Backup and RecoveryThe truth is that most companies have a backup problem, with executives and even heads of IT departments deeply mistrustful of the official backup processes. As a result, there’s a vast ad-hoc “accidental architecture” of duplicate backup procedures.

For example, many CEOs and CFOs make copies of their important documents on public cloud storage like Dropbox and OneDrive (previously SkyDrive), external hard drives, flash drives and even their home PCs. This type of practice is extremely unsafe from the point of view of data security, both company and personal. The Protection of Personal Information Act will impact the latter, and compliance audits get ever more rigorous.

They aren’t alone. It’s not uncommon for the database administrator in a company to make a complete copy of his or her database each night, in addition to the official backup. The same is true of mail, document management, virtualisation and other administrators. The end result: backups of backups and a massive growth in data stored on primary (i.e. expensive) storage systems. EMC says that backup consumes up to 10 times more storage than production, a factoid that should be giving grey hairs to both CIOs and CFOs.

All this distrust is not unreasonable, one must hasten to add. Research for EMC revealed that 34 percent of companies in South Africa are not sending their backups offsite. While this may seem shocking, ContinuitySA’s experience in South Africa is that many corporates and government agencies indeed are not following this basic procedure, which seriously compromises their ability to recover from the loss of their local systems. And in addition to this, in our experience up to 10-25 percent of all backup jobs are failing before they are even removed offsite. Even when a backup job appears successful it is very rarely verified.

Added reasons for mistrust include the fact that hardly anybody encrypts the data stored on tape owing to the complexity of the process and the time it takes. Added to this, the unencrypted tape is then transported by a courier on his or her normal route around town to a warehouse that in all likelihood has worse security (and climate control) than the company’s own data centre.

EMC’s Disaster Recovery Survey 2013 for South Africa indicates that 52 percent of companies experienced electronic data loss or system downtime in the last year and 74 percent fear they could not fully recover from a disaster. Traditional tape backups are not only unreliable, they are also extremely difficult to scale and do not easily adapt to new technologies.

Having indicated something of the scale of the backup problem, next time we’ll look at some ways to fix what you have.

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