In the Likely Event of an Emergency: 3 Steps to Creating a Data Recovery Plan

We’ve all heard the safety spiel, uttered in preternaturally cheery tones, that begins, “In the unlikely event of an emergency…”

Yeah, well, it’s not like that with data loss. Data loss is likely. There’s only one way to have a fire, but there are countless ways to lose your data. Your computer gets stolen in an office break-in. Your laptop smashes to smithereens after you kick the cord. You drop your smartphone in the john. The data just decides to get itself corrupted. Or your hard drive burns up in a fire that started because somebody (not you of course) forgot to turn the heater off.

Fortunately, for that last one you had a fire plan in place...right? (Let’s hope so.) But what about your data plan? If you don’t have a Plan B for your computer files and information, now’s the time to get one. The point of a data plan is the same as a fire plan: when disaster strikes it’ll help you to get out with all your valuable stuff intact and get back to doing business quickly. So here are our three steps to creating a data plan:

Step 1: Your Preparation

Surviving an emergency starts in the preparation. Asking yourselves the following questions will ensure you’re boyscout-ready when the inevitable happens:

What data is important?

Not all data is created equal. That’s why your computer has a trash/recycle bin—not that we always use it, of course. A lot of our disposable data is just left to clutter up the outer recesses of the hard drive. If you lose that in a computer catastrophe you won’t be too bothered—you probably won’t even notice it’s gone. But then there’s the other stuff, the stuff that really matters. If you lose that data, you’re in trouble. That’s the data that needs to be backed up.

Where does your data live? (Email Protection)

It’s important that we take a moment to think specifically about email protection. Email is one of the most valuable parts of your business, so ensuring that you have a reliable email system is a must. Here at Rocketspark, we provide robust email services which should minimise the likelihood of resorting to your backups. But, of course, you still need to back them up and, in order to do so, you’ll need to figure out where your data lives.The more precise, technical question is, What email protocol do you have—IMAP or POP3? This will dictate where your emails are stored. To work out which one you’ve got, go into your email program’s “Settings” where it’ll tell you.

  • If you have IMAP...You’re lucky—IMAP protocol means that your server stores your emails, so that they’re not just on your computer or device. If all your computers incinerate in a fire, you’ll still be able to get your emails back off the server. That means you don’t necessarily need to backup your emails. At Rocketspark, we provide our clients with hefty, 25 gigabyte email accounts, meaning there’s more than enough space to use IMAP.
  • If you have POP3…POP3 protocol stands for “Post Office Protocol” (the “3” just refers to the version), because that’s exactly how it works—like a post office. If you accidentally threw Grandma’s Christmas cheque in the bin, it’s no use going to the post office to get the cheque—once the postie drops the letter in your letterbox, the post office no longer has it. Same goes for POP3 email. The email in your inbox is the only copy. That means making backups is paramount. (Handy hint: if you plan to access your POP3 email account from multiple devices, change the settings to delay deletion. This will allow you to check your inbox from one device without downloading and deleting those emails off the server; you can then download those emails to your main device later on.) If you’re a Rocketspark customer using POP3, it’s time to upgrade! We can get you up and running with the latest email protocol, no problem. Just get in touch with us.

*For more detailed information about email setup and syncing, please visit our Support Centre for email.

How often does your data change?

Data usually changes incrementally, but it can quickly add up. If you lost a whole month’s worth of files, how badly would that hurt your business? What about one week’s worth? Or even one day??

However long it takes for your data to change significantly is the regularity with which you need to perform backups. Figure out how long it takes for there to be a big change in your data and schedule your backups accordingly.

Step 2: Your Plan:

Unlike the stationery supplies burnt up in a fire, data isn’t something you can go to the store and buy off the shelf. It’s unique to your business, so the only way to survive data loss is to have backup copies.

The key thing to remember is this: your backups need to be kept in a different place to the original data—physically different. Backing up to an external hard drive that sits on your desk next to the computer won’t help much in the case of theft or fire. With that in mind, here are a couple of suggestions for ways to back up your data:

  • Online/cloud backups. Until recently, most backing up was done using local storage i.e., to your external hard drive, CDs, floppy disks etc. Nowadays though, you can back up your data online to “the cloud” (Confused about this buzzword? Read PCMag’s explanation of the cloud). One of the nice things about this method is that your backups are instantly offsite, making your data catastrophe-proof. The files you back up can be accessed from anywhere and from any capable device, meaning that bouncing back after a data disaster is quick. One way you could do this is by backing up your emails to a file-sharing site like Dropbox to function as a backups service, or use a purpose-built backup service like Carbonite.
  • Vaulting. This is where a third-party company regularly drops by your office, backs your data up to, say, tapes, and then stores them safely off site. This type of service is probably a bit too industrial-strength for most small businesses, but it might be a worthwhile option for bigger companies.

Step 3: Your Drills:

What do you do if the office catches on fire? If you’ve neglected your fire drills, then you’ll probably panic and try escaping by  throwing an overhead projector through the window. Practice pays off in an emergency, which is why you need to run data recovery drills.

Remember “stop, drop, and roll”? For data recovery drills, our mantra is peck, check, and test:

  • Peck through your backups regularly to ensure that data is being backed up properly.
  • Check how long it takes you to access relevant files to assess how quickly you can get back to business after a data loss.
  • Test out recovering your data from your backups to make sure you know how to do it when the time comes that you need it.

And just like fire drills, make sure your data drills are performed regularly. Schedule them and set an alert to remind you when it’s time to peck, check, and test.

Re-Cap: How can I survive a data emergency?

There are three stages to creating an data recovery plan:

  1. Your preparation. Ask yourself what data you need to protect, where it’s stored, and how often your data changes significantly.
  2. Your plan. Come up with a backups routine and method that suits your business’s needs.
  3. Your drills. Regularly make sure everything is working properly and that you can access your backups when disaster hits.

Implementing a good data plan, just like a fire plan, will give you peace of mind, knowing that in the likely event of a data emergency your business will escape unscathed and be up and running in no time.