Protect your company’s data from deletion and disaster
Just like seatbelts, fire extinguishers, and insurance, you need a data-recovery plan in place before disaster strikes.
This guide will show you how to create two layers of backups for your company’s data.
The people who manage backups for large corporations have a saying: “Two is one, and one is none.” There’s always a chance a backup may have a problem. Because of this, you always want a second layer to your backup plan.
With this disaster-recovery plan, you will be able to quickly get back in business after a fire, flood, disk drive failure, virus, or any other problem that could destroy your company’s data.
Typical costs to follow this two-layer data recovery plan are:
Initial one-time: $50 – $110 per computer
Annual: $60 – $120 per computer
Step 1. Determine your specific requirements
Start with creating an inventory of your company’s computers.
I use a simple spreadsheet, as shown below:
“Computer” is whatever name you use to identify each computer.
“External Disk?” Does the computer have an external USB drive attached? Some cloud-based backup services do not include these drives in their backups. Or, there is an additional charge to include them.
“C: (total)” is the total size of the C: disk. You’ll need this information if you ever need to replace a disk drive. The new drive will need to be the same size, or larger, than the original drive.
“C: (used)” is how much data needs to be backed up. Some backup services charge by the amount of data. You’ll need this number to calculate costs, and determine which backup service is best for your needs.
If you have any files you won’t need backed up to the cloud, you can subtract that from the “used” column. For example, I keep my iTunes music library on my office computer, but don’t include those files in my cloud backup.
Record the “(total)” and “(used)” amounts for all disk drives. In the spreadsheet above, my computers have two disk drives each – C and D.
“Total” is the sum of all the “used” space, for all the disk drives in that computer.
“Plus 20%” adds 20% to the “Total” value, to allow for future growth. If your business creates large files, like videos, you may want to use a larger percentage.
Keep a printed copy of this spreadsheet in a safe place – not at the office (in case of a fire or flood). If you ever need to replace your computers, you’ll need this information to know what size disk drives to get.
Second, consider if there are additional security requirements for your industry and region.
Medical businesses may need to use a HIPAA-compliant service. If you store credit card information, you may need to follow PCI-compliance regulations. Your geographic region may have additional privacy requirements.
For more information on data privacy in the US, visit: http://lillysoftwareconsulting.com/DataProtectionLaws
If you are uncertain of any data privacy laws and regulations that may affect your company’s data, check with your lawyer.
Finally, check if your internet service has a limit/cap to the amount of data you can use per month.
The initial cloud-based backup will need to send a large amount of data. You don’t want to pay an unexpected “excess usage” fee.
If your initial backup will cause you to go significantly over your data limit, consider a backup service that lets you to mail in a disk drive for the initial backup – like Backblaze Fireball https://www.backblaze.com/b2/contact-fireball.html.
Step 2. Create your local backups
Next, make an exact copy of each computer’s disk drives. You’ll do this with a “disk imaging/cloning” program. This type of program makes an exact copy of every character on the disk drive.
When you install a program to a computer, it may also update some Windows files – like the registry, which stores configuration values for installed programs.
A disk image backup will do a complete clone of everything on the disk drive – including the files like the registry.
If you restore from a disk image, you will overwrite the new disk, and it will look exactly like the backed-up disk drive, at the time when the image backup was created.
This is good for when you need to completely replace a disk drive – like after a crashed disk drive, fire, flood, virus, or if the computer was stolen.
The downsides of an image backup are that they take a long time to perform, and they are not efficient when you only need to recover a few files (in case they were accidentally deleted). This is why we also use a cloud-based file service as part of the disaster-recovery plan. It works well for recovering a few files.
To create a disk image, you will need the disk imaging program and a backup disk drive that is larger than the amount of data you want to backup – including any external drives you want backed up.
If you only have a few computers, the simplest solution is to buy an external USB disk drive for each computer.
