You Are f*cked Without a Backup Plan: 94% of companies without a backup recovery plan are out of business within 2 years of loss

Why is backup so important? Why are we taking the time to bother you about it? Are we just obsessive tech people and haterz who hoarde backups for no reason other than to just have it and say we have it? Nope.


One answer to that question, ‘why backup?’, is that it’s not IF you will lose your data, but WHEN. Loss may be due to a contractor hitting the wrong switch and deleting critical data, or deletion by a trusted and valuable employee who didn’t notice the server GUI changed. You may have to cope with intentional vandalism by a rogue vendor with access to your network, or a massive attack of thousands of infected computers.


Average HDD life is 5 years. DVDs start degrading and can be a catastrophic loss as quickly as 7 years with average life expectency in a range of 8 – 12 years for an average consumer data DVD.


Losing your data is a business reality. The question is, can you get your data back … and how fast?


Research sponsored by PricewaterhouseCoopers shows that 94% of companies that have a catastrophic data loss without backup in place will go out of business within 2 years. The firm also estimates that 15,000 hard drives around the world fail every day. And, according to web security firm Symantec, the median cost of downtime for a small or medium-size business is $12,500 per day.


Backup can save your company from lost revenue, lost sales, lost development time and lost everything. Backups will keep your doors open.


What should you backup and when should you back it up? Copy and store everything, or just some files? How can you assess what is operations critical? Here’s a few tips on how to approach your backup strategy @ your business.


Defining file backups and disk / server images


2 definitions to understand the difference between file backups and server images:


File backup – By definition, a backup refers to a copy of computer data, as a file or as the contents of a hard drive. The most common way to take backups is on the files level. Determining the most critical files is the first step in defining your backup strategy.


Disk / Server Image Backup – A full disk or server backup refers to a full backup of everything including registries, updates and patches, configurations and more. It’s done in order to restore the server precisely to its previous state.


“Everything” in this situation refers to the operating system, the configuration of the operating system, the application code and the application and user data.


Backup use cases


We’ve observed that our customers’ backup strategy can change quickly according to a few factors, including company size, how critical their data and full restore ‘time tolerance’. Disk / Server Image backups usually help decrease the restoration time, since you don’t need to re-install the operating system, re-configure it and re-install your applications.


Server / Disk Image or file backup for startups?


A startup may not have the luxury of backing up everything, because the process may represent a lot of data, including the operating system and configurations. It can also involve some high costs that can’t easily be justified. Plus, is it worth your time to work overnight to re-install the operating system and re-configure everything like it was before the disaster event? In this scenario, backing up only your critical files may be sufficient.


Backup for SMB & enterprise corporations


As the company grows larger, you usually end up using both types of back up. Some servers are not worth the expense of performing full disk / server image backups, because this can require significant offline time. But, if one or two servers are business-critical, you may need to take server backups in order to be able to restore them in a timely manner in the event of a disaster.


Can I still perform some files restoration when taking server image backups?


By taking server backups, you usually are protecting yourself against file loss, since the backup solution should be capable of extracting one specific file or set of files from this server backup.


Hosting and Business Data Backup best practices


We’d like to remind you that regardless of which backup strategy you choose for your specific case, the most forgotten best practice is the most important one: testing your backups. We advise you to try and restore your files and your servers on a regular basis. Why test restoration? Because you don’t want to test a restoration for the first time when you’re experiencing an actual disaster scenario. You want to make sure your backups are not corrupted, or that you missed a critical file when determining which files were essential for back up.

Map where your business’s data is living and where it goes to die (be forgotten).


It is impossible to properly back up your data if you do not know what you have. Figure it out by following the software you, your company, and your employees use on a day to day basis.

For example, is your data residing on a server in your corporate offices? Is critical data stored on a remote server in a datacenter? Is it in ‘the cloud’ spread across multiple nodes and datacenters? Is data stored on your staff’s notebooks? MySql databases? XML Databases referenced with JSON? Inventory what type of data you have.

