What to expect when expecting a disaster

Symantec Corp. –

Small businesses differ from their enterprise counterparts in many ways, from funding to infrastructure and staffing. At the same time, they also share some common challenges, including the need to ensure business continuity even in the wake of a disaster. After all, statistics paint a grim picture: half of all businesses never reopen after experiencing a catastrophic data loss and 90 percent close within two years, according to research firm Baroudi Bloor International.

5 Disaster Recovery Tips

1. Document!

Every element of your DR process is important. Make sure everything is documented and ensure it includes the locations of system and other critical disks and data. Key staff members—within IT and other areas of the organization—should be familiar with these documented storage locations.

2. Automate Processes

Establish an automated system to notify critical staff of a disaster by text, phone or email. Train your staff on the system to perform basic DR/back-up tasks unsupervised. Symantec recommends enterprises have a complete disk-based data protection solution across all environments, offices and hardware.

3. Back It Up

Backing up critical data seems like a no brainer. But if you neglect to do so, no matter how good your DR plan is it will be of no use. Don't just back it up—test it!

4. Protect from the Inside

Internal theft is on the rise and usually undetected. Be sure to protect your company from random theft, vandalism and employee malice. Be aware of the data location, where it is sorted and where it is going. Place controls to automatically safeguard the data, according to corporate policy, like implementing a policy that all traveling laptops are backed up.

5. Practice Makes Perfect…almost

Practice your DR plan on a quarterly basis, better yet, more frequently. This will strengthen your organization’s skills, help you figure out more efficient logistics, work out kinks in your system and give you the confidence that your plan will work in testing.

What might cause significant data loss for a small business? Anything from a natural disaster to hardware or software failure, or even a simple human error. Every minute that vital information or services are not accessible can put a ruinous strain on the bottom line of a "lean-and-mean" small business.

As a result, a growing number of today's small companies are establishing and implementing a disaster recovery strategy. With best practices in place to guard against data loss and system downtime, these organizations protect business continuity and ensure rapid recovery from system crashes and other potentially disastrous events.

Back It Up

Data drives small business, and the ability to keep it always available is critical for a business' success. Organizations must regularly back up their data, using a tiered approach that saves data to disk as well as to tape for short- and long-term purposes. For quick recovery, disk is often the preferred media. For long-term storage and data archiving, tape is an effective option. Both methods play a major role in the backup strategies for many organizations.

Today's most advanced backup tools for small businesses provide continuous data protection for an organization's most valuable information, whether that data is on a Windows file server, a desktop or laptop, or a Microsoft Exchange, SQL, SharePoint, or other application server. New cutting edge tools have revolutionized data protection by eliminating backup windows and enabling small businesses to recover data in seconds. For example, while traditional approaches for backing up Exchange required a full database backup and "brick level" mailbox backups, the new tools offer a full, incremental, or continuous backup of Exchange and enable restores to a granular level--including down to an individual email—from a single database backup pass.

Also, because many small businesses rely on users to manually backup business-critical data to a server, a number of backup tools extend continuous disk-based protection and recovery to desktops and laptops virtually anywhere, whether in the office or on the road. In addition to improving data protection and efficiency, this capability enables users to restore their own files and maintains synchronization between multiple desktops and laptop so that the most up-to-date file versions are available on each computer. Users can also specify the files, email folders, and email attachments to be excluded from backups.

On-demand and pay-as-you-go data backup and restore services are increasingly popular among small businesses and can be easily accessed from anywhere through a Web browser. These services protect all files that have been selected for backup, collecting only changes to files after the initial full backup, then encrypting them and sending them to be backed up at a secure off-site facility. Data can be restored using an online browser-based interface. By using this model for backup and restores, small organizations obviate the expense and hassle of dealing with support contracts and software licenses and businesses can potentially forego on the physical infrastructure needed for backup.

Recover It Fast

After a disaster, businesses are often left with anxieties and pressures to recover data quickly. While prevention of data loss is a must, system recovery is equally important. Traditional recovery methods, however, are cumbersome, with manual system rebuilds from bare metal taking hours or even days. Small businesses must be able to recover from system loss or disasters in minutes. What's more, they need to be able to recover servers, desktops, or laptops to dissimilar hardware and in remote, unattended locations.

Consequently, many small businesses are also deploying system recovery tools that capture the operating system, applications, system settings, configurations, and files of a live system in a recovery point that can be saved to a wide variety of media or storage devices. An administrator can schedule how often data recovery points are created and can retain specific recovery points for different time periods in accordance with business needs.

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