If you have several computers on a network, you may want to get a larger Network-Attached Storage (NAS) device. A NAS is basically a huge disk drive that can be used by all the computers on the network.
Suggested external USB disk drives (alphabetical order)
Purchase an external USB drive for each computer.
These drives will need to be at least as large as the amount of data on the computer. However, it’s best to allow for growth. A 1 Terabyte (1,000 Gigabyte) external USB disk drive currently only costs around $50-60.
Use drives from one of these major manufacturers: Samsung, Seagate, Toshiba, or Western Digital.
When you do each backup, label the disk drive with the name of the computer. This will help you find the correct drive, should you need to restore a computer’s data.
Suggested image backup programs (alphabetical order)
You’ll also need to install a disk imaging backup program on each computer. Many companies have free versions, with paid versions that include additional features. The paid versions are normally around $40-50 per computer.
The programs below are popular backup tools that have been around for years, and shown to be reliable.
EaseUS Todo Backup: https://www.easeus.com/backup-software/tb-free.html
Paragon Backup & Recovery: https://backstage.paragon-software.com/free/br-free/
Acronis True Image: https://www.acronis.com/en-us/personal/computer-backup/
Windows Backup: https://www.windowscentral.com/how-make-full-backup-windows-10
Performing an image backup generally takes 30 minutes for each computer – assuming an average amount of data.
After completing the backup, safely eject the USB disk drive before unplugging it, as shown in the image below.
Store these drives at a different location from your business. This way, if there is a disaster at your building, the backups won’t also be lost. A safe deposit box is a good location.
After making these image backups, add a note on your calendar to redo them every three or six months. You may also want to redo the image backups if you install any large programs, or after a large Windows Update.
If you ever need to restore from an image file, you don’t want the image to be too old. If it is, there will be more files to restore from the cloud-based backup service – which may take several hours, or days.
By having a recent image, you’ll get back in business faster.
Step 3. Clean your computers
Now that your computers are backed up locally, it’s time to prepare for the cloud-based backup.
If you are uncomfortable with deleting files, you can skip this step. Your cloud-based backup program will probably ignore most of these files.
Running Windows Disk Cleanup
You can remove many unused files from a Windows computer by running “Disk Cleanup”.
To do this, open “File Explorer” from the computer’s “Start” button or search box (for Windows 10).
Right-click on each of the computer’s disk drive(s), and select “Properties”.
Click the “Disk Cleanup” button.
Now you can see the types of unneeded files you have, and how much space they use. Check each type of file you want to delete.
Windows makes occasional “Shadow Copies”, to let you completely uninstall programs and updates. If you want to remove old versions of those, keeping only the latest one, click the “Clean up system files” button.
Select the “More Options” tab and click the “Clean up…” button.
Finally, click the “OK” button to remove your selected files and shadow copies. This will take a minute or two to complete.
Step 4. Setup your cloud-based backup system
Visit the websites of the different services listed below, and determine:
- If it fits any special regulatory requirements you have
- The total cost to use the service
When calculating the cost, check if the service provides unlimited storage or charges by the space used. Also, check if it includes backing up external disk drives, if you have any that need to be backed up.
After determining the service that best fits your needs, and signing up for it, start installing the backup software on your computers.
Because the service can consume much of your internet traffic, you will probably want to install the backup software on one computer at a time. Start with the computer that stores the most important data first. Wait until the first computer has finished uploading its data before installing on the next computer.
Most backup software lets you configure it to back up only the drives you need, select files/directories to exclude, and set the hours to run the backup.
If your company uses the internet during the day, you may want to configure the backup software to only run during off-hours, when your internet is not being used.
Suggested cloud-based backup services (alphabetical order)
When you go into your business tomorrow, see how long you can work before you need to use your computer.
Imagine what it would be like if you couldn’t use your computers at all. With a solid two-layer disaster recovery plan, you can get back in business quickly.
If you have questions about, or want help with, setting up a data recovery plan for your business, contact me at: