Ever had the backup conversation? You’ve probably had sales calls to ask if and how you back up your data and IT systems. You may have even then spoken to your IT department or external consultant to ensure that you do have backups in place, perhaps even enquiring how often these backups are run to re-assure yourself that your business is safe from interruption caused by data loss or system downtime.
As a senior employee within an IT support company with more than 20 years’ experience, I am telling you that those conversations are a waste of time. As a business owner, you should not have the slightest interest in the backup regime employed by the IT department. Instead, you should have a complete understanding of what your data and system restore looks like.
Too often I speak with businesses that diligently run nightly backups under the illusion that if they are struck by a virus or malicious attack, or even a hardware failure, that they will suffer no more than a maximum 24 hours of lost productivity. This is not the case. Downtime has no direct correlation to the frequency of the backup.
Let me give you two real life examples: one from my personal life where I was affected by a solicitor going offline for more than a week (see I still have my house...thanks to hackers!) and the other, from my professional life, where I advised a company that was down for five days despite running real-time backups to have a replicated server environment in a nearby data centre.
Let’s stop having backup conversations and talk about what really matters, which is: “How long will it take before I’m working again?” Now that’s a conversation worth having.
Naturally, how often you back up your systems and data does have an influence on the time it takes to be up and running again, but it doesn’t govern it. So here are three questions to ask your IT department:
- How long will it take to be able to work again after a malicious attack, such as ransomware?
- How long will it take if we have a major hardware failure on our production site?
- How much work will be lost if we have to spin back to the last clean copy of data?
You are likely to get one of two responses either a flippant: “It’s impossible to say” or “We do regular backups, so there is no need to worry”. Neither should reassure you and neither are acceptable.
While the above is what you should ask your IT department, this is what you should ask yourself and your senior management team:
- How long are we prepared to be down for?
- What is the financial cost of prolonged downtime?
- What is the cost to our reputation?
- How many customers could we lose?
- Are we happy to gamble that it will not happen to us?
If you think that as a business owner you should have an agreed, acceptable backup and restore timeframe that you are happy with to protect your business, then we can help. Putting the systems in place won’t bankrupt you, but not putting them in could.