Posts Tagged ‘backup’
Over the last 10 days, I have been battling with backups and restores. At one of my customer sites, they needed to recreate some business reports from a moment in time 2 weeks ago (which involved a restore of the live transactional database from 2 weeks ago into a ‘play’ area, and run reports off of that). The other battle I had was with one of my own business servers, which was targeted by some Chinese hackers who wanted to use my server for informing the world via a zombie email campaign about some dodgy cheap handbag replicas, or some knock-off pharmaceuticals.
Anyway, what I found in both instances was that the backups that were rigorously being taken were just not up to the job. In the case of my customer, we found that whilst their operations team were doing nightly backups, they had no licence for the backup software they were using so when it came time to restore the database, the software blocked the restore. This matter was made worse by the fact that the backup software was provided by a company which no longer existed, so a licence could not be purchased. Doh!! In my own case, the problem was that with my backups, the ROOT hack they had injected had been diligently backed up to my backup media. Double-Doh!
The battles to restore my customer data and my own servers were monumental. Luke Skywalker Vs Death Vader, Harry Potter Vs Volda-whats-it, Men of middle Earth Vs the Orcs – all of these pale into insignificance compared to my battle with tapes, disks and unlicensed software. In the end, I won on both counts. But the battles wasted an awful lot of time (chargeable time in the case of my customers data restore ). But these lead me to review my own backup policies, which I offer to you now:
- If it’s important to you, back it up, and back it up regularly.
- If it’s not backed up into at least 3 places, then it’s not backed up.
- If it’s an ongoing project that you are working on (with lots of changes) back it up as you go. I like to keep regular backups of my current projects to online services such as drop box. The drag and drop interface means it’s a 1 second process to keep everything secure for free.
- Keep backups away from the main data and away from other backups. Once every other week, I backup to an external disk, which I keep in my car. If my office/home office burnt down (where I keep my servers and other backups) I still have everything I need
- After you have backed up, now and again verify the data and check that you can actually restore the data (a backup that you can’t use is worthless)
- Backup to a media you can get your hands on quickly. In my case, I backup to cheap portable media disks. My customer sent their data off site, which took 3-4 days to get back. Not good in an emergency!
- Have backup rotation. In my case, I now have 3 portable drives – one for my weekend backups, one now which I use at the start of the month, and one for the start of each quarter. If I get another rootbot, it may infect my weekly but is unlikely to hit the monthly and quarterly drives. With portable disks being so cheap, it’s not even worth worrying about the cost.
- If possible, also use online web backups. There are several online web storage and backup systems such as Zmanda, BackBlaze and I have heard good things about Mozy. However, I have three problems with online as the final solution; (a) in the UK we tend to have low bandwidth available and ‘fair use’ policies could cause your ISP to hit you hard via internet throttling (b) if a file is damaged (corrupted, or truncated), the damage is set as your current copy to the web and (c) I have customer data which I KNOW they would not like going into the cloud.
- Don’t forget your other devices; laptops, tablets and phones. My own backups work in that all devices get backed up to the main servers, and the servers are then backed up (now, multiple times).
- Backups are only valid if you also sweep your system on a regular basis for viruses, Trojans, Roots and other nasty’s. I used to use just one anti-virus system for all of this – I now have 3 different checkers.
As the Christmas adverts start to appear on TV, the shops fill with tinsel, and Band Aid (do they know it’s Christmas) is playing in every shop you enter, it’s hard not to stop and scream ‘You do know there is still two months to go don’t you?!?!?!?’. But all of these do remind us that Christmas is just around the corner. And as we move into the winter months, the big question is not ‘Will it snow as much as last year’ but more…. If it does, what will you do about it?!?
Last year’s snow caused chaos! Cars were stuck in drifts or unable to move from driveways, railways ground to a halt, flights were cancelled and for a few weeks, the country ground to a halt. This is of course great if you work for somebody else, a few days stuck at home building snowmen with the family is great fun, but when the missed work means loss of revenue for you personally, it’s not so great. So what plans have you made for this year’s disruption?
But whilst making those plans, why not take a few more steps. Snow is seasonal – it may affect us for a week or two. So whilst making those snow plans, why not see if there are other ‘just in case’ plans for your business which you can put in place.
A good starting list for thinking about includes:
So let’s start with the snow plans. As I predict it’s going to be bad again like last year, I am going to be stocking up early with salt and sand bags to keep in the garage just in case. Last year’s snow meant shops ran out in record quick time, so just now – whilst its plentiful and cheap, half a dozen bags can be stored in the garage (it doesn’t go off, so can sit there for years until its needed). But better than that, I have worked my schedule so during most of December and January I will be working from home, so no travelling for me. What about you – can you change your schedules to remove the need to travel?
None of us like the idea of falling ill. Of course, the odd bought of flu or cold will always happen – but what happens if things are more serious? A broken leg, a broken arm, or something worse? If you don’t have any plans in place yet, it may be worth looking at private health cover to get you on your feet as soon as possible (you don’t want to be stuck in an 18 week NHS wait queue), and of course critical illness insurance cover for the lost revenue when you are not working. But please have somebody with some experience read the critical illness contract as some do not cover freelancers, contractors or the self employed.
Prevention is better than cure, so are you doing anything to maintain your level of fitness and health. For most small business owners, they are their own most important asset, so is there anything you can do to stay fit, happy and healthy. Memberships to gyms can be paid for by your company (although it is a taxable perk), so it may be time to get yourself into shape and protect your investments.
Loss of Assets Plans
What happens if you lost an asset you need for your business? What happens if you crash your car (is there a spare car you can use to get to those meetings, do you have the number of a rental company to hand)? What about computers? Please tell me that you have the data backed up somewhere and you take backups on regular occasions (daily or weekly minimum). What are the important assets for your business, and what are your backup plans for those assets? Think about computers, printers, mobile phones, cars, offices, your house and of course your business data.
Loss of Resource Plans
Now what about resource that is no longer available – can you create a backup plan for that? It’s useful to keep a handful of freelancers or contractor contact details to hand that you can call on when resource is needed. This includes a backup plan for yourself – you never know when a family member will need your help or you have to drop everything to help somebody out – who can you pass your work onto in an emergency?
Loss of Internet Plans
For most small businesses, the internet is one of the heaviest forms of technology that they use. But internet connections do go down, telephone lines do get accidently cut by engineers working on roads, exchanges do sometimes catch fire. What are your backup plans for loss of the internet? Is there a list of internet cafes you can use in an emergency? Is there a way of getting hold of the emails that normally go to your phone or exchange server?
General Backup Plans
Then of course there are the general backup plans, plans that cover a wide range of options. These may include call answering services (to take the calls when you can’t), communication options such as skype (for when communication is an issue or you cannot move), online presentation systems, online storage and backup (such as dropbox) for keeping copies of work.
Clearly, none of us wants anything bad to happen. But some things (like snow) are more likely than others and having a backup plan means that when the unfortunate does occur, you are not left scrabbling around – you have a plan and you know what you are doing.