Will You Recover?
Would you (and/or your clients) recover from a disaster?
What would you do if your (and/or your clients') office(s) were destroyed? And/or your computer systems "crashed"? and/or you lost a hard drive(s)?
Would your (and/or your clients') business survive?
Although these are not questions we think of often (enough) or like to consider, they may be some of the most important questions to which how you are able and prepared to respond may mean the "life or death" of your (and/or your clients') business!
Further, you may find that you may not be as prepared to easily, quickly and/or completely recover from such a disaster as you may think.
We hope, in this article, to help you be better prepared for and able to as quickly and easily recover from such a disaster as possible.
We were personally, recently and "harshly" reminded of the importance of this topic due to an unprecedented series of hurricanes that hit our area followed by the devastating Tsunami that effected so many in Southeast Asia at the end of last year.
We live and work in Florida, which was hit by a record four (4) major hurricanes this year :( In advance of several of these hurricanes we were forced to evacuate the area and to face the possibility that our home and virtual office may be destroyed upon our return. Therefore, we had to "hastily" make some "final" backups of our local systems, dismantle and pack everything up and evacuate.
Although we were very fortunate to return to find our home and virtual office buildings essentially undamaged, we were without power, telephone or internet connectivity in the area for weeks. Upon restoration of these basic utilities, which most of us probably take for granted all too much, we discovered, as you may know, that computers "don't like to travel", and we subsequently encountered a whole series of various system hardware failures :(
In the course of recovering from all of these "disasters" we learned some valuable lessons which we hope will benefit you all in preparing for, avoiding and/or recovering from any such disasters that you may encounter.
Just backing up your data may not always be enough ...
1. Do you have backups of all of your data?
Regularly backing up all of your important data is critical!!! ...
Do you have backups of all of the data on your PC's? and ...
Do you have backups of all of your data for all of your web site(s) / domain(s) / on all of your web server(s)?
If your web hosting company performs regular backups of your web site(s) / domain(s), that's Great! :) However, it may also be advisable for you to also have your own backups of all of your web site(s) / domain(s) / on all of your web server(s) stored somewhere other than on the web server for which it is a backup. This is advisable just in case something happens to your web server and/or web hosting company from which you want to be able to recover from as well, right?
If you are not already regularly backing up your data, you need to first start doing so immediately! Or you may be "out of luck" when a disaster strikes you! If you do not already have a data backup system, you may want to get one of those we have listed for your benefit via the links in the resource box below.
2. Do you have a copy of your data backups stored somewhere else?
Given that some "disasters" may not only "destroy" your computer but may also destroy the facilities in which you work and/or your computers are located, it is always a good idea to keep a copy of your data backups in another location separate from the source of the data. This may be as simple as putting a copy of your backup CD's in a safety deposit box or storing a copy on a remote server, which you are sure you will have access to if your primary computers and network are unavailable.
3. Have you tested and verified that your data backup can be successfully restored?
It is almost as bad as having no backup at all, to have one that you can't successfully restore when you need it!
Therefore, verify that each of your backups may be successfully restored, preferably on your "backup computer", discussed below, before you may "rest assured" that you have a "good backup" that may be used for your recovery if/when you need it.
You may see that some of these recovery tools may also be helpful and beneficial to you in recovering any files and/or data that you may lose and/or that gets corrupted in between your regular data backups.
4. Can you restore the applications you need?
Do you have the necessary media to restore (the correct version(s) of) all of the applications you will need to successfully restore and use your data?
Nowadays many applications are delivered electronically. Therefore, make sure you also back up the original installable version of each of the applications you may need to use your data and/or run your day-to-day business.
Do you have all the keys and/or licenses you need to re-install your applications and/or install them on another (backup) computer?
Do you have all the necessary application configuration and settings information backed up for quick and easier restoration such that your applications and data may be installed and used on your backup computer just as they are on your primary one?
Many of the applications we use nowadays are highly configurable and/or customizable even after being installed. You may have invested hours of your time configuring your applications to function optimally for you and your business. You probably don't want to have to remember and redo all of these settings before these applications may be back up and running on a different computer, now do you? Therefore, you will want to make sure you back up and have a restorable copy of any of your applications' configuration and/or settings files that you are able, as well as the applications installable version and data, right?
For example: If you use Microsoft Outlook, or some other similar, email client that allows you to define a set of Rules and/or filters to filter, "prioritize" and/or sort the "myriad" of email messages you may regularly receive, than rather than having to redefine all of these Rules in a new / separate installation of Outlook, you can Export and back up all of your Rules for Import as part of your recovery procedures.
5. Do you have a backup computer?
What are you going to do if the computer(s) you currently use get destroyed, damaged and/or suffer serious hardware or software issues?
Do you have another computer, with the proper configuration and necessary capacity, onto which you can successfully install the applications and restore the data you need to continue your business operations while your primary computer(s) are repaired and/or replaced?
Have you successfully performed these recovery and "cut over" procedures to your back up computer to insure that you will have everything you need in case of an emergency?
If you are unable to answer these questions affirmatively, then you may be risking a significant "business outage" while you await the repair or replacement of your primary computer.
6. Do you have a backup for your internet connectivity?
Do you have access to a dial-up, remote and/or backup internet connection such that you may access your email and/or the internet in the event that your primary internet connection is unavailable, e.g. during an evacuation or extended cable, telephone and/or power outage?
Some of the web-based email services, like Yahoo, provide the capability to also "pull" your email from other email accounts/domains. It may be beneficial to you to setup these email "pulls" for all of your email accounts from such a web-based email service such that you may access your email from only a web connection such as those available from the "internet terminals" popping up in airports, hotels, etc.
Being prepared for a "disaster" greatly increases the likelihood that you will be able to recover and resume your business(es) as quickly and efficiently as possible.
Planning and preparing for such an event in advance will help insure that you have everything in place to quickly recover from such an occurrence even if you have to relocate your business elsewhere due to a natural disaster such as those we have seen around the globe this past year.
We hope that our "lessons learned" that we are sharing with you herein will help you be more prepared in case a "disaster" should strike.
About the Author: Michael S. DeVries is the Moderator of The Virtual Consulting Discussion List (http://www.TheVCF.com/vcdl.phtml) and Principal of The Virtual Consulting Firm (http://www.TheVCF.com).
Additional assistance and/or tools to help you in your backup, data storage and/or recovery efforts, in the Backup, Storage and Recovery categories, at: