Essentials of Disaster Recovery using Online Backup

As a business you may already have an IT disaster recovery plan in place. If you don’t, there is an increasing chance that your customers will expect or demand this from you, especially if you operate in the business-to-business (B2B) sector. In that case, your customers may be relying on your goods or services to run their own businesses. They will likely compare your DR plan and objectives with their own requirements to see how well they could keep afloat themselves if your operations momentarily ground to a halt. Making online backup as part of your DR plan can be advantageous for both you and your customers by providing greater security and flexibility.

Disaster Recovery Means Your IT

Unlike ‘business continuity’ and ‘resilience’ that cover practically everything, disaster recovery usually focuses on your information technology – your computers, applications and data. DR is the collection of procedures to be followed to be able to recover normal levels of business operation after catastrophic failure or degradation of your IT systems. If there’s a power cut in your office and your desktop PC stops and then reboots when the power comes back – that’s probably not part of disaster recovery. But if your company servers are damaged beyond repair because of a fire or a flood, that probably is a case for disaster recovery. In that case the right online backup of your IT installation beforehand could literally save your business.

Planning is Essential

Disasters are often unforeseen. That means planning is a critical part of good disaster recovery management and the use of online backup. It’s not enough to upload data files to your cloud storage space whenever you happen to think of it. You’ll also need to make sure you upload any extra configuration data that your systems need to make your business run properly, or you may find that all your data backups are effectively useless. You may even need to upload copies of your business applications if these have been designed or customized specifically for your business. Make the most of available online backup space for this and don’t rely on any non-standard part of your business systems still being available at your physical business site.

Online Backup and Disaster Recovery Objectives

Objectives in disaster recovery can be simple or complex. There are two basic ones worth knowing about. The Recovery Time Objective (RTO) simply specifies how fast you will be in getting back to normal levels of operation. This should be driven by your business needs (what is the maximum time you can stay out of business?). The Recovery Point Objective (RPO) is about the age of the data you get back. If you’re running an accountancy firm, you may be able to work with an RPO of several hours; you’ll just have some extra work re-entering the data that you lost in between. But for a busy e-commerce or hospital database site, that RPO may need to be measured in seconds. Whatever your business profile, take both RTO and RPO into account if you’re backing up your IT systems online.

Remember to Test Online Backups Regularly

Once you’ve defined objectives that match your business needs and put corresponding online backup routines in place, remember to test your disaster recovery procedure too. Not only do you need to know that you can upload your data correctly, but also that you can either download it properly and get another IT installation running with it, or run your business operations in the cloud if you have to. Banks for example may run full tests like this once a quarter. Pick the testing frequency that works for you, but make sure you realistically check that your online backup and disaster recover procedure both work.