Hurricane Sandy has left homes and businesses destroyed in its path. While I was lucky to suffer a few minor power outages, many of my neighbors and clients were not so fortunate. Over the last week, I have been helping clients get back to business. For the luckier ones, we were able to reinstall software [...]
Hurricane Sandy has left homes and businesses destroyed in its path. While I was lucky to suffer a few minor power outages, many of my neighbors and clients were not so fortunate. Over the last week, I have been helping clients get back to business. For the luckier ones, we were able to reinstall software and restore a backup and they got back to work. For others, they have learned painful lessons.
We’ve all heard the mantra, “backup, backup and backup again.” In short, you can’t have enough backups. There are a few codicils to this rule that are equally important: “make sure you know what you are backing up;” “make multiple versions;” and “make sure backups are taken offsite regularly.”
Many small firms have signed on with companies like MozyPro or Carbonite to back up their critical data. These products, and products like them, are designed primarily for home computers but have been adopted by many small firms. Many of these companies offer business versions which include support for SQL backups and Exchange environments. It is important to know that these products make some assumptions that can leave you vulnerable. The home flavors of these products assume you are storing your documents under My Documents and that your primary need is to back up photos and music, not business databases. Even the business versions assume you can exclude the subfolders under Program Files or Program Files(x86). Be forewarned: override these and check the options carefully. SQL databases as well as many billing programs store their data under the program files subfolders.
Many small firms innocently opt for the home or home office versions because of the cost and convenience. As an example, Carbonite Home costs $59 per year to back up an unlimited amount of data from one computer. When you set it up, it recommends the folders it thinks should be backed up. If, in fact, you are backing up an office workstation or your server, you are almost guaranteed to miss critical files relying on their home backup wizard. Again, using Carbonite as the example, their server product costs $599per year for up to 500 GB on an unlimited number of computers. Server software includes components that are only included in the business server option. You need to be careful to order the right product. Over the last year, many of these vendors have changed their offerings so you would be wise to check the options available today.
More importantly, you need to review the files that are being backed up and test the restore option before you have an emergency. Make a point to schedule time to review the files being included in your off line backup. If you have installed new programs, make sure you update your settings. Never rely on a single backup option. I usually recommend that my clients manually or automatically backup important programs from within the application and then have the backup files stored in multiple places. The point is to have options in the event of a mistake or emergency.
When it comes to restoring, don’t wait until you have an emergency to find out that you weren’t backing up the right information. If necessary, contact each vendor’s tech support team or confer with your IT or software consultants to be sure you are have identified the right files. Make sure you know how to log into your cloud backup program. Remember that your notes about the password may now be sitting on the drive that can’t be read or accessed. It’s a good idea to keep login and password information off site as well. Programs like Lastpass which let you collect user logins and passwords for online accounts can be a good tool to store and manage logins and passwords for office applications. The beauty of programs like Lastpass is that they combine local access with remote access so they essentially build in their own backup function.
If you have a lot of data on your server, you need to also consider the amount of time it may take to restore your data. Large amounts of data will take a long time to download from the Internet. Again, the best strategy is to have multiple options to get back to work.
Another option is to get rid of your server and have your data hosted so someone else takes on the risk of access and backup. This option is becoming more viable and more affordable but is not necessarily comfortable for lawyers concerned about confidentiality.