What would you do if you turned on your computer and saw only a blank screen? No files or programs to open, just a blank slate. What data are you most worried about losing? Do you know how to get it back?
IT backups are an essential defense against IT disasters because they can restore crucial data and systems if hardware memory is compromised or erased.
But how do you know what you should back up? Because each business is unique, you should be backing up the files, applications, and systems that matter most to your organization.
For over 25 years, WEBIT Services has helped hundreds of clients develop and enact IT strategies, including system backups and IT continuity.
In this article, you will learn four self-assessment questions to help determine which systems to back up.
4 Questions to help you determine what IT systems need backups
Backups are snapshots of important pieces of data from a particular point in time. It's a "photograph" of your data duplicated and saved in another file location. If the original systems or information vanish, you have a copy to restore functionality.
It's important to note that backups are not IT continuity. Continuity saves and restores data in real-time, while backups save data within a set timeframe.
Here are four questions to help you determine which systems and data should be backed up.
1. What systems or information do you use daily?
What applications, systems, and data are critical for completing daily tasks? If these systems are inaccessible, would your business continue to function? Or would productivity come to a halt?
Speak with the leaders in each section of your organization to see which IT systems, applications, and data they use to complete tasks. Having a holistic view of how your company uses its IT applications and data is important.
Otherwise, you may miss key systems and leave a department (and, potentially, your business) vulnerable.
For example, what program does your finance department use to collect client payments? What happens to your finance department if they can't use that program? What happens to your overall productivity without this program or ability?
2. What data, if lost, would bring productivity to a halt?
What information is vital for your business to function? If that information was lost, could your company continue to produce materials or serve customers?
For example, a doctor's office cannot afford to lose patient records and history. Likewise, a manufacturer cannot lose its exclusive patents, designs, and recipes.
In addition, what other information is crucial for your various departments to accomplish their goals?
For instance, many sales departments use customer relationship management (CRM) applications to collect customer information. If that application's memory is suddenly erased, would your sales team be able to reach its goals? Or would their productivity slow dramatically or halt?
Data critical to productivity and success needs a place in your backup system. You have a duplicate ready to be restored if the information is lost. In this situation, data loss would be minimal, if not nonexistent, and your business would recover with shorter downtime.
3. What data or systems cannot be replaced or replicated?
Does your business hold information that cannot be replaced or replicated? If so, this data should be included in your backup plan.
For example, if a dentist loses patient X-rays from two years ago, that information cannot be recreated. You can take a new X-ray but not compare it to older records or use it instead of older images.
In this situation, the dentist may face legal action over the lost records and, consequently, find his reputation damaged. This could have been prevented with proper backups of the patient's X-rays.
If your business needs unique data records, you will want backups for this information. If an IT disaster occurs and the original files are destroyed, you have duplicates on hand.
Backups like this can save a business from significant losses or even save it from collapse if the data loss is severe.
4. Does your industry have compliance standards regarding backups?
Is your business part of a regulated industry with compliance requirements? If so, your business must maintain specific backups for a determined time frame.
Regulated industries have clear guidelines for data backups, recovery, and continuity, telling you which data to back up and how long to hold it.
Failure to follow compliance standards can result in significant legal fees and damaged reputation.
Next steps for determining IT backups
Some say, "You're only as good as your last backup."
Backups help save vital business applications and data in the face of IT disasters. Additionally, if a disaster occurs, the backups can help minimize downtime.
As you and your leadership team work to determine what systems should be backed up, ask the following questions:
- What systems or information do you use daily?
- What data, if lost, would bring productivity to a halt?
- What data or systems cannot be replaced or replicated?
- Does your industry have compliance standards regarding backups?
These questions will help you narrow down your critical systems and data.
Once you have this information, speak with your IT provider or internal IT team. It will help you finish building out your backup plan and system. Your IT provider or team can tell you what you can back up, what it's currently backing up, and what systems they recommend you include in your backup plan.
Your IT provider or team can help you identify which applications include backups as a higher service tier plan. However, one should never assume that backups are automatically a part of any application. Instead, verify what programs can be backed up or are currently being backed up with your IT provider or team.
If you are looking for a new IT provider or want to develop an IT backup plan, schedule a free 30-minute consultation to see how WEBIT Services can help.
If you're not ready to make a commitment but would like to learn more about IT backups and continuity, we recommend the following articles:
- What is IT disaster recovery?
- Backup and Recovery Systems | What they are, and why you need one
- How to determine critical IT systems for an IT service continuity plan
- Data Backup vs. IT Continuity