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Data: Protect from the Worst, Test for Peace of Mind, Manage Data Buildup

By Steve Tylock

Don’t Lose Data

The first night after finding out that you’ve lost company data = one of the worst nights of sleep you’ll ever have.

It doesn’t matter how. There are so many opportunities for it to happen. A conniving hacker, a natural disaster, failed equipment, or just a simple employee mistake – the end result is the same, company data is gone.

Protect from the Worst

This is the place where those of us in the IT field get to make jokes about how often we can use the word redundant within a small space. Because you just can’t duplicate data too much.

If your data is worth something, it makes sense to store it on quality gear. And, lowest common denominator applies here — cheap out on any single element in the environment, and that will be your weakest link.  The highest risk of failure.  The overall quality of the environment is defined by the item with the lowest quality.

Business owners often joke that they have bigger worries if an earthquake takes out their entire building.  But, without data do you have a business?  Recent events have proven we can work from anywhere.  But, not without the data.  If your office is reduced to rubble, the business can often still survive; but, without data, that same business no longer has a path to a viable future.  You can only recover from a complete catastrophe if you’ve protected against that catastrophe.

A simple list:

  • Run business operations on business class equipment and software
    • That hasn’t outlived its useful life
    • With warranties and service agreements.
  • Protect against the most common error – disk failure – by using RAID disk systems and backing up data.
  • Backup the entire system with an “image” if it’s important to be running again quickly.
  • Store the data onsite for quick retrieval.
  • And store the data offsite so that there’s protection if the “site” has an issue.
  • And confirm the “offsite” solution has protection so that it doesn’t lose the data either.

If you take these actions you have a chance to overcome a system glitch / event / compromise if you…

Test for Peace of Mind

Is it working?  Are the backups running?  Can you recover from them should it be needed?

You’d be surprised how many potential new clients we talk to that had a great back up plan in place but they lost their data anyways.  Why?  They set it and forgot it.  They took the time to design a backup solution that met the criteria above.  And, then they assumed.  Assumed it ran successfully every day.  Assumed they could retrieve a file should it be needed.  Assumed a full recovery would not be an issue.

It’s unfortunate to run into an organization that was surprised to find out that the backups they thought they were doing actually had an issue.  That for an unexpected reason – the data they wanted to restore was not there.

Sure – I have a relationship with a company that can take arbitrary disks and try to recover “what they can” from them – and the success rate is better than you might expect. But it comes with a hefty price, and only those that really, really need it tend to go down this path.

So for goodness sake – regularly test your backups!

And if the backups are run by some third party for you – go ahead – pretend for today that you really liked the version of the spreadsheet you had last Friday. Ask support to get that back for you. Ask nicely, give them time, and see how successful the result is…

You’re probably aware that there’s a whole industry around “Disaster Planning and Recovery,” right? Well – it’s too much to go into here, but if you’ve gone down the road enough to build a plan around what you’re going to do if/when a larger disaster strikes, you probably want to test that out with a simulated event at some point to see how well that goes, if the plan has gaps, and what improvements would help.

Manage Data Buildup

Lastly, let’s think about all the “stuff” you’re accumulating.

First – this is a good time to remind everyone about the theory of stuff from George Carlin

Because electronic data is one of those things that you tend to accumulate.

And it’s not something someone else can help you with. For most of it they’d end up asking “Is this folder from a conference in 2012 important to keep around?” (and most of the time you’ll end up answering “Yes – I want that stuff.”)

The wonderful thing about technology is that we keep creating new ways to store your data so that keeping around the data from 10 years ago is not so expensive.

Until that is, you have too much.  And, you don’t want to carry around all that baggage…

Data Manager

That’s a title that should be given to someone within your organization. They’ll be responsible for coming up with reasonable organizational policies that help guide what data is kept, what’s pruned, where data gets stored, and how it should be organized – consistently, and verifying that the efforts to protect that data are working as expected.

Work with a Partner

Your technology partner should be able to help you manage data. At CMIT, we build and run data protection systems that fit with our clients’ needs – and make sure we understand when systems have been backing up data properly, when they’ve had the hiccups, and when they need to be corrected.

I can’t solve that data manager problem for you, but I’m happy to have the conversation with you, about it, and help you understand the landscape to make the right call.

one last time…please do test – I’ve literally pointed out to prospects that their backups haven’t been working for months…too many times to count…

If you have additional questions, we’d be happy to talk. The fun starts when you bring up the unique situations that face your organization.


We can help. Whatever your technology problem is, chances are, we've seen it before.

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