Backup, why do I need to Backup?

By at 7 June, 2005, 4:10 pm

In this day and age it still amazes me that there are still lawyers out there that don’t take seriously the need for regular backups of their computers! I constantly get asked “Do I really need to backup everything?” Or they wonder why they just can’t leave the backup media at the office.

I’ve tried explaining time and time again why responsible attorneys insure that regular backups are made. That they test the backups to make sure they worked by doing test restores from the backup sets on some type of regular basis. I’ve explained that I think that safeguarding your data is an one of an attorneys’ ethical obligations as it safeguards the practice and client information that resides on the computer systems. I’ve lectured over and over again that with the availability of cheap storage, you should back up everything including programs. At this point someone usually raises the point that they have their program disks: can’t they just reinstall the programs off of those rather than backing them up so they have a true disaster recovery backup? They don’t seem to think about how much time reinstalling the 30 different programs they have installed will take, let alone finding all of the updates and patches for each one. So to everyone in this group: Yes, you need to backup EVERYTHING! You need to do this on a REGULAR basis (and I don’t mean once every 3 months). You need to VERIFY your backups by doing test restores from the backup set on some type of regular basis. It all goes back to the old Détente days of Trust but Verify. Don’t question why you must do this, just trust me that myself and others who have been doing legal technology for a while have come to this conclusion after many years of experience in the school of hard knocks.

When we get beyond these issues, we then come to the question of why they need to take their backups sets off site. [Note: I know that online backup services are available, but IMHO they are not financially feasible for a solo office and if there’s no broadband, they’re not technologically feasible either].

There’s no point in having a backup that’s left to suffer the same fate of a catastrophic loss as the rest of the equipment. If you search the web, you will find numerous postings on this point. By keeping a copy off site, if your office is completely destroyed, equipment stolen, etc. you can restore your critical data because you have that backup in another location. Ideally you rotate between several backup sets so you keep data lag to a minimum.

I had several clients in a multi-story office condo where a water line broke in an upper unit and flooded the floors below. A non-client had there backup tape left in the server and when it was flooded and destroyed the server, they also kept their other tapes there as well out in the open which were inundated by water as well and proved to be useless – this did not happen to my clients.

A sound backup strategy including off site storage is just one part of a having a good data protection plan: you should also have at least RAID 1 (mirrored drives) on your server computer whether it is a true server running a server OS (like Small Business Server 2003) or a standalone workstation being used as a file server running Win XP Pro. This protects you from a failed drive and allows you to keep working. The off site backup protects you from a catastrophe.

For workstations, I also recommend using a product like Drive Image, Ghost or TrueImage to make periodic images of the computer’s hard drive. This can prove to be a life saver if you get a piece of malware or virus that you can’t get rid; in this case, you can at least restore to the last image. I also like a program called File Map BB found at http://www.dogkennels.net/filemap/ which keeps track of added files and can help you track down spyware and malware by comparing the latest file counts to a prior one.

There are numerous backup software solutions that are reasonably priced and available including Emc Dantz Retrospect (www.dantz.com); Novastor Novabackup (www.novastor.com); NTI Backup Now (www.ntius.com); Stomp’s Backup MyPC (www.stompsoft.com); Aconis TrueImage (www.acronis.com) and others. Each of these have slightly different feature sets and may require a floppy disk to create a disaster recovery set (Backup MyPC does) but they will all work for backing up your ENTIRE system. For servers, you may have to buy additional plug-ins or a server version, but can you really afford not to safe guard your all important data? I didn’t think so.

Categories : Hardware | Non-Legal Software | Practice Management | Software

Comments
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