How To Fix Common Data Recovery Plan Problems
You’re sitting at your desk finishing up what you think may be your best work yet and then BAM! Your computer crashes.
You reboot your computer hoping and praying to the computer gods that it AutoSaved because you were almost done and hadn’t saved the latest version.
Your computer comes back up and low and behold you are left with your introductory paragraph starring you back in the face.
After you sort through all the explicit sentences going through your head you think to yourself, “Man, I wish I had a data recovery plan!”
Ok, so no you probably wouldn’t be thinking that exactly, but whether it’s your word doc, your hard drive, or your company’s system failing, it’s important to have a data recovery plan!
We know preparing for the unknown and highly unlikely is difficult and can seem impossible. Honestly, you are probably faced with more pressing issues to your business than playing the “what if” game.
But data disaster preparation can go a long way saving you time, money and business when, not if a data disaster occurs.
Let’s look at developing your data backup and recovery plans and how to avoid common problems that can occur when implementing these prevention plans in your business.
What is Data Recovery?
But, what exactly is data recovery and why is it important?
Data recovery is the process of restoring data that has been lost, accidentally deleted, corrupted or made inaccessible for some reason.
Why is data recovery important? That’s easy! Think technology and human failure.
Now I know this is hard to believe, but sometimes out of your control, your device, software, or hardware fails you!
I know it’s even harder to believe that you yourself could fail at something with your tech. Let’s be honest, sometimes you just space saving a document or step in a process that winds up in a very irritable and painstaking lesson.
Top Data Recovery Plan Problems and Solutions
YOU NEED A PLAN!
Ok so you know you need a plan, now let’s look at 14 of the most common problems with data recovery plans and how to solve them.
1. 60% of Companies Have No Data Recovery Plan
Over 60% of respondents ranging from small to large businesses all over the globe, did not have a data recovery plan.
I know you may be thinking, “Well we have a backup plan!” But backing up isn’t the same as recovering!
Or even worse you may be thinking, “Well we have Steve our IT guy, he’s got it figured out if something happens.”
While Steve may be a very capable and skilled IT guy, having a plan in your head just doesn’t cut it!
The Costs of Doing Nothing
You can always opt to avoid assessing your potential data recovery costs. But before you do that, ask yourself these questions:
- If we’re cut off from our vital business records—databases, customer files, schedules, and invoices—how long will it be before we face a serious problem? When will we start losing money?
- How will the problems manifest themselves? What will our lost productivity cost us? Will it damage our reputation?
- Who will tally our dollar losses if our business is interrupted, and how will we recover?
So how do we solve this predicament?
It’s easy! Simply put together a data backup plan AND a data recovery plan in case of a disaster. When disaster strikes, rational flies out the window and emotion takes over. Make it easier on yourself and have a plan to guide you through your recovery.
2. 40% of companies say current recovery plan is inadequate
Maybe after seeing the first problem you’re saying to yourself, “That’s not me! We put a plan in years ago and it’s worked out great!”
A good look in the mirror might be time well spent because 40% of organizations surveyed admitted that their current data recovery plan was pretty useless in response to their worst disaster data recovery situation.
So now that you’re looking at yourself and your current recovery plan…
How can a data recovery plan be wrong?
- Too simple or complicated
- Does not account for alternate configurations
- Does not cover the most serious scenarios
- Focuses too much on the most serious scenarios and doesn’t cover the most common scenarios
Don’t worry the fix is pretty simple…
- Create plan that’s brief and clear, but includes all the essential information
- Include every situation or event that’s possible, regardless how low the probability of their occurrence.
- Write a plan that your Mom or Grandma could understand read it and followed it step by step. (Including pictures and graphics is always helpful)
3. Around 50% of organizations’ outages or data losses are from failure of software or hardware
You may have a plan in place, but the technology you’re using could be wrong!
For over half of organizations, software and hardware failures were the biggest cause of outages and data loss.
In fact, only 15% of organizations can automatically produce reports on their DR activities.
Here are some examples to keep in mind:
- Using outdated media or software
- Using outdated equipment
- Using outdated data recovery techniques
- Using cheap equipment or software
- Incomplete system
Just because something works doesn’t mean it is the right way to do it.
- Spend some time updating your equipment every year or so.
- Bring in a professional to consult you on what software and hardware you require.
- Stay up to date on the latest data recovery techniques.
- Don’t be afraid to bend the budget so you sleep better at night.
4. No Data Recovery Plan Testing
If you have a plan in place and the right technology great! You get a sticker on your sticker chart!
Wait, but you haven’t tested it?
How do you know if it actually works?
A pivotal aspect of your disaster recovery plan is knowing how it will be executed following the disaster. This is no different than in sports, let’s use basketball.
