Bulletproofing Your Data

Sue Marquette Poremba
Slide Show

Common Questions-and Answers-About Backup Data Reduction

It seems like 2011 was spent talking about all the bad things that have been happening on the security front. So as we come to the close of the year, let's try to think of ways we can protect our networks and computer systems.


On that end, there are few things worse than a full-out computer crash and the all-out panic it can induce. According to Symantec's 2011 SMB Disaster Preparedness Survey, the average small business experienced six computer outages over the past 12 months, ranging from cyber attacks to power outages. Add to that, data loss is a primary reason SMBs have to close their doors. The Federal Emergency Management Administration reported that a fourth of all businesses that close during a disaster never re-open - and data loss is part of that disaster.


Chances are your company will have to deal some sort of crash, but a crash doesn't need to include data loss. That's why it is vital to have a solid recovery plan in place, and the time to do it is when everything is going smoothly. Then, when the inevitable happens, you might panic a little bit, but it won't be devastating because the data will still be there for you.


Matthew Dornquast, founder and CEO of Code 42 Software, put together a list of the top eight ways SMBs can "bulletproof" their disaster recovery plan for 2012, and he kindly shared it with me, and I'm sharing it with you. Consider it my holiday gift.


  1. Back up to multiple destinations. Two destinations, physically separate, are infinitely better than one - you really want an onsite backup for super-fast backups and restores, and an offsite/cloud backup to protect against things like fire and theft of your onsite backup.
  2. Pick a secure online backup provider. When choosing an online backup provider, be sure that your data will be encrypted before it ever leaves your computer. The best systems use 448-bit encryption, and allow you to provide your own private key, so it's completely impossible for anyone else to access your data.
  3. Pick a complete backup provider with the ability to back up to and from external drives and the ability to easily restore your files. Mobile device access is also helpful.
  4. Make sure your backup system saves multiple versions of any files. The best systems let you specify how frequently a new version is saved, how many total versions of each file are retained, and for how long.
  5. Make sure your backup system retains deleted files. Most backup systems retain copies of deleted files for some period of time before purging them from the backup data. Thirty days is typical. This sounds good, but it's actually bad. If you don't realize you've deleted something before that time limit, the file is lost for good.
  6. Realize Sync Does NOT Equal Backup. Although typical sync systems give the appearance of making backups of your files, it can be tricky because of the nature of sync. If you delete something from one computer, that deletion is also performed on any other machine on the account. So if you accidentally delete a file from your synced data set, and don't realize it right away, there's a good chance it will be gone from all the other machines. The bottom line is that sync can be a great complement to backup, but is not a substitute because it cannot protect you from data loss that is the result of human error.
  7. Make sure backup is automatic and unobtrusive. There are backup solutions that run automatically and continuously without requiring any intervention from the user. This helps SMBs ensure that all data is being backed up regularly, rather than leaving it in the hands of employees to remember it.
  8. Verify that your backup is actually backing up. It's wise to periodically select some data from each of your backup destinations and restore it to be sure it works as expected. And don't just test small files; choose some large files as well so you'll know for sure that it's going to work when you really need it.

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