Real SMB IT – Data Backup and Recovery

May 22, 2008

I have been in the technolgy business for quite a while. In this business – the ability to ensure that all your business data is backed up and recoverable should there be a failure of any kind is always top of mind.

I had an incident recently that had me thinking back at data recovery over the years (sort of mental doodling!)- and unfortunately some “non” recoverable data as well. One memory that has stuck with me; Many years ago I worked with a software development outfit that had a small business service tool that was still good old MS DOS based. Backing up the data was through a menu option and just needed a good old 3.5 inch floppy disk.

One thing that you must know – magnetic media does not last forever. No matter how often we communicated that, there were customers that backed up their data to the same floppy disk for years. And never knowing at what point that the little floppy had finally died. In one case, we looked at this old floppy disk that looked it had been run over by a truck. It had been carefully loaded into the floppy drive for who knows how many years. The time came that the data needed to be restored….. well it was dead.

Today you will be using a tape drive of some sort for your backups. A question though – do you know how old those tapes are? have you ever tried restoring data from them? If you can’t answer those two questions, a little investigation is in order. (I try to utilize tape tape media for only one year before it is retired)

I always recommend a 4 week tape rotation with weekly and monthly off site storage for businesses in the SMB space. (Although there are more and more online storage services coming around, I have not tried them – maybe a future post)

The final piece though – have you considered what type of tape hardware that you are actually backing up with ?

If you are like many, you probably have old Vinyl LP records hanging around, Maybe some 8-Track cassettes hiding somewhere, how about 8mm movies? Next question – Can you play them on anything still?

The hardware creating those backups does not last forever either – like 8 Track players, once your oldie dies all the tapes are useless. As an IT Manager I agree that it is a challenge to convince my boss of this. It is like insurance! – You hope you won’t need it; Until you do need it!

Like insurance, having a second piece of identical backup hardware can pay dividends if the “oldie” decides that life is to difficult and self destructs.

In short;

Your tape media has a life span – replace it
Your backups need to be tested by doing data restores periodically
Your backup hardware is not going to last forever either – plan for it!


2 Responses to “Real SMB IT – Data Backup and Recovery”

  1. elliotross Says:

    Thank You for the comment Fergal, In concept I do like the idea. As I wrote though, I have not personally tried it. I do have some questions that I think vendors such as yourselves should be able to present answers to.

    In fact, your question is such a good one please be patient and I will summarize them in a new post.


  2. How do you feel about online backup. I am involved with Arion Online Backup ( and offer online backup to the SME market. Online backup, when installed and monitored correctly can remove the need for tapes or external hard drive. The main advantages that we preach are elimination of backup issues, automatic backups, fully secure, highly cost effective and complete peace of mind.

    This is the first time that I have read your blog (it’s now a link on my favourites) and am interested in your thoughts on online backup

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