Nothing Is Bullet Proof - Not Even Web Hosts
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08/03/2012 - Ecommerce 

Nothing Is Bullet Proof - Not Even Web Hosts

Just another reminder to be prepared in case of a data disaster.  No matter how small or large your network, or how many guarantees your web host provides, you can never be overly prepared in the event a data disaster strikes.  Now is the time for action.

As reported on The Register, hundreds of hosted websites fell offline when a disk array failed at Prime Hosting; a hosting company in the UK.  As many as 860 customers were still waiting for a fix more than 48 hours after their storage unit failed.

So are you prepared if a mission critical server fails?  What if your web host cannot recover your site or if that company goes belly-up?  What if your workstation dies at your home or office?  Do you have copies of your data & recent backups ready to restore it at a moments notice?  And do you have a restoration plan should such a disaster occur?  To many, the answer would simply be 'no' on all fronts.

Take it from someone who has personally been there.  I have lived through it many years ago, when a hard drive on the only PC I owned at the time suddenly died.  Luckily I was able to resurrect the drive long enough to recover most of the data.  But my luck could have turned bad & I could have lost everything. It took that situation, before I finally awoke to the realization that data backups are mission critical, for everyone.

Another reason why I am reminded of how important backups are, is when I'm asked several times a year (and just yesterday in fact) to help someone recover personal data from a dead or dying system, after disaster struck.  When I ask about backups, I receive a shrug of the shoulders or a simple comment that they didn't bother.  What's even worse, backup solutions were readily available within their OS & they were reminded by their OS to perform them.

If you have not backed up your PCs, servers &/or websites in a while -- now is the time to take action.  Make a complete backup immediately.  Most operating systems give you some way of doing a basic backup, without any special software.  Many hosting companies provide a way to download the entire website &/or its SQL databases as a single zip file or tarball.  And many prebuilt PCs include 3rd party solutions to back your data.  It does not matter if the backup is to tape, DVD, external hard drive, NAS or to one of the many cloud based backup services.  Do the backup as soon as you can.  Then take steps to automate the backups, so it happen as often as possible.

I highly recommend keeping several dated complete system backups; with at least one recent backup properly secured (i.e. encrypted) at an off-site location.  You never know when a given backup is unavailable, corrupted or infected, and you're forced to restore it from an earlier dated copy.  This rule should apply to all of your devices, including smart phones, PDAs, PCs, laptops, tablets, servers, websites you're running, etc...  Basically any device that holds/stores your data should be backed up somewhere.

Also remember to have a disaster recovery plan in place, should you need to restore that data.  You don't want to be scrambling in the event of an emergency.  This means regularly testing your backups to make sure they are in good standing & are functional (i.e. not corrupted).  This also means performing a dry restoration every now & again, to ensure your data recovery measures work.  Because its useless to do backups & need to restore the data, just to find your restoration method is flawed or the backups themselves are unusable.

For example, I saw firsthand just such an account with a past employer.  The employer performed regular full backups to tape weekly & incremental backups daily.  However they never bothered to test the backups.  It was not found until nearly a year later that all the backups were completely unusable, because their backup implementation was flawed.  If they had a catastrophic failure of their only server, all of their business & client data would have been lost. 

With the myriad of ways your digital data can be backed up, secured & automated, and with the ultra low cost of high capacity backup media, there is no reason not to perform backups.  There are simply too many ways for you to lose your data in this digital age.  Without a good backups & a working restoration procedure in place, you may never see your data again.  So backup full & backup often...

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