What Are You Really Backing Up

March 21, 2003
| By Katy Rent |
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GRAND RAPIDS — For every business owner who has locked up at night serene in the knowledge that the company’s database and servers were backed up, this is for you.

Especially if you’ve later discovered the backup tape was blank.

Most companies use some sort of backup software to back up databases, servers and applications. But the type of system and how it is used can make the difference in actually retaining or losing all of the information.

Mike Noordyke, president of Remex Corp., said that doing proper and adequate data and applications backups can let the business owner sleep well at night.

“’Back ups’ is a general term, used very loosely,” said Noordyke. “Most people start with the knowledge of backing up at home, which simply backs up their PC. This backup is for convenience and piece of mind.

“However, when we move into backing up business computers, we move away from just data and into multiple systems that need to be backed up at the same time.”

Noordyke explained that there are several different options in back-up software programs, some for data only, some for e-mail applications and some for servers. It is these types of programs that are then programmed to automatically back up the desired system every night or as required.

When it comes to back-up software, Nordic said, finding the best bargain can sometimes hurt a company in the end.

“With all of the different types of software out there, it is often better to not just go for the cheapest,” said Noordyke.

“What happens is if the server was to crash and the business wanted to restore it and put it back up, the software might not support that and you may end up rebuilding the entire server. And it all depends on what you want to back up, also.”

He explained that the problem is that most of the time the backups aren’t checked.

“If there isn’t an emergency or if nothing happens to the original system, no one is ever going to look at the back-ups,” Noordyke said. “Therefore, there could be nothing on them and the business would never know.”

For that purpose, Noordyke suggests a regular maintenance program. He noted that upon the purchase of the backup software, a maintenance program should be offered and performed on a regular basis.

Most backup programs need a six- to eight-hour window to back up everything from the day. In addition, Noordyke added, a business needs to make sure it has the speed and tape space necessary.

“Not only do you want to do this process often, but you also want to make sure you have several backups on the premises and off,” Noordyke said. “9/11 made a lot of people take notice, but this is something that should really just be part of a company’s disaster recovery plan.”

To test the disaster recovery plan, Noordyke suggests a check every week or month to make sure the back-up system is working as it should.

In the instance that a company cannot afford the speed or tape capacity to back up all of the material from that day, or simply does not need to consecutively back up the same, unchanged data, Noordyke suggests two alternatives: the incremental backup and the weekend full back-up.

He said the incremental backup is programmed to back up only information that changes during the week, leaving unchanged data alone. He said this saves on tape capacity and speed requirements and takes less time.

The weekend full backup is for companies that have the capacity, but not the speed.

What happens is that the program is set to back up everything that went on during the week over the weekend. This allows the backup a much larger window of time.

“With something like 70 percent of all businesses that lose data going out of business in five years, I would say that this is a necessary business practice to have in place,” Noordyke said. “In the end the price will pay for itself if something ever happens.”

Noordyke said the price of the back-up systems scale up or down depending on the size of the company’s IT operation. He noted that prices may run from $1,000 for a single server to $20,000 for six servers, routers and PCs.

“The prices depend on many variables,” he said. “However, in the end, it all turns out to be a very smart investment.”

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