Tuesday, September 17, 2013

5 Important Considerations in keeping an Offsite Backup

Backup, backup, backup! Yes, a data backup is very important! It is the role of every IT personnel and every computer user to understand that one day they may wake up to find their data stored on the computer inaccessible. This may be due to an accidental disk crash, your computer stolen, struck by lightning or swept by floods or your computer lying under the aftermaths of a disastrous earthquake. There are plenty of causes that may lead to data loss.

Considerations in offsite backups

To appreciate well what considerations need to be made before making offsite backups, we must first analyse why we need offsite backups. The idea of an offsite backup is to keep your organisation covered in case of unexpected disasters that may destroy your data and the onsite backup as well. These are such disasters as fires, floods, earthquakes, volcanoes, etc. Listed below are very important considerations to make in keeping an offsite backup.

1. Distance from your operational site
How offsite is your offsite backup?

It is encouraged to have your offsite backup as far as reasonably possible from your operational site. It may be considered inappropriate for a clothing retail shop (Crazy Fashions) in First Street to keep its offsite backup just at a branch across the road in Second Street. Imagine if a fire started or a bomb exploded and destroyed both branches’ computers? What will become of Crazy fashions? Crazy of course!

Also imagine if Elite Solutions (Pvt) Ltd in Zimbabwe kept their offsite backup at one of their branches in Maputo in Mozambique. If some floods devastated Elite Solutions premises and their computers and backup media, how long will it take them to have their data back in place from Mozambique?

So, the offsite site must not be too near to be considered onsite or too far as well. Don’t keep your offsite backup files at the moon or at Mars climate!

2. Accessibility from your operational site
Your offsite backups must be kept at an area where the backup data can be accessed, retrieved and restored to your operations in a reasonably short time as possible. There must be good and reliable transport and communication facilities at your offsite site.

3. Climatic diversity with your operational site

The fact that some areas or countries have unstable climatic conditions does not mean that businesses must not be established in such places. However it needs our initiative as IT personnel to ensure that the company’s offsite backup is kept in an area that is climatically stable. However, the term stable is relative. Disasters do happen even in unexpected places and unexpected times. Floods can occur where you least them! That’s why they are called disasters.

No matter how stable your area is, it can be hit by an unstable unexpected disaster. A place is considered stable until it is hit by a disaster! Therefore it is good advice to keep an offsite backup in a place with slightly or better off completely different climatic conditions as your operational area. This is since natural disasters are usually affected by climatic conditions and it is unlikely that a single disaster will hit areas of a completely diverse climate at the same time.

4. Climatic and Tectonic Stability

It is advisable for you as a business to keep your backup files in a climatically and tectonically stable area. Large corporations often need to keep their offsite backups even across nations and continents. It may sound not very reasonable to keep your offsite backup in a high risk flood area or a place that experiences high tectonic movements.

5. Political and Civil Stability

Imagine if a lightning struck your premises and caused it to go ablaze destroying your computers and onsite data. Then you think of getting your offsite backups only to hear the border in the country your backups are located are closed because of a civil unrest! You will be stranded indeed! It is thus good advice to keep your offsite backups in a moderately politically stable area, city or town to avoid a disaster after a disaster. There’s also high risk in politically unstable areas that your backup files may become victims of the war and civil unrest.

It is wiser to have more than one offsite backups. Crazy Fashions can have one backup site at another department within its premises, another at its sister branch in another locality less than 20 Km away say Westgate and the other in another town or city about 100 km away say Gweru. As Crazy Fashions grows regionally, they may keep another offsite backup in South Africa or Angola and another in Canada as they grow into a multi-national company. However the selection of these backup sites must be made taking into consideration the five factors discussed above.

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