One of the worst disasters a business can experience is the loss or damage of its electronically stored data. Businesses large and small are under constant threat from natural and man-made assaults on their electronic data. Whether it’s the result of an unexpected power surge from an electrical storm, a computer system failure, a computer virus or a disgruntled former employee trying to hack into the data, your electronic records are at risk.
While it may not be possible to fully secure a business against data loss, there are ways to minimize the risks and ensure the preservation of essential records.
Inventory and Classify Your Data
Not all electronic records share the same level of sensitivity. Before starting a data backup/recovery plan, it is important to classify your electronic data by its sensitivity or importance to business operations. Critical records may require daily backup and secured storage while non-mission critical records may only need periodic backup and less secure storage. Differentiating among the various types of records can save the business time and money when implementing a complete data recovery plan.
Backup Your Data
At its simplest, a data backup plan can consist of a daily backup to a flash drive, CDs or an external hard drive. The key is to store backups in a safe, secure location, preferably offsite. For businesses that have networked computers, it may require a dedicated server to accommodate the data. A sound backup plan should incorporate both an onsite and offsite storage system that has the capability of routine backups and easy file restoration in the event of a data loss.
Smaller businesses can take advantage of one of the online backup services such as Carbonite which has the capacity to backup networked systems. Larger networked systems may need the services of an offsite server provider that backs up data to a series of servers stationed throughout the country.
Blueprint Your Data System
In worst-case scenario that destroys all of your hardware as well, a system blueprint would make it easier to quickly replicate your system, restore your data and restart your operations. A blueprint will include a detailed inventory all system hardware and software, including purchase information, serial numbers and specifications. Then back this information up in hard copy or electronic format off-site.
Establish Clear Recovery Procedures
System recovery involves more than data recovery. Types and location of data, who is responsible for data retrieval and system restoration, options for temporary housing of systems, and re-establishing system security should be planned out in advance so that full recovery can occur as quickly as possible. If you plot this process out in advance, you’ll be up and running quicker. Even though you’ll probably need to adjust on the fly in an emergency, you’ll have guidelines about how to do so. Trying to figure out what you need and who needs to do it in the middle of the crisis is often wasteful of resources and inefficient.
Prevent Human Disasters
The greatest causes of system failures and corrupted or lost data come from employee mistakes, intruder hacking and viral assaults, or poorly communicated computer security policies. Review your internal procedures for locking down your network, tightening access controls, strengthening firewalls and anti-virus protection, and communicating employee responsibilities in maintaining the highest level of security.
Use password protection for sensitive records and control which employees have access to which types of data to limit the possibility of damage through error or malfeasance. Assign someone the responsibility of being sure that all security protocols are followed, including real-time updating of firewall and anti-malware protection. These policies and procedures need to be communicated often and adapted to changing systems and needs.
And, business owners are often the worst offenders when it comes to not following electronic security policies, so make sure you set a good example in this area.