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Back up, back up , back up!

Having a successful backup strategy is one of the best things you can do for your business IT.  It helps protect you when a file is inevitably written over or deleted.  Much more importantly is that it can help you in a disaster recovery scenario or when a crypto locker style virus gets loose on the network.

There are many preventative measures you can take to stop viruses in the first place, including using suitable antivirus software, email filtering and mass storage blocking measures.  However, there is no substitute for a rock-solid backup if and when the time comes when you need it.

A good backup strategy will consist of multiple forms of backups to cover multiple scenarios.  It would be no good to have to restore the entire server farm in order to retrieve a single email, and likewise you wouldn’t want the time-consuming job of restoring your Hyper-V host from individual files.


Local Backup

The local backup is the first and arguably most important step.  The purpose of this backup is to ensure that the complete IT server infrastructure is recoverable in a timely manner in the event of a server failure, fire or theft. 

The local backup will ideally be an incremental disk image of the entire virtual or physical host(s), based on fast media such as USB3 hard disk drives, NAS storage or both.  The backup will be fully encrypted, with the encryption key saved in a password management platform and only accessible to authorized members of staff or your IT company.  Ideally the backup drives will be rotated off-site daily, so that when you return to the office to find a disaster of some kind, you have the full IT setup as it was when the backup was taken yesterday in your hand.

The local backup is the fastest way to get your business running again after a server failure.  It is cost effective to set up, and with good backup software it will typically happily run every day or twice a day without many issues.

Some local backup software providers like our recommended Macrium package will allow you to boot your backup host virtually, reducing the time to get you back online to just a few minutes in cases where spare hardware is available.

While the local backup is the most important step, it deals with large volumes of data so it can only be used around twice per day.  Also, with the best will in the world it is not always possible or practical for someone to rotate drives every day, or even every week, so it makes sense to have an additional measure.


Off-site backup

A second measure is to back up your files and data securely to an offsite location regularly.  Ideally, this backup will allow the easy retrieval of individual files and at a minimum it will store all irreplaceable data from the servers.  The offsite backup should be encrypted both in transit and at rest. 

The main purposes of this backup are:

1)      Where an individual file has gone missing, or has been overwritten by an employee.  The offsite backup should allow for easy retrieval of individual files, and should have a retention period going back long enough for these common occurrences (around three months).

2)      Where there has been an IT disaster (fire, theft, failure) and the local image backup is quite old due to lack of rotation.  In this case you should still be able to retrieve everything by using the image backup to bring the systems back online and replace the data with the most recent offsite backup.


Maintaining the backups

Once the backup system has been decided upon and implemented, it is important to maintain the systems to keep them operational.  This will involve setting up, reporting and regularly checking the backups to ensure they have been successful.  Regular maintenance of the backups will also include:

A)      Check that backups run as expected every day

B)      Regularly check that the backups include all of your important information.  It’s not uncommon for files and network shares to be moved around the network and then not be included in the backup schedule.

C)      Check your storage requirements.  Local storage like USB drives are cost effective, however some cloud storage can add up, particularly when your data is regularly updated and you wish to keep previous versions.

D)      Regularly test your backups.  Perform a test restore of a file, a mailbox and a virtual machine to ensure the process works and your data is complete and not corrupted.


Built-In Backup Measures

Most Windows based networks already have the facility to retrieve simple files and email without the need of using an external backup, but it’s a good idea to make sure these are configured correctly for your requirements.

Previous versions / volume shadow copy is a way of retrieving files from the past for network shares.  Make sure these are enabled and have the appropriate storage allocated for your needs.

Microsoft Exchange keeps deleted emails and mailboxes for 30 days after deletion by default, but you can change these retention periods if you need to.


Let us do it for you

At Alphabyte IT we offer a full backup management process which covers both local and offsite backups using the methods above.  We operate a backup schedule which is checked every day to ensure it is worked as expected and will be there for you when you need it.  Contact us on 02920 022100 to see how we can help.

Viruses have taken a turn for the worse over the last 12 months or so and sadly we are seeing more and more seriously malicious software being developed and distributed through the internet and email.

The latest viruses are designed to really hit where it hurts – they encrypt whatever they deem to be your personal data, whether that is financial spreadsheets, letters and documents, or even photos saved on your computer. Sadly the process is generally irreversible – when it’s gone it’s gone.

Sometimes the only way to retrieve this data is by paying the ransom which is usually several hundred pounds, and even then there is no guarantee that the software will unencrypt the files.

Sometimes there is hope. Usually the user will need to turn to a backup to retrieve the files.

Our advice here is that prevention, or at least safeguards, are better than trying to find a cure. There are plenty of measures which can be taken to minimise the risk, and in some cases recover the data should you contract the virus:
  • Having a current backup system in place is essential. Data is at risk not just from virus damage, but also from user errors and system corruption, so having a current backup is one of the best things you can do from an IT point of view.
  • Make sure internet browsing on office machines is kept to legitimate websites.
  • Implement a blanket ban on emails with .zip attachments.
  • Make sure that emails containing attachments from unknown sources are deleted.
  • Install and keep antivirus and anti-spam systems current. A lot of the time the virus will arrive to you by email, purporting to be from the Post Office, or Companies House. Antivirus and anti-spam systems will generally block these from arriving and being installed, however they are not 100% effective.
  • Removing local administrative rights for users will sometimes stop the installation process.
  • Make sure you're using a currently supported version of Windows, and that it’s being kept up to date using Windows Updates.
  • Use NTFS permissions on file shares, to restrict user access to only the information they require. Generally if the user doesn’t have access to the folder, neither will the virus.
If you are unlucky enough to get a virus in any case, you may be able to recover the situation. Modern versions of Windows, particularly the server versions will use the volume shadow copy service to keep previous versions of files that allow you to go back and restore encrypted files.

Get in touch today to find out how we can help protect your business from the threat of data corruption or loss.
It usually goes without saying that having a reliable, current backup process in place is one of the best things you can do from an IT point of view. After all, for a lot of business sectors having an offsite data backup and disaster recovery plan is a compliance requirement. And how many businesses would fully recover from a serious data loss situation, without a large financial impact?

Worryingly, the failure rate of hard disks is 100%. Every disk that has been or will be made will fail at some point, sometimes losing the stored data in the process.

Not only that, but other threats like accidental (or intentional) deletion, virus damage or plain old data corruption can lose that data in no time at all.

We frequently read scary statistics on the internet that 70% of businesses who suffer from a serious data loss will go out of business within 24 months. While the statistic may not be accurate, it does give an idea of the damage that such a loss can cause.

At Alphabyte our IT management package always includes a backup system, whether it is a daily, offsite data backup with previous version support, full server image, or even full offsite data replication in real time.

We run, manage and maintain the systems for you so you can get on with what you’re good at – running your business.

Get in touch with us today and find out how you can add value and benefit your business! Contact Us >