Tales from the data crypt: how to prevent a business nightmare

You’ve heard the horror stories.

Wind-swept, stormy nights lashing empty mansions, where unusual things have been spotted.

Unsuspecting drivers motoring along an empty highway, unaware of what… or who… is in the seat behind them.

Pagan rituals gone awry, unleashing spiritual powers nobody can control.

And worst of all, creepy chronicles of unexpected data loss… WITHOUT WORKING BACKUP OR RECOVERY.

Do we want to change to Business Continuity to describe a whole process or backup for a more recognizable word?

You may have read our own ghastly tales of fixing this nightmare for clients. Today, we’re going to peel back the mask on this topic once and for all.

And there’s a good reason to: we keep hearing the same stories again and again. It seems every week another terrible tale pops up of malicious hackers, woefully inadequate backup and a business on the brink of collapse.  

Business Continuity vs Data Backup

Data Backup, is literally just that, saving your data somewhere. 

Business continuity is a huge subject. It goes beyond just saving your data, it covers everything your organisation might need to get back on its feet should disaster ever strike. This is a critical part of the backup process, as it directly relates to how much downtime you'll experience if something goes wrong. While it often centres on technology, it can also extend to things like physical files, infrastructure and even power generation.

How the Unimaginable Unfolds… And What Happens When It Does

It might be hard to picture walking in on a Monday morning to find your data’s vanished into the ether, but this is what happens literally hundreds of times every year in Australia (and they’re just the ones that get reported).  And while there’s often a focus on the big, nasty hackers, the reality is that there are plenty of other ways to evaporate your data in an instant, like…   

  • Hardware failure (the most common cause)
  • Human error
  • Viruses or malware attacks
  • Software failure or corruption

Not to mention the ever-present threat of natural disasters, especially in Queensland, where in 2019 alone we have seen Tropical Cyclone Trevor cause havoc to homes and businesses in several Far North Queensland towns and the city of Townsville.

And when one of these occur, the impacts to your business can be just as varied, from annoying disruption to business-ending catastrophe. Depending on the “how” and “what”, the damage from a data loss can include…

  • Financial Cost: Most data losses are measured purely by the hit to the bottom line, but it’s usually one measure of the fall-out.
  • Staff Morale and Productivity: When data’s lost, your business can grind to a halt. That not only stops your employees doing work, but frustrates them no end.
  • Customers and Loyalty: If you can’t help your customers, then it’s hard to keep them around. And if they hear about the data loss (which you may be obliged to report), they may well head for the hills.
  • Business Reputation: It’s not just existing customers you have to worry about. Your wider standing can take a serious hit that lingers long-term if you can’t bounce back quickly from data loss.
  • Business Closure: The “granddaddy” of all the damage a data loss can wreak. Need we say more?

According to a Dell study, only 11% of Australian businesses surveyed could be considered "ahead of the curve" when it came to business continuity practices. This means that they are only moderately confident they could restore their data.

The Simple (But Not Easy) Solution

If you just read the stat above, getting up to the “curve” (if not ahead of it) when it comes to business continuity might seem the obvious answer to the scourge of data loss.

And in a nutshell, that’s what most businesses need to do.

But that simple answer disguises the difficulty behind what a good backup and recovery solution involves. To go with that, there are two big factors that further complicate things:

  1. Businesses don’t fully understand the role that business continuity plays. As a result, they underinvest, ignore or “ad hoc” this part of their technology.
  2. The nature of business continuity is prevention, not cure. That often makes it a harder sell for organisations who want tangible benefits for their tech budget.

The good news is, even if you’re still storing your most important files on a USB stick tucked away in Suzie’s drawer, you always have the chance to revisit your business continuity processes before disaster strikes.

Business Continuity, The Better Way

This isn’t a comprehensive guide on building a fail-free data protection strategy for your business, but if you follow these five principles, you’ll have a solid plan for keeping your data safe.

Review Your Strategy

Better business continuity starts here, with a solid understanding of your data and your business continuity needs.

But if you’ve never had such a strategy before, where do you start? Well, these questions are a good foundation...

  • What data do you need to back up?
  • Where and how is it going to be stored?
  • How will you recover backed up data if a loss happens?
  • How many hours can your business go without accessing its critical systems or servers?
  • Are we relying on a manual or automated process for backup?
Review Your Technology

This may fall under strategy, but it’s surprising how many businesses are happy to look at their processes and plans… so long as it doesn’t cost them anything extra.

The plain truth is, you may have to drop some dollars to get a backup solution that works for your business. Obviously, some businesses need more than others. But keep in mind that the average downtime for a business is 18 hours per annum, so the investment in a business continuity solution has great ROI.

For example, we use a dedicated business continuity platform — as the centre point ensuring you have a business continuity and data protection strategy. 

In-House or Outsourced?

For a lot of SME's, business continuity is another item tacked onto someone’s already overcrowded “to do” list. And in a lot of cases, that means it never gets done.

On top of that, the person given the task of improving business continuity may not have the expertise to do a very good job. This is important, as the wrong person may undermine all the planning and tech you’ve pulled together to this point.

If your business is highly reliant on technology and an outage would be detrimental,  an outside expert may be worth your while.

(By the way, that’s something we can help you out with.)

Use Technology to Power Your Business Continuity

Starting with your servers and office data is the typical first step in working out what to back up. But the scope of your backup shouldn’t end there.

Most businesses have laptops and desktops, which may have important data on them. It is worthwhile including these in your business continuity strategy if they are business critical.

The rules don't change if your data is in the cloud, you have to ensure your data is backed up and available should there be any issue. This includes Office 365 or Google and websites.

The Golden Rule of Business Continuity

The 3-2-1 rule of backup has been around for a few years, but it’s still just as important than ever (perhaps more so, with the ever-growing mountains of data businesses accumulate). So, what is this 3-2-1 rule?

Your data needs to be kept in 3 different places, 2 of which are local (but on different hardware), and 1 that’s offsite.

That’s all there is to it. You’re free to choose how it’s done, but by following the rule, you’re minimising the chances of not just a data loss crippling your business, but a bad back up taking things from bad to worse.

Is Your Business Continuity A Nightmare?

In the Dell survey we referenced earlier, 80% of businesses asked were either “not confident” or “doubtful” of their ability to recover data from their backups. That’s 8 out of 10 businesses who have a data-related nightmare just waiting to erupt.

Regardless of whether your current strategy is thinner than a pulp horror comic or if you’ve got something more solid in place, we’d urge you to revisit your business continuity processes. If you need help, let us know: we do free consultations and have helped dozens of businesses sorting their business continuity.