We have dedicated many posts to Disaster Recovery and Business Continuity Planning. We have talked about how vital this process is in protecting and saving your business from any disaster, big or small.  Of course, one of the necessary components for a buoyant BCP is data backup.  Without proper data backup, everything else is fruitless and a waist of time.   A backup, or the process of backing up, refers to the copying and archiving of computer data so it may be used to restore the original after a data loss event. Therefore, when it comes to backing up and protecting your company’s critical data, you need to know for certain – without any lingering doubts – that you could recover your files and be back up and running again fast after a natural disaster, server crash, hacker attack or other data-erasing event.

Yet, unbelievably, most business owners don’t know for sure if all of their data is being backed up. Even fewer conduct regular test restores to ensure that their backups are actually working, and many don’t have a clue what they would do if they suddenly lost their data or ability to access it due to a fire, flood or other disaster. To make matters worse, almost no one keeps records of software licenses and discs that are necessary to restore a corrupt or critically damaged server – so even IF they are lucky enough to have all their data, they soon realize that data backup is only one component and doesn’t necessarily guarantee a speedy recovery.

An astounding fact is fewer than 10% of small and medium business owners have a solid disaster recovery plan in place.  And this is why, during this first quarter of 2016 we have made it our personal mission here at Alcala Consulting to educate as many Southern California business owners as possible about the dangers of not having a rock solid offsite backup and disaster recovery plan for their data and critical IT systems.

 So, simply, here are three critical "ESSENTIALS" your business' backup system MUST have...

Critical Element #1: Secure, Encrypted Offsite Backup

  While we recommend that you have onsite backup, it’s absolutely critical to keep an encrypted copy of your data offsite as well. If a fire burns your office to the ground – or a thief breaks in and steals your server and equipment – or a natural disaster floods your office or makes it impossible to access your PCs and server, the onsite backup will be useless to you. And copying your data to a tape drive or other device and carrying it home every night isn’t the safest or smartest system either. Data needs to be encrypted to prevent it from falling into the wrong hands – and if you are storing “sensitive” data (like credit card numbers, financial documents, medical records and information or even client e-mail addresses and information) on an unencrypted portable device you may find yourself having a VERY uncomfortable conversation with your clients about how you exposed their data to an identity thief or hacker.

Critical Element #2: A Data Recovery And Disaster Recovery Plan

A HUGE mistake many business owners make is thinking that data backup is the same as disaster recovery – it’s not. Many business owners are shocked to find out just how long and arduous the process is to get all their data back after a disaster – and that’s IF they have a good, clean copy of ALL their data (most are surprised to find out they don’t). Just having a copy of your data isn’t enough; you need to have a plan in place to get everything restored quickly, which is something that tape drives and other physical backup devices don’t offer.

Critical Element #3: Test Restores

After you have a good backup system in place, you need to test it regularly to make sure it works. Point is, there’s something wrong if you aren’t doing this simple check at least once a month (possibly more for more critical data). If your current IT Company or person is not doing this, you can’t have any confidence in your current backup system.  Just like monthly fire drills in school, a monthly "data drill"  is a really good idea.  And, involve as much of your personnel as is feasible.  When a disaster strikes, the more staff that knows what to do means less chaos and insurance for you that your business will recover quickly.

We have mentioned this many times over but it certainly bears repeating.  Forty percent of businesses do not reopen after a disaster and another 25 percent fail within one year according to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). Similar statistics from the United States Small Business Administration indicate that over 90 percent of businesses fail within two years after being struck by a disaster.

The hidden positive element in this statistic is, those businesses that had an effective DBR/BCP came back bigger and stronger, because with the competition eliminated, they were able to increase their clientele, therefore their profit margin.

The bottom line here is...if you haven't looked into Disaster Backup and Recovery/Business Continuity Plans, you mustn't procrastinate.  If you have looked in to it, and have even developed one, it would behoove you to have it reviewed to make sure that "every "T" is crossed...every "I" is dotted."

Your business and your employees are counting on it.