Don't Let Lost Data Put Your Business At Risk

By SmallBusinessComputing Staff | Posted December 30, 2002
By Patricia Fusco

The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) recently teamed up with Iron Mountain to provide data backup and recovery services to its 90 regional offices located across the country.

Since the SBA was founded in 1953, the agency has helped nearly 20 million small businesses get up and running. Through its management programs, minority business support, and federal contract procurement assistance, the agency has been transformed into the single largest financial backer of small businesses in the nation.

The SBA currently manages approximately 219,000 loans worth more than $45 billion. The agency understands first-hand that disaster can strike at any moment — a significant portion of its loan portfolio consists of low-interest disaster relief funding for small businesses.

In order to protect its assets and the future of thousands of small businesses, the SBA has implemented a comprehensive disaster recovery plan. Data integrity has been one of the most challenging components of the SBA's data recovery plan. The agency had been relying on tape-based backup systems, but found it impossible to ensure that every location was consistently backing up its data properly and vaulting it off site.

"We realized that we didn't have the adequate in-house resources to protect our data. We had dual requirements: backing up our data in a reliable fashion, and storing it off site," said Kevin Adcock, computing specialist for the SBA. "We needed a bullet-proof solution that would take all the guesswork out of our backup and recovery operations."

The SBA opted to use Iron Mountain's Electronic Vaulting solution because it is capable of backing up data from servers in different locations and automatically securing the data in its vault. Because everything is done over the Internet, essential data is readily available to the SBA and can be immediately restored through a simple Web-based user interface.

Iron Mountain's data protection solution is a good fit for the SBA because it eliminates the risk of human error from its backup and recovery procedures. Only you can determine what level of data protection is required to keep your small business up and running. If disaster strikes and systems fail or a server crashes, are you prepared to restore the data integrity of your business?

There are several steps you can take to protect your business from a cataclysmic loss of data. The first step is to prepare a data recovery audit. You can start by analyzing key elements of your business. For example:

  • Determine what types of threats exist: Figure out how the data flows through your business and assess weak links in your systems. Can you still take orders over the phone if you lose your Internet access? If power lines were cut, could you still process orders when electricity is restored? Do you need a backup Internet service provider? Does your web hosting service also provide data backup of your website? Does your office building have a generator that will keep the juice flowing during a power outage?

  • Rank your business priorities: Does your business need to be back up and running in minutes or hours? What is the longest your business could last if you could not access customer data on your computer system? What part of your business could your operate without computers for a day or two while you extend all of your resources to data recovery?

  • Determine your backup priorities: Does your data backup system need to be completed every minute, on the hour, every day, or once a week? Who has access to what elements of your network? Do you know all the passwords to gain access to essential systems?

  • Prepare an emergency contact listing: Do you have a plan prepared to notify key customers and vendors about potential downtime? Can you contact business partners, contractors, or key consultants if you don't have access to your computer system?

  • After you've determined the risks and defined your priorities, you are ready to figure out what type of data recovery system is a cost-effective solution for your small business. You might not need the same scale and depth of data recovery services as the SBA, but you do need to have a sensible plan in place to protect your assets.

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