You may have a large assortment of hosted client testimonial video files or other video archives that need to be accessible, and just 100 of them could take up 1 Terabyte of streaming CDN hosting storage space. You may have PDF or text profiles on 700 of your clients, yet only need a few megabytes of storage space to house them.

You may have personnel files for your employees, including video files that take up a lot of space and may grow fast, client profiles that take up little space and may be easy to recover, and personnel files containing private and confidential data whose security and storage may be regulated.

The type of data you have, and what that data is precisely, will be a factor in how the data is backed up.


Keep your data and applications backed up


Often, businesses do not consider backing up their applications when they devise their backup solution. This will soon change.

We back up the data files applications create, but we often do not think to back up the installed software and operating system files. It is important to create an image of your servers and computers to make sure that the data, applications, and operating system can be completely and seamlessly recovered to their “pre-disaster” status. If you want to completely recover from disaster, you need your applications, your system files (operating system), and the data files you have created to run your business. Recovering just your data files, but not the applications to run your computers or operating system(s) to run your servers, is not complete recovery.


Point of recovery time


Backup systems are quite flexible regarding how much historical data they can recover. Do you always need to recover the last six months of data? Is having the most recent week’s worth of data all you really need?

Are you in a regulated industry where a backup solution must handle a full seven years of data? GravityLab can help with that, contact us for a streaming video hosting consultation..

The point of recovery date and time are an important consideration.


Online or on site or a redundancy using a hybrid on site / off site approach?


Traditional backup solutions for the last decade included backing up to a local hard disk, external drive, tape, or other removable media such as DVD or CD. Some folks had a budget for NAS or a SAN.

Over the past few years, we’ve seen the rise of the cloud, and the army of sales folks it it employees pushing it. We probably have databases running on virtual machines. You will need to consider which solution is best for you when evaluating your overall data storage landscape. Online solutions are great for remote workers and for backing up smaller amounts of data. However, they limit your backup (and recovery) speeds to the amount of bandwidth you have. Larger amounts of data will take a long time to download, and you should not only back up the data locally, but also keep a copy in off-site storage to ensure faster data disaster recovery times.

If you are using tape media, ensure you are aware of its average life span. Not all manufactures are the same. Some experts say consider replacing it after approximately 100 operations because tape media degrades over time. Removable hard disc media normally needs to be replaced when it is 5 years old, which is the average life of a hard disc. Either media type should be replaced when backup write or verify errors are reported.

Best practices dictate selecting the right type of media for particular operations: high speed disk for near term operations, with tape and removable disk suitable for off-site storage and archiving. If you do need to replace media, this might be a good time to consider options. Cloud-based storage and archiving, for example, can provide many benefits including reduced storage hardware management and flexible pricing options.


Consider off site backup. Bad things happen to good people.


Don’t forget your servers, and remember all of them.


Your business data is not just what’s in the public_html folder one level up from your FTP storage account on the company’s shared file server networked to the web. The data in your email server, application server, sales management SaaS and website chat client must be backed up as well. Whatever it is that makes up critical components of your business.


Quickly and easily migrate existing physical systems to virtual machines.

Don’t get burdened with converting physical machines to virtual machines. With the right migration tools, also known as physical to virtual conversions (P2V), you can do this with the simple click of a button. This will save you time and reduce complexity. Time and money, both are worth keeping!


Backup documentation aka Document What You’re Doing and Why; So Someone Else Has a Chance if You’re a Zombie.


Make sure that more than one person knows your backup and recovery procedures and that person is not the angry consultant you always verbally spar with in the morning when he’s distracting the receptionist. In the event of a disaster, other members of your “business continuity team” should have the proper authorizations (if needed), overall information, and technical competence (such as your webmaster that you work with) to help recover your business data.


Encrypt your backups.


Production data and backup data is susceptible to threats. Guard against your critical data getting in the wrong hands should it become lost or stolen. Always encrypt your backup, it’s easy: just pretend that your backups will be found and taken, they very well may be.

There’s nothing you want backed up from your company that you should feel OK about being sold to a competitor, if you don’t mind if you’re backup is discovered and copied … you’re not backing up the right parts.


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