Helping clients manage their technology for over 30 years.

Data backup/recovery best practices #3, #4, and #5

Last time, I described the first two backup/recovery best practices. Here are the next three:

#3 Make sure your backup/recovery strategy adheres to all governance and compliance rules that apply to your organization.

Rules abound about data privacy, security, retention — and vary by industry and region. Look for a reputable advisor who has the experience needed to understand your compliance environment and who successfully completes SAS-70 Type II audits.

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Backup/recovery best practices #1 and #2

As I see it, there are 10 best practices that can make the difference between backups that really do keep you in business and backups that seem to work okay — until you actually try to use them. Here are the first two:

#1 Understand your data so you can decide what needs to be backed up and how often.

Base your decisions on the cost of loss, which you can get a sense of by noting the types of data your business relies on — emails, spreadsheets, databases, line-of-business apps, etc. — and determining the impact of losing that information for good and having to recreate it (if you can). Add in the cost of unhappy customers and potential regulatory/compliance violations — and do the math.

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Quest CTO Mike Dillon to speak at Global Conference on Disaster Management

Our Chief Technology Officer, Mike Dillon, will be part of the all-day Global Conference on Disaster Management on November 10 at the Marriott Union Square Hotel in San Francisco.

Mike will discuss how cloud/managed services providers can make all the difference when it comes to protecting and preserving the information and digital applications on which your business depends.

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Trick or treat — or paradigm shift? What do you want to accomplish on your way to the cloud?

Anybody seeking to overcome the limits of traditional IT environments and streamline their business has to consider one of the most significant paradigm shifts of our time — cloud computing.

But take note: Cloud computing takes planning, because each move to the cloud is unique.

To figure out whether cloud computing will deliver what you need, ask yourself, “What do I want to accomplish?”

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Essential SLA Elements #5: Protecting your data from the goblins

A service-level agreement works best when it’s the result of a collaborative effort between you and a service provider you can trust. This kind of trusted collaboration will uncover the most cost-effective ways your provider’s IT capabilities can be put to work for your business.

Part of that trust involves the fifth and last Essential SLA Element on my list: Procedures for the safe and prompt return of your data upon service termination.

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Essential SLA Element #2: The devil’s in the details

I’ve already blogged about the importance of negotiating a service-level agreement that specifies the functionality of the managed and cloud services you engage.

Now I’m going to focus on Essential SLA Element #2: Including details about the system, network, and security infrastructure and standards to be maintained for your services by the provider.

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What happens when disaster strikes the DR guys?

Traffic sign indicating disaster

It was a stormy Wednesday morning commute with intense wind and driving rain, when a driver lost control of her car, struck a utility pole and ultimately caused eight to fall all along the road in front of the Quest building. The power went out, and live wires and downed transformers blocked traffic. Everyone in the office was trapped.

This wasn’t a “major” event — not the kind of incident we typically think of when we talk disaster. Yet even something this mundane could have put our company completely out of operation for at least several days.

We executed our own disaster recovery plan

As a Disaster Recovery and Business Continuity services provider for scores of clients, Quest was better positioned than most companies to handle just such a disruption.

Initially, battery and generator backup provided phone and Internet capabilities. By utilizing resources at several other locations, Quest was able to continue functioning until they got the all-clear to evacuate, and fortunately no one was injured — that’s when we began executing on Quest’s own Disaster Recovery procedures.

By three o’clock the same afternoon we were fully operational at remote locations, with some of our staff at our Business Resumption Center and others working from home. Customer service calls, billing, email, phones — everything we needed to keep functioning was operational.

No operational disruptions

For the Quest team, the event was an unqualified success—not a drill, but the real deal providing employees with a window to what the company does for clients. As for Quest customers, they didn’t experience any difference in service.

There’s nothing Quest could do before that we can’t do now. That’s precisely why we have Disaster Recovery capability.

If you never drill, it’s just theory

“Part of the success of the plan’s execution,” says Quest CTO, Mike Dillon, “came from disaster recovery drills, which Quest does quarterly.”

“Drills make a huge difference — we already knew what we needed for our critical systems to function,” explains Mike. “If you never drill, it’s just theory. Every drill we do teaches us something, makes us smarter about our own operations, and smarter about the operations of our clients.”

Quest’s disaster recovery experience is a big advantage for clients. Most companies, even those with a plan, don’t take disaster recovery drills seriously. Even for those that do, the disaster will still be a first-time event. Our business is helping companies, including our own, recover from disasters. Our clients have that experience to lean on.

Be prepared for the mundane and the catastrophic

Every event, real or drill, is a learning experience. It’s a sentiment shared by Quest COO Kathy Campbell. “One of our ah-ha moments came when we had to address some issues that occurred at the corporate office during our absence —no power to the employee refrigerators and freezers, and no one in the office to feed the fish. Continuing our business operations at a remote site turned out to be the easy part.” And it allowed the city, county, and power company to do their clean up for as long as necessary

Reflecting on lessons learned, I put a priority on keeping all staff up to date about what’s happening. The need-to-know rule applies to everyone in your organization. My primary take-away? Even little disasters can have a huge impact. You need to be as prepared for a mundane disruption as you are for a catastrophic one.

Downed telephone poles in front of the Quest office

How cloud computing and VoIP make IT disruption avoidance easier — and less costly

Nobody stays in business long if their business-critical data and apps are lost. So pardon me if I sound like my replay button got stuck, but I’ll say it again: make sure your critical data and apps are replicated to a secure remote environment that’s always accessible from anywhere.

You’re at least halfway there if you’re using a cloud-based backup replication service — but, of course, you need to make sure you’re dealing with a provider with a secure, scalable, fail-safe environment and plenty of flexibility when it comes to service options.

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Steps 3 and 4 to mastering business IT disruption: Testing and reviewing your disruption-avoidance plan

So here you are with a solid How-We’ll-Stay-In-Business-Plan. Time to relax, right?

Well, not quite — although this is the point at which many stop paying attention to their disruption-avoidance plan.

Step 3 to mastering business IT disruption requires that you test your plan often. This is essential because change has a way of sneaking up on organizations, and those changes can upend your carefully laid plan to overcome disruptions. Fortunately, the right service provider will include regular testing in the price of your service.

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Step 2 to mastering business IT disruptions — continued: The 3-part path to implementing cost-effective disruption recovery solutions

Before you can implement the best disruption recovery solutions, you have to know what they are. This entails a three-part process that requires business continuity/disaster recovery expertise:

  1. Figure out the minimum applications and data necessary to sustain your business and the timeframe(s) within which your necessary apps and data must be restored. How long, for example, can you function without email? How long can you make it without voice communications?
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