What happens if disaster strikes?

Just pretend, this very minute ….

What happens if your office and the computer equipment is no longer available or destroyed in a fire? How would that impact your work? How long can you go without having a computer? Do you have a backup of your data and later on, you will see how I truly define by the word “backup”? How long will it take to replace and restore your electronic files? Do you have a copy of your application programs? Do you have a copy of your software documentation? How will you restore your paper records if those were burned?

Have you ever heard the following terms?

Disaster Preparedness

  • Business Continuity
  • Backup and Recover

Let me attempt to translate what these mean into a layperson’s language. Hang in there with me for this page, I promise to return to simpler language very soon!!!

Disaster Preparedness plans help organizations prepare for situations where there is a major catastrophe.  Examples include Earthquake, Floods, Fire, or even total failure of computing systems.  This plan specifies how organizations should recover in the event of a major disaster.

Business Continuity focuses on a specific action plan that will be put into place if a catastrophe occurs. For example, let’s assume that a major data center is taken offline because is suffers damage due to flooding.  How would they continue to process data?  The answer is to have a second data center site, located in a separate geographic area, with similar computer, similar software, and a copy of the actual data.  A switch can then be flipped that will direct computer operations to take place at this site instead of the one that was damaged.  (And you can bet large institutions have this type of capability.)

Backup and Recovery simply means that data is backed up to some type of source and can be reloaded onto a computer in the event it needs to be restored.

Now while you probably do not have the financial resources or time to create an elaborate Disaster and Recovery plan, you should be able to come up with a scheme that will help you restore your computers (and business) in a reasonable amount of time.

So here is what you need to do…. (And this list will change based on your budget and expertise)

  • Create a Backup and Recovery Plan
  • If possible, purchase a backup computer with similar features as to what you have
  • Safeguard all software CDs (Operating System, Drivers, Applications, etc).
  • File and safely store all manuals and tech bulletins.
  • Purchase an External Hard Drive or other removable media
  • Purchase and use backup software (preferably one that creates an “image” of your computer)
  • Utilize offsite storage for archive CDs or other media (Safe Deposit Box, other secured location)
  • Test Your Backups (AKA Disaster Recovery Drill)

Backup and Recovery Plan …

You need to think about the bullet items above and figure out how you will address them.  The Backup and Recovery Plan can be a narrative, a checklist, bullet items, etc.  Choose a format or style that works best for you.  But whatever format you choose, make sure you think through each of the steps.  If you suffer from a disaster, you will be following this plan to help you restore your computer operations. 

Don’t make this mistake…

Even though you have an external hard drive, backup your drive, see the updated (backup) file on your backup drive, you should be able to do the following:

  1. View the contents of that backup file and
  2. Practice restoring files from that archive (if not the entire backup)

Parting words of wisdom….

Computer stores are filled with external hard drives, software, and other gizmos that can help you with this task.  Do not get overwhelmed.  But make sure you know what you’re buying. The important point is that you create a plan and test it periodically.

  • Step 1-  Understand the process 
  • Step 2 – Create your plan
  • Step 3 – Purchase the hardware and Software
  • Step 4 – Periodically test the plan

Don’t forget –  test the recovery process now and then!!!

 Disclaimer:  This article is intended to serve as an informational reference source.  While the information is based on sound principles for backup and recovery, it is not intended to serve as your personal plan nor intended to replace consulting with a professional Information Technology expert in the field.

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