Disaster Recovery Planning

Disaster Recovery Planning is one of the most crucial functions of running a data driven business. Without a plan to recover your data in the event of a disaster, you are putting your business in grave danger. A disaster isn’t limited to hurricanes, earthquakes or wars. A disaster could be any unforeseen event that results in the partial or total loss of your data. It could also be an expiring hosting subscription that you fail to renew.

In my own career, I’ve experienced a version of the above. Early on in my tech journey, I signed up for GoDaddy’s Reseller program. For the uninitiated, GoDaddy allows individuals the ability to sell it’s products, like domain names, using a white labeled e-commerce store. Along with the reseller program, I received a number of products that carried a free 1 year trial. The free product I found the most useful was the cPanel Deluxe Linux hosting.

It was a very useful tool, I actually created a few blogs and a CRM (Customer Relationship Management) program on the platform. Fast forward about 11 months. I grew weary of the Reseller program and the lack of success I was having earning any money with it. So, like any other subscriber, I proceeded to check the box that allowed me to opt out of autorenew, effectively cancelling my account.

My assumption was that the cPanel hosting plan would simply resume billing me the normal rate when the trial was over…and I was wrong! Honestly, it would make sense to simply charge a customer when their trial expired not cancel the service entirely and dump their data into oblivion! (I’m looking at you GoDaddy!) After calling the customer support line, I was informed that the hosting plan was part of the Reseller program and cancelling it meant I was cancelling everything. They really exude the whole ‘All for one and one for all’ trope.

What made matters worse was that all the backups I saved remotely were dumped as well. I was fortunate enough to find a 5 week old backup on my local drive that allowed me to restore about 70% of what I lost. But telling a customer you lost 30% of their data is NEVER a conversation you want to have. Fortunately for me, the data I lost was my own, not a customer’s. Nevertheless, this situation was extremely stressful and extremely avoidable. My disaster was not an act of nature or a war, rather it was the result of 1) skimming through the fine print and 2) not having a solid disaster recovery plan in place.

I now backup my data methodically and meticulously. The key to a great disaster recovery plan is backing data frequently and having that data at digital arm’s reach so that you can ensure maximum up time for your business. Always store your data as follows:

  • Off site Servers: This ensures the disaster impacting your primary location doesn’t destroy your backups as well. Cloud services are great for this as you won’t have to pay for expensive servers and personnel.
  • Onsite External Drives: The best drives to use are large capacity SSDs (solid state drives) or high RPM HDDs (Hard Disk Drives). Ensure these are encrypted as it’s relative easy to pick one of these up and walk off with them.

In addition to the above, always rely on a script or some sort of automation tool for data backups. NEVER allow this to be a manual tasks. Relying on humans to remember to back their data up everyday is very dangerous. We’re all busy with our families, hobbies and professional goals, so it’s very easy to forget run a backup. This task is better allocated to a program, who nothing else better to do.

Most operating systems come native with some form of automated backups. Windows ,for example, has the Windows Backup and Restore feature accessible through the control panel. You’ll be able to set a recurring backup of your files at the time of day you choose. It’s highly recommended to set this backup to run daily, even if you don’t save a great deal of data each day.

Once you have your data backup procedure in place, you should practice restoration procedure. Time yourself to see how long it takes to get your backups live and devices production ready. This would be a great time to make use of a decommissioned server. Your ultimate goal should be to have as little downtime as possible.

Rather than wonder if a disaster will happen, act as if it will and soon! It’s best to be over prepared and excessively backed up than to have your clients looking at one of these when visiting your site:

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