple sites, to ensure that your data is safe if one site goes down. But why rely on just one service provider when you can get the services of multiple providers instead? Or perhaps better yet, why not manage some of your data on your own? While it may be complex and costly to reproduce what many service providers can provide today, it is relatively easy to set up a simple system to keep at least some of your really, really important data locally by using an unused computer or a relatively cheap, network-attached storage device or secondary/removable drive that you can buy at your local store. Create a plan and write it down . Unforeseen occurrences can and will happen — not only from your side but from your service provider’s as well. When they do happen, you will need to have a contingency plan ready, often referred to as a Business Continuity Plan. Make sure to document your plan in writing, and communicate it to everyone in your organization so they will know what to do in case disaster strikes. With its promise of unprecedented efficiency, reliability, scalability, and cost savings, cloud computing and storing your data in the cloud is the topic du jour these days. However, it’s sometimes easy to overlook the basic due diligence that’s necessary regardless of how or where your data is stored. Ultimately, it is your business on the line—and being prudent and proactive about how your data is stored, managed, and (most importantly) recovered in times of need will save you much grief when you actually need it.
  2. There’s More to Backups than Just Backing Up

    While doing regular data backups is the norm in many businesses, many forget an integral factor in ensuring that the backup system works – actually testing it. One of the most basic actions a company takes – big or small – with its data is back it up. It’s become a mantra in this age in which information is more easily stored and managed digitally: steps must be taken to ensure that data is regularly backed up. If any malfunction, misfortune, or human error occurs, with a good backup system you won’t stand to lose thousands or even millions of dollars in lost data. But there’s more to backups than meets the eye. Let’s say you have a backup system and you lose your data – how sure are you that you will actually be able to get all of it back? It’s surprising that while many companies do back up their data, very few actually conduct tests in actual data restoration. How can you be sure that your backup system will perform as expected when the time comes? It’s especially important for you to iron out all the kinks in a system as essential as your backup before you actually need it. When the worst happens, one of the last things you want on your plate is contending with any glitches or complications that you missed in your data restore system because you failed to test it properly beforehand. Not having a smooth and well tested restore system defeats the purpose of having backups in the first place. After all, what’s the point of having backups if you can’t retrieve your data properly? You need an efficient system that is regularly tested to make sure that your precious data can be easily and smoothly restored when circumstances call for it. If you’re not positive that you’ll be able to access all of your data if disaster should strike, give us a call. We’ll evaluate your backup and restore processes and make recommendations to ensure your business data will be at your fingertips no matter what happens.
  3. Data Backups – A Neglected But Important Aspect of Business Survival

    How important is your data, and what would happen if you lost it? It is essential for any business to have a data backup to fall back on when the worst happens. Let’s begin with a simple question: How important your data is to you? Think of all the information you have in your computers – all your databases, spreadsheets, documents, files, projects, emails, software – and think of how valuable they are to your business. Now try to imagine it all disappearing in an instant. What would happen to your company? What would you say to your clients? You’d have to start from scratch – and would you even have the capability to do so right away? For most business – if not all – the result of a sudden and immediate loss of data would be devastating. Operations would be crippled, and productivity would grind to a halt. Many businesses rely on soft data and losing that data, simply put, prevents them from working on anything – at least until the data can be recovered or the system goes up again, and in some cases, they’d have to start from scratch again. The difficulty of starting with virtually nothing is obvious. Things look a little brighter when a company goes the data recovery route, but the effects are just as debilitating to daily operations. For one thing, data recovery is not an exact science. Sometimes, if you’re lucky, all the data can be recovered, but many just a few tidbits of it can be retrieved, and sometimes you might get nothing at all. To top that off, data recovery is a long and expensive procedure, especially if you have a lot of data. What is the solution then? Simple: back up your data. Data backup services are much cheaper than data recovery services, and if you lose your data, you have something solid and reliable to fall back on. Data backups are probably one of the most neglected aspects of data management for many businesses these days – but it is also one of the most essential ones. Some companies think that it’s a waste of time and resources. But in the long term not only do you pay a fraction of the cost of data recovery to have your information backed up, you also prevent your business from suffering if you lose everything. You never know what events might happen that compromise you data. Natural disasters, accidents, and simple hardware failure can occur when you least expect it to, so it is only prudent and it’s responsible to make sure that your data is safely backed up. Talk to us – we’ll help you find the backup solution that’s right for your business.


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