Your data are the single most valuable part of your computer technology realm. Why, because it represents a huge investment in time and effort. Hardware and software is replaceable. Your data are unique to you and your business. Customer information as well as customer documentation is irreplaceable. The longer you have been in business the more valuable your data becomes. You need to ask yourself what would happen if my data were lost or destroyed? Do you feel lucky? Well do ya? This is a position you never want to be in.
What are data? Merriam Webster says, “information that is produced or stored by a computer”. It depends. Everyone is different. It could be a book, a customer database, an accounting file, your photos, contracts, correspondence, and many other items unique to your business.
Data backup is the reason you don’t need to feel lucky and can avoid having a data loss. What’s a backup? Again, Merriam Webster says, “a copy of computer data (as a file or the contents of a hard drive).” Having at least one copy of your data is a good idea. A better system is to have a 3-2-1 backup system. Let me explain. 3-2-1 mean 3 copies of your files, on 2 different media, with at least 1 copy offsite. Simply put: one copy of data on your computer hard disk drive, one copy on an external or flash drive, and one copy in an offsite location. Your external hard drive or flash drive gives you a copy on a second media. Your offsite location can be another office, home, a bank, deposit box, or in the cloud (see Chapter 6 The Cloud) using a backup service. Data protection is not difficult to implement. In my experience a 3-2-1 backup system that is performed automatically (without daily user input) is the way to go. You don’t want to find out the data backup is not being done when a data disaster strikes! Data recovery is sometimes possible and usually expensive. Have peace of mind and make sure your data are safe. Seek professional help if need be to make sure your backup is appropriate to your business.
Data recovery is a growing field in the information technology business. Why you ask? Data are generated on multiple devices sometimes in multiple locations by possibly multiple employees. Sometimes that data may be on a flash drive that is passed around by several employees. This is called “sneakernet” because the data are walked around by employees.
What happens if someone accidentally breaks the flash drive? That’s one copy on one now nonfunctioning media? Data recovery will be attempted. Data are lost often by small businesses. The two main causes of 75% of data loss are due to hardware malfunction and human error. The data expert people will tell you, “one copy is none”. What happens if the flash drive is lost?
This brings us to the topic of data encryption. Encryption makes your data unreadable to anyone that doesn’t have a key to decrypt the data. The primary purpose of encryption is to protect the confidentiality of digital data stored on computer systems or transmitted via the Internet or other computer networks. http://searchsecurity.techtarget.com/definition/encryption
Anything moving around on flash or thumbdrives should be encrypted. Depending on your industry you may be under regulations that dictate how your information is stored, transmitted, and used.
A few words about data disposal. When you recycle any piece of hardware (computer, large network printers, phones, laptops) it is important to securely erase your proprietary data. Your data can be erased using software or by physically destroying a storage media such as a hard disk drive. Make certain that data are securely dealt with before the hardware is donated or recycled.
Your company data should be maintained and controlled by a data policy. It doesn’t have to be complicated. It should delineate who is responsible for making sure the backup is happening. The data policy should address issues such as how long data are retained, when and how data are deleted, and how and when is encryption implemented.
My last thought about data backup. Don’t wait until disaster strikes. Have a disaster recovery plan. Again, it doesn’t need to be complicated. A new computer set up on your kitchen table downloading your data from a cloud based backup is better than nothing. At the very least make sure you can access your data offsite. Implement your backup strategy and make sure it is working. Have a professional 3rd party audit your backup while everything is functioning normally.