Backing Up Servers

Maybe your business is growing—you’ve hired somebody to help with the bookkeeping and you need some way to share the accounting files. Maybe you’ve had a near miss—the power went out suddenly and your data hadn’t been saved recently. Maybe, for some other reason, you’ve come to the realization that your data needs to be protected, whether due to business continuity, regulatory, or other reasons.

Regardless, you need a data protection solution for your server. And you’re not sure where to start.

What do all these terms mean?

Anytime you get people talking about backup, they’ll spit out a bunch of acronyms that can be bewildering to a newcomer. So let’s talk about them!
   •     BCP: This is your “Business Continuity Plan.” In other words,          in the event you lose data—whether it be a single file or a          whole server—how will you recover from the loss and resume          business? Many businesses formalize this as a written plan;          that way, in the absence of all the principals, others know how          to proceed.

   •     RPO: This is a “Recovery Point Objective.” It’s a measure of how much data—measured in time—you can afford to lose.          If you’re doing bookkeeping, you might be able to afford to lose 15 or 20 minutes’ worth of work. If you’re a bank, you          generally can’t afford to lose anything. As this number approaches 0, the solutions tend to get more expensive,          depending on the type of data.

   •     RTO: This is a “Recovery Time Objective.” It’s a measure of how quickly—again, measured in time—you have to be back          up and running. The more critical the data, the lower the RTO usually is.

So how does this all come together? Say you manufacture widgets for a living, and your inventory and customer relationship systems live on a server. Your business continuity plan may be something as simple as:

  1. In the event the server dies and the server is unrecoverable, contact our local server reseller and arrange for delivery of Server Model X. Reseller contact info is XXX-XXX-XXXX.
  2. While awaiting delivery, download restore of most recent restore point. Our backup vendor is Mozy; their support is XXX-XXX-XXXX, with support ID XXXXXXX. Ask for assistance in recovering backup set “Inventory Data.”
  3. When server arrives, reinstall Inventory Management Software (Vendor is XXX-XXX-XXXX).
  4. Restore backup set to location d:\inventory.

Why start with the business continuity plan?

For starters, a business continuity plan helps you identify how you’re going to work through a failure. All too often, the vendors may not know how best to help you. If your inventory control software only runs on Server 2003, a local reseller may not have a machine with Server 2003 available. You may have lost or misplaced the inventory control vendor’s contact info. Your backup vendor can probably help you get your data back, but may not know which application generated it when the data is just files on your server. And so on.

By putting it all in a plan, you’ve already set yourself up for determining what your critical data is.

What is my critical data?

The easy answer is “all of it.” However, when getting your business back up and running, you probably don’t need a 5-year-old quality control report right now. The older the data gets, the less critical it is. In addition to this, different types of data may require different workflow. You may be backing up images and a database; the database is going to require a database engine to be usable. So you should take steps to identify your critical data, categorize it, back it up, and most critically, know how to get it back in a way that allows you to keep your business running.

Your business continuity plan should include steps for getting the most critical data right away and lesser-critical data afterward. This is where the RTO comes into play. In the example above, you’d probably want your vendor to have a server delivered to you within 12 hours and critical production data up and running within 4 hours of the server becoming available. At most, you’d miss one full business day of work this way, most of which is spent waiting on new hardware. By communicating your RTO to your vendors, you can ensure everybody understands what the expectations are, and as things progress, whether or not your business continuity plan is on track.

Some data may reside in applications; for example, Microsoft SQL databases or MySQL databases. These can be protected to, but generally require what’s called an “Application consistent” backup—a backup that ensures the congruency of the database prior to executing a backup.

If you have critical data in applications like that, make a note of it; your backup vendor will want to know in order to best assist you.

So I know what my plan is and what my critical data is. What are my next steps?

Actually protecting data should be the last step of your business continuity plan. Now that you’ve set your standards and understand what needs to be protected, we’d be more than happy to invite you to give us a call, where we can discuss how Dell EMC can protect your most important data. Even if Mozy isn’t the best fit, Dell EMC together is the world’s largest data protection company. We can find the right solution for you!