Integrator Toolbox: Don't skimp when it comes to backing up

The lowdown

What is it? Software in this category provides either backup of files and applications or recovery of files in the wake of a disaster.

Why do I need it? The importance of data protection and availability demands that you be prepared for systems disasters, whether they be small or large, natural or man-made.

Must-know info? The best hardware and software in the world isn't as important as having a well-thought-out, well-rehearsed disaster plan. Knowing what data or services must be restored first in any situation is vital to a good recovery effort.

There are few things more critical to an IT department than having a good, thoroughly tested backup and disaster recovery program.

It doesn't matter whether the cause is a terrorist attack, flood, massive software failure, fried squirrel in the nearest power substation or even a bad software patch. Management always wants the same question answered: "How soon can you get it up and running again?"

The big challenge is developing a proper disaster recovery plan. The latest technology is worthless if no one knows what to do when disaster strikes.

Determining just what constitutes recovery is the first step in developing a plan. That might seem obvious, but there is a difference between resumption of critical services and complete restoration of all computer functions and files.

The second step is to consider the most likely disasters. Most IT woes result from comparatively minor problems: a broken water main, local power outage or local hardware failure.

Once restoration priorities are set for various scenarios, it's vital to have a single person designated as the chief recovery officer, with a backup person named in case the chief isn't available.

Above all, plan for data safety and consider the worst-case scenario. You can't recover from some disasters except by starting from scratch, but careful planning can greatly reduce the prospect of such situations.

John McCormick is a free-lance writer and computer consultant. E-mail him at powerusr@yahoo.com.

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