After you've been in this business long enough, you get used to the panicked calls. Somebody you know has lost all or most of their mission-critical data. Or their e-mail server has gone down and their entire business lived in their e-mail. The details always differ, but the result is the same. Everything is gone, nothing was backed up. All is lost.
At least most of the time everything is lost. From time to time the company involved actually had backups, but they weren't really stored like they should have been, and there was a fire or some other disaster. Sometimes a good data recovery service can find most of what's missing, and get the company up and running in a few days. But those situations are more the exception than the rule.
A more normal call came to me this week. A company I've worked with had mysteriously lost its e-mail data. One of the principals of the company was frantic. What could they do? I asked the questions I always ask. No, the e-mail server wasn't backed up. Likewise, there was no automatic mirroring, no off-site copy, and the server's hard disk was just a disk with no RAID configuration. Wasn't there something I could do?
'Sorry,' was the only thing I said. In the past I'd already pointed out the need for backups, provisions for data recovery, all of the other things that people who run data centers do as a matter of course. The fact that a company didn't think of itself as running a data center didn't lessen the need to protect their information. Of course, even large companies are playing IT roulette with their data these days.
But at least a formal data center probably increases the need for a company to take steps to protect its data. Without a real data center, the servers are less likely to be protected and the data more likely to be at risk. All those best practices that people learn when they run data centers are probably being ignored.
So, short of doing the smart thing and actually building a data center, even if it's a small one, at least you can protect your data. Perhaps the easiest means of protecting the data your company needs to stay in business is to sign up for data backup in the cloud. There are services that provide high-quality, highly protected sites for your company data at low prices.
Companies such as Mozy and Carbonite can provide reliable, inexpensive off-site backups of your critical data in real time. What's more, if your office is destroyed due to a fire or something, your data is still safe, and you can bring your business back to life from another location.
Why am I telling you this? It's simple. I don't do data recovery. I'm not the guy to call when you lose your e-mail server. If you care about your business, then it's up to you to be responsible and make provisions to protect your mission critical data. The most you're likely to get from me is a sincere, but only somewhat heartfelt, 'Sorry.'