Data Recovery Checklist for Small Business

 

In the world of data recovery, the mantra has always been “it’s not a matter of if you experience data loss, but when.” Small businesses are exceptionally susceptible to the consequences of such disaster, because they are often ill prepared, believing it will “never happen to me.” Data loss in small businesses is devastating on two fronts:

  1. Technology disasters cost big bucks in repairs, restoration and lost productivity and
  2. Sales, client goodwill, and reputation will be lost as well as your critical information. Keep your business out of trouble by following these steps to prepare for the data loss disaster that “will never happen to you.”

 

Preventative measures

Good business practice is to prepare for the worst. Take our advice and keep this checklist around to prevent complete catastrophe if your business and all it’s worth comes to ruin.

Before backing up

Ask yourself these questions:

  •         Where are your company’s data files?
  •         Are these files being backed up? If so, how?
  •         Are your backups run, verified and tested? How often?
  •         Are your data files kept off-site?
  •         Are there procedures in place to protect files from tampering or theft?
  •         Who has access to your company’s files, networks, backup systems, etc.?
  •         Identify critical systems – Identify your company’s major applications and the systems that contain your critical data. It is especially important to consider databases with customer information and records, your e-mail system, billing applications, etc. When you identify these data, you will be better able to protect it and minimize business disruption.
  •         Inventory hardware – Take an inventory of your hardware to determine what is supportable and able to be protected and what needs replacing.
  •         Get rid of unwanted files – Empty your recycle bin, delete any unwanted e-mails and get rid of any programs you no longer use.
  •         Defrag your hard drive
  •         Print out a file with all of your online account usernames and passwords
  •         Run your virus scanner – Get rid of all viruses so they are not put back onto your computer after restoration.

 

The backup process

Backup hardware– Consider the following media for storing your company’s data:

 

  •         CDs, DVDs and Blu-Ray disks

o   Advantages: inexpensive, offers quick storage of documents, pictures, music and movies

o   Disadvantages: these disks can be scratched and effected by heat, magnetism and sunlight

o   Storage tenure: several months to a few years storage capability

 

  •         Thumb drives

o   Advantages: inexpensive, offers larger capacity than CD or DVD, allows creation in minutes

o   Disadvantages: susceptible to viruses, malware, trojans, power loss and data corruption, possibility of lengthy transfers for large amounts of data, file size limits

o   Storage tenure: several months to several years storage

 

  •         Internal hard drive

o   Advantages: easy transfer from one hard drive to another, USB choice

o   Disadvantages: susceptible to viruses, malware, trojans, power loss and data corruption, possibility of lengthy transfers for large amounts of data

o   Storage tenure: many years of storage

 

  •         External hard drive

o   Advantages: easy transfer from internal to external hard drive, better connection options

o   Disadvantages: more expensive than internal hard drive, can damage data if dropped, shaken or affected by heat, magnetism and sunlight

o   Storage tenure: long-term storage

 

  •         Online storage

o   Advantage: complete external storage, access from any computer with internet connection, very secure

o   Disadvantages: expensive, small amount of storage available, not all types of data are transferable

o   Storage tenure: long-term storage

 

  •         Network storage

o   Advantages: complete external storage, access from any computer with internet connection, very secure, separate from a primary-use computer, large-capacity storage, ideal for one or more computers connected to a network

o   Disadvantages: expensive

o   Storage tenure: long-term storage

 

Backup software– Use this information to find the best backup software for the needs of your small business:

 

  •         Free-to-use software

o   Advantages: built into your operating system, simple, allows selection of specific files and directories

o   Disadvantages: will only back up e-mails in Outlook programs, when selecting files to backup, you must do it every time you modify the file

o   Time: takes a few minutes to an hour for selected files and several hours for a full backup

 

  •         Freeware or trialware

o   Advantages: free of purchase for a limited time, great for specific backup and restore processes

o   Disadvantages: many limitations, options for backing up to specific hardware may not be possible, may only work for a few versions of Windows, offers fewer options than commercial software, does not save system settings

o   Time: takes a few minutes to an hour for selected files and several hours for a complete backup

 

  •         Commercial software

o   Advantages: supports many versions of Windows, supports various backup solutions and hardware types, contains help documentation and disaster recovery tools, capable of backing up only modified files, contains security options

o   Disadvantages: may not be suitable for your specific needs

o   Time: takes a few minutes to an hour for selected files and several hours for a complete backup

 

  •         Online storage

o   Advantages: free or usually cost-effective compared to other hardware purchases, contains user security options

o   Disadvantages: dependant on speed of internet connection, may only include certain file types for backup, may contain a storage quota

o   Time: dependant on speed of internet connection, generally a few minutes to an hour for selected files and several hours for a complete backup

 

  •         Types of backup – Utilize the following backup practices to make sure you have access to various copies of your data:
  •         Complete backup – A complete backup is when every data file is copied from a computer to another form of media.

o   What to save: all files, operating system, all user settings, etc.

o   Media to use: SSD drive, second internal hard drive, external hard drive

o   Software: best to use commercial software

o   How often: immediately, then every three months

 

  •         Incremental backup – An incremental backup is a backup of only files that have been modified since the last backup.

o   What to save: documents, photos, music, videos, e-mails, etc.

o   Media to use: SSD drive, second internal hard drive, external hard drive

o   How often: weekly or monthly

 

  •         Differential backup – A differential backup also only backs up files that have been modified since the last backup, but unlike an incremental backup, previous copies of the modified files will be kept as well.

o   What to save: selected files like office, accounting and business files

o   Media to use: SSD drive, second internal hard drive, external hard drive, digital tape, online storage, network storage

o   How often: weekly or monthly

 

  •         Basic backup – The “quick and dirty” backup is the best means to saving your most important files in a rush.

o   What to save: documents, photos, music, videos, e-mails, etc.

o   Media to use: CD or DVD, thumb drive, USB drive

o   How often: ideally every time you put new files on your computer, or daily, weekly or monthly

 

After backup

  •         Complete a data restore – Backing up your files is not worth anything if you don’t make sure the system is working properly. Backups should be tested on a regular basis to ensure that the system is actually backing up files. It is possible that a system will appear to be backing up when it’s really not. To do this, commercial software is recommended. Simply run a restore to return backed up files to their original locations on your computer. If they don’t show up, something is not working properly.
  •         Maintain offsite copies of your backups – It’s important to keep copies of your files offsite in the event that disasters such as fires, lightning damage or flooding strike. This way, if your office is ruined, you have multiple, redundant versions of your data stores in an easily accessible place, and you can keep your business moving forward.
  •         Continue to keep virus protection and firewall on and up-to-date – Viruses are capable of corrupting your files, trashing your network and ruining your reputation as a small business, and if you’re not protected before backing up, viruses you aren’t even aware of can be put back onto your computer. On the same note, if your firewall isn’t up-to-date, it’s possible that someone could find an unprotected port and delete your files or ultimately shut down your hard drive.

 

Recovering lost data

It is sometimes possible to recover data yourself with the help of data recovery programs and software, but it is likely the case that you will require external data recovery services.

Don’t use software unless directed to by a data recovery professional. They know the ins and outs of their trade and have the best interests of your business in mind. The operations of a data recovery company are very similar to those of a center for disease control, having the most pristine and sanitary conditions available to care for your business technology. So, trust that your equipment will be well taken care of. Typically, a data recovery center will require that you send them your damaged hard disk or any other media that contains data you would like to restore. First, they will make a copy of your disk or other media and examine it to conclude whether your data is salvageable, what processes they must execute and how much the service will cost you. Take these precautions when sending a recovery center your media to ensure that recovering your data will be possible.

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