Planning for disaster recovery

This covers all operating systems really. What would happen if your hard drive crashed right now? What data would you lose? What about if the server room flooded? What if your mission critical system went down. What data would you lose and how long would it take to be back up and running?

If you’ve asked yourself those questions you’re ahead of the game, most people don’t think about that aspect of computing until it’s too late. That is, until they’ve lost all of this years financial records, or 500 business contacts names and addresses. I’ve talked a bit about doing backups before, but it’s worth revisiting the topic.

To plan for disaster recovery, ask yourself a few things about your backups.
How often are things backed up? (How many days of data could be lost in a worst case scenario?)
Is the backup stored in a different location from the original? (If a fire or other major event affects both is it really a good backup plan for recovering from major problems?
Here’s one that most people may feel uncomfortable with….
Have you tested your backup to verify that it has what you think you’ve backed up?
Not too long ago I ran across a customer that had to rebuild her system from scratch and wanted me to help finish installing programs and restoring from her backups. On one CD was a lonely shortcut where she had dragged the desktop shortcut from the program to the CD. It would be nice if backing up the data was done this way, but it wasn’t. She didn’t have much of anything. The other cd was completely blank.

Test your backups to make sure you have what you expect there. For businesses and those with enough time, I’d try a mock system rebuild to really make sure that everything can be rebuilt from the backup and install media. Think of it as a “fire drill”. Verifying your backups can wind up saving you more time and trouble than it takes to do it.

For that matter, it should be a regular routine to test the integrity of your backups. Media can fail. If you’re using tapes for backups make sure to replace them on a regular basis. Alternate between several backup sets to reduce the possibilities of losing EVERYTHING.

Other things that can be done to plan for disaster recovery are to set aside a folder to keep any downloaded software or driver files specific to a machine. Being organized with this can save you lots of time. With proprietary software, make sure to have all your license key and registration information in one place as well.

You hope it never happens, but being prepared is the best remedy. That way, instead of lamenting the loss of data, you can get back up and running quicker.

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