Let’s Talk About Backups…or how to not ruin your day.

Everybody knows what a backup is and that regular backups are essential to good computer hygiene.  Everybody also knows that they should brush their teeth for about two minutes at least twice each day and that daily flossing is essential to good dental hygiene.  I bet you see where I’m going with this.

I Hated Dentists

I used to hate going to the dentist for cleanings.  They were painful bloody affairs that often left me traumatized for days.  Then one day, I met Corey, my current hygienist.  She promised that if I followed her recommendations, my next cleaning would be quick and nearly pain free.  So, for the next six months, I thoroughly flossed and brushed my teeth every.  I even bought a fancy electric toothbrush that rhymes with tonicwear.  As promised, my next visit was a breeze.  No pain, no blood and no trauma.  I actually like going to the dentist now.

Donut Pain

This morning, I was chatting with the owner of my favorite donut place and he shared his current computer woes associated with a hack attack and a failed backup system (no, he’s not a client).  He runs a pretty large operation that includes both retail and wholesale donuts and thanks to his current problem, he’s lost at least ten days of important data about sales, taxes, wages, invoices, etc.  Recreating that data will be a nightmare and it will never be completely accurate.  I felt bad for him right up until he told me that his backup system is run by his nephew (once again proving that nepotism is a bad bad thing).  I know his nephew and could have warned him that this was going to end in tears.

So, what went wrong.  Simply put, my friend didn’t follow good backup practices.  First, he hired his nephew.  Just don’t.  Second, his nephew didn’t understand the complete purpose of a backup system.  Sure, it’s helpful in the event your active systems experience a catastrophic failure (eg. a fire on the premises or a theft of the hardware).  But that’s just the beginning.  In fact, these days I’d argue that it isn’t even the most important purpose since hard drives and servers have become far more reliable than they were in the past. 

Ancient History

In days of yore (about 10 years ago), most business backed up their data to one of several data tape formats.  Typically, a backup was performed every evening and the tape was removed from the job site and stored in a safe location (my IT guy’s underwear drawer).  Good practices required the use of several tapes.  You would have a tape for each day of the week (five or seven depending upon your business), a tape for each week of the month, and a tape for at least each of the preceding three months.  So, you’d basically have somewhere between 12 and 16 tapes with full copies of your data.

Why so many tapes you ask?  Well, if your data has been corrupted (by a hacker, hardware or software fault, act of God or Satan), you will need the last backup that wasn’t corrupted and start your restoration efforts from there.  You can then update from later tapes any data that wasn’t corrupted to reduce, as far as possible, the amount of lost data.  Any modern competent backup system will apply a similar approach albeit without the use of tapes (now, most backup are to the cloud). 

Our poor nephew was backing up the data each night to an offsite system (good) but was overwriting the previous night’s backup (bad).  He was creating a monthly master backup (good) but the hack took place on the 13th of the month (imaging losing 13 days of your data).

A Good Backup Plan

First, unless you are a really large business, the cloud is the way to go.  Good vendors provide highly secure, hack and malware resistant platforms and excellent customer service.  My personal favorite is Carbonite (www.carbonite.com) but there are several good options. 

Second, assuming you are in a client/server environment, make sure that everyone stores their important files on the server.  Sensitive folders and files can be password protected or even made inaccessible so there is no reason to ever store data on a local computer. 

Third, backup EVERYTHING.  The incremental costs for cloud storage are nominal and backups are too important to go cheap.

Fourth, make sure whatever backup system you choose emulates the multi-tape system described above.  Your restoration efforts are only as good as your last valid backup.  If that was a month ago, your 30 days out of luck.

Finally, and this is my personal preference, when possible perform incremental backups throughout the day.  The more frequently you backup your data, the less data you will lose should a restoration be required.

Happy Ending

This story actually has a happy ending.  The donut shop owner brought his data to a recovery expert.  She happened to be very familiar with the virus that had corrupted his data and was able to quickly recover the vast majority of what had been lost.  That said, she was surprised that his business was even vulnerable to the virus as it has long been thwarted by most major AV software including Windows Defender.  That’s when she learned that the nephew hadn’t updated the server’s virus definitions…ever.  So, I guess another valuable lesson was learned.


About the Author: AF

Allen Friedman Founder and CEO of Techaerus LLC

Allen Friedman is the owner and CEO of Techaerus LLC, an office efficiency consulting firm. He is also a licensed attorney. Allen founded and managed one of the largest consumer collections law firms in the country and managed over 50 attorneys as well as hundreds of non-attorney staff. Prior to founding that firm, he opened and managed the New York and Michigan operations for the largest consumer collections firm in the United States. Throughout his career, Allen has always placed great emphasis on ensuring that investments in office technology provide the greatest possible returns. In order to achieve these returns, he focuses on three pillars of office management; asset management, training, and automation. His expertise includes document/image management, software and hardware integration, training, and process management and automation. Allen lives in Scottsdale, Arizona with his wife Amy, his children Cassidy and Gideon, and two adorable dogs named Roxie (a labradoodle) and Bentley (an Old English Sheepdog).