Cloud storage and cloud backup have become the go-to for many businesses looking for a “magic bullet” for data protection. But just like Santa, The Easter Bunny, and convenient Boston parking, some things that sound magical are simply too good to be true.
A Problem of Access
Let me paint a new/old scenario for you. In the old days, when you had your data stored locally on your workstation or your server, you obviously had fewer options for archiving and accessing your data than you do today. But, bottom line, if there was an extreme mishap and somehow your data was not reachable, you were able to send the hard drive out to a company that could pull the data off and salvage as much as possible, thus preventing a major crisis. There was a booming industry where companies had clean rooms and lots of tricks to recover stubborn data from reluctant platters. Now, the thought of an entire room devoted to recovering data sure sounds like something from a ‘90s hacker movie, and it definitely wasn’t cheap, but at least you could actually recover the data since you had the physical information in your hand.
Fast forward to today’s world of infinite Internet possibilities, which includes storing our precious data babies in ze Cloud. But there is a large problem with this new process hidden in plain sight. And no, I’m not gonna talk about security risks, I’m gonna keep it real simple: access. Let’s talk about your ability to get to your data should something go wrong. There are countless ways to accidentally lose data, many of them self-inflicted (hey, we’re not here to judge), many of them not. Either way, when it comes to the moment when you need to access that critical data and get some smart IT support on board to rescue all your private, confidential files, you’ll find yourself trying to hold a handful of steam. Cloud based storage can be super useful, sure, but if your only backup spot is in “the cloud” you simply can’t physically access that data so you truly are in a negative spot.
So what to do? You need to change your data habits and your approach to truly protect yourself and your company’s data.
But Dan, you say, it is backed up in the cloud! They handle it, and it is so much cheaper than me having to deal with it. Just a few bucks a month! Dan, why are you laughing, Dan, stop it! I’m serious here. They do it all and my data is safe!
True Asset Protection
A real data recovery plan is a must for sized organizations of all sizes. Cloud computing is great and all, but it should offer your business a way to enhance an existing backup plan, not replace it entirely. Your data is one of your biggest assets, and one of your biggest liabilities as well. Confidential customer information, financial data, the list of important data points goes on and on, and the last thing your company wants to do is be caught without any clue where that precious info has gone off to. A comprehensive data plan will not only have contingencies in place for when (not if!) you encounter a data disaster, it will also include regular backups and data monitoring to a secure, accessible location.
In short: if data is important, but data is not backed up, then what are you saying about what you value as important? We’ll let you mull that over for a minute, and we’ll be here with some more tough questions when you’re done. Ready? OK.
More Assumptions, More Problems
Look, we all want to feel loved and secure and protected, right? And our company data is no exception. But newsflash, friends: you are not a special snowflake, and neither is your data. If you’re working with a cloud based system, never assume that your data will be loved and cherished just because it’s important to you. Instead, you need to ask some good questions instead of relying on assumptions. Your future self will thank you, even if your present self feels like a suspicious jerk in the process. So, what should you ask about when you look into cloud storage options? Here’s a quick checklist to get the ball rolling:
- What redundancies are is in place?
- What security measures are in place?
- Is data encrypted?
- Is there an established backup policy?
- What is the policy on retention (aka how long are backed up files kept)
- Have there been any data loss problems, and, if so, what has been changed since?
If they say no on that last question, or answer vaguely on any of the other questions, then dig a little deeper. Ask about the last backup test, and ask if you can see the results. After all, it’s your data; you deserve to be nosy!
“The Cloud” As Part of a Larger Backup Plan
Look, we’re not anti-cloud over here in IT support land, far from it. It’s just important to realize that the cloud has several risks associated with it, which is why you need disaster recovery plans and daily procedures that protect and preserve your data on the regular. Data backup often compared to an insurance policy, but we argue that it’s even better than insurance because you will definitely need to use it. Every company I know has needed their backup. Every single one.
So what disasters are these backup plans protecting against? Try one or more of the following on for size, and see if they don’t make your heart do a flip or two:
- Overwritten data
- Employee mistakes
- Malicious software infections
- Bad software updates
…and this doesn’t even cover the overall pain, cost, lost productivity, client loss, and potential business shutdown which can happen if you lose data.
A competent IT consultant should be able to walk your company through the vulnerabilities it needs to guard against, and come up with a truly comprehensive disaster prevention and recovery plan that is far stronger and richer than simply tossing all your intel into cloud based storage.
You don’t have to figure this out on your own, but putting blind faith in the cloud isn’t helping anyone. A strong IT support team will also work with you to ensure that your cloud vendor is trustworthy and has a good track record, which can also save you major headaches down the road. And proper data support can help you answer all those tough questions so that you know what data/systems are most important, which have the greatest tolerance for slowdown or outages, what are the associated costs to data disasters, and who is most impacted by data loss. You’ll find that in some areas of your business, the impact of data loss is minimal, but for others it is critical. You can lose clients, lose partners, lose trust. You need to know what systems are tied to what business result so you can plan accordingly.
Prepare Today for Tomorrow’s Data Drama
In today’s increasingly connected world, data problems are a fact of life. But just as health insurance and exercise can protect and prevent us from costly illnesses, so can cloud backup as part of a larger data recovery plan protect us against serious loss.
When it comes to data, you should be the master of your density. And rule number one? There will be problems (Funny enough, this is what I tell my teenage daughters, too. Guys are pigs, and data will get corrupt. The sun rises and sets, etc., etc.).
Planning for the inevitable will protect you and your company. Sit down with an IT pro and make a plan, just as you sit down and plan for your business’ finances. Don’t assume that the “IT guy” has you covered. His plans and understanding most often do not align with yours. You know how much it costs to be down for a day, you know how much that lost day impacted your profit for the month/quarter. You know what real value of your data is, and the “IT guy” generally has no clue in these areas and so often does not place the proper diligence to protect you.
Work with pros to develop a real plan of protection, and prioritize strong systems. In other words? Get your head out of the cloud and get real about keeping your business safe, strong, and secure.