Backup, Continuity, or Archiving What Do You Need For Your Business?
As a 30 year veteran in the industry I’ve personally lost data on a few occasions. Losing valuable data is the unfortunate reality of working with technology if you don’t have a good backup routine. As an IT provider to several hundred clients in central North Carolina we understand that the most important thing that we do for our clients is to make sure that their data is backed up and backed up successfully.
The simplest option and the one that every organization needs is a backup of your data. Historically this meant a once per day copy of your data written to a tape or an external hard drive. If the primary source of your data was corrupted or failed you could restore to the point of your most recent backup. Typically this meant the previous day as most backups ran only at night when people were off the system. This also meant if your data was corrupted at 5 o’clock in the afternoon and your most recent backup was from midnight last night, you lost an entire day’s worth of information. A basic backup should be done nightly and we normally recommend a minimum of 5 days of history. You want several days of history in case a file that gets used weekly is corrupted. If you only have a day or two of backups then you might overwrite a good file with a corrupted file not realizing that it is corrupted. The ideal drive rotation model would be Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday 1, Friday 2, Friday 3, Friday 4 and Friday 5. This would allow you to reach back more than a month to find a needed file.
The second option to discuss is continuity or high availability. When you think of continuity think of a bank or an airline reservation website which cannot be down. In a reservation environment they need continuous access to their information. Your level of continuity may not be as high as a bank or an airline but yours might be a four hour window that you can afford to be down. Continuity isn’t a requirement for all businesses but every business needs to be able to recover and get back to work in a reasonable timeframe. You will need to decide what reasonable is for your business. The closer you want to come to 99.999% uptime the higher the price to build and deliver the solution. You have probably seen the graph that shows the cost of perfection where the line denoting cost is pointing almost straight up with no end in sight. That is what you will experience if you try to achieve a very high level of reliability.
The last item that I want to discuss is archiving. Archiving is separate from the previous two points and is typically an independent system or at least a distinct process. Archiving is not “live” data it is static data. The way I would explain it is that archive data cannot be changed. If it can be changed then it isn’t really an archive. The other distinction for archived data is that it is permanent storage for historical purposes that is searchable in its final state. The two previous points of Backup and Continuity would not be described as searchable. This doesn’t mean they can’t be searched but the process is cumbersome and not really the intent. If you think about backing up email for the purpose of restoring active email in the event of corruption. This requires restoring the email back from the alternate site to the primary site and then you can go back to work. The alternate site is not meant to be searched or used live, it is a secondary by design.
Archiving can be done on a product in motion like email so every single email that is sent internal to the company or external is archived for future search ability. Some industries are regulated and this type of archiving is mandatory but for most businesses archiving is an option.