When coach calls a timeout with 10 seconds left down by two, you need to know what play to run and who’s taking the final shot.
Practice makes perfect!
You’d be surprised, but about 25% of businesses never test their recovery plans.
Running through your plan can help you learn new things and refine your plan to make sure everything can go as smoothly as possible when the time comes.
Again you’re thinking, “I have my plan in place, the right technology, and we even test our plan. We’re good to go!”
Not so fast!
- Over 65% of organizations don’t pass their own recovery plan tests. YIKES!
- Over 50% of those organizations that test don’t document their results. WHAT?!
- Only 25% of the organizations that fail their first round of testing re-test their plan. SERIOUSLY!
First things first, there are two main tests you should be creating and practicing.
- General systems and applications operations test
- Disaster event specific test
The first test should be a general systems and applications test, to test and ensure that everything is back up and running correctly. This is something that should be documented, practiced and refined well before any recovery is needed. The next test to keep in mind is one that looks into the resolution of the problem that caused or would cause the event in the first place. Obviously it is hard to have a plan in place for something you didn’t know could cause this catastrophe, but prepare a plan that covers every disaster or situation that you can think of and can be easily adapted to any new event. After each test, the results should be documented and plans refined to increase efficiency and probability for success in the future.
Something to keep in mind is that technology changes quickly. It is important to implement an iterative testing process to verify that you can execute your recovery plan successfully when you need it the most.
5. Data Recovery Testing Too Infrequent
Like we said in the last problem, technology moves quickly and if you aren’t testing frequently enough you could be susceptible to irreparable damage.
If you currently only test once a year you aren’t alone!
Unfortunately, a third of all organizations only fully test their data recovery plans once or twice a year.
The solution is simple, test your plan! Try testing your plan once a quarter to ensure that your team knows exactly what to do and that everything is up to date. I hate to say it, but practice makes perfect and you want your plan implementation to be like second nature when disaster strikes and emotions are high.
6. Insufficient Information Management
We’ve mentioned several times the importance to record your recovery plan and your results, but we have to mention it again! Having a well-documented recovery plan is one of the most influential aspects on the success or failure of a plan. Within this documentation information needs to be managed covering what needs to happen before, during and after a disaster as well as who’s responsible for what.
Here are some things to keep in mind when creating this documentation:
- Who’s in charge of what responsibilities
- Communication protocols
- Timing to implement the plan and when you can expect to get things back up and running
Make sure that you have physical copies of your plan both at the office and at home. Think about it, if the systems down due to a virus, you may not be able to get to your plan file on your computer.
Let’s think bigger.
What if there’s a fire and you can’t get to your computer or any of your belongings. It would be nice if you had a copy of how to recover all your data at home wouldn’t it?
Create a binder or some physical paper form along with your other necessary backup and disaster recovery materials like any of your live CDs. Now with the great existence of “the cloud” it’s a good idea to keep a copy in an encrypted drive up there as well. Another idea is to use a SharePoint site to hold this material. That way you and other members of your team can subscribe to an RSS feed for the documents and you’ll be notified whenever any changes are made.
7. No Data Recovery Budget
Insufficient funds for your data recovery budget
· Close to 2/3 of respondents to the survey think their plan is underfunded
· Almost ½ do not maintain a budget or are unsure about how much is allocated
Experts estimate that on average, losing critical applications can cost companies thousands of dollars per minute.
It’s not just losing money either, but how could data loss effect your business operations in the future or maybe your relationship with your clients.
Best idea is to find a trusted backup and recovery partner. When looking for your data recovery partner, keep some of these things in mind.
- Start with any technology and data that is essential to support your core business.
- If the business is hurt badly enough, there may be other charges that go along with recovering your data. You may end up paying for people to work longer hours or you may need to replace any materials that were damaged. Allocate funds just in case!
- Go with someone who has proven experience. While going with the new guy can sometimes be cheaper and deliver the same if not better services, this is not the time to gamble.
- Get Your Recovery Terms in Writing
While we hope your partner wouldn’t take advantage of you in your time of need, the truth is that in this situation they have the power. Get the estimate for your recovery plan in writing. Most often times it will be in the form of a service level agreement covering details of the service.
- Make sure you include timing in your agreement. Like we said before every minute could be costing you thousands of dollars, business and relationships. Time in this case is not all we have.
- Beware of hidden fees
While you may be promised a flat fee, the fine print can reveal hidden fees for parts, recovery for different systems, rush service, etc. Most companies won’t offer one price for everything.
8. 21% LACK The SKILLS for Proper Data Recovery
Many organizations today still struggle with assembling the skills, time or money to adequately plan and test their DR preparedness.
- 21% do not have the skill sets to effectively perform DR tests
If you are keeping your data recovery in-house, make sure you hire someone with proper experience and provide them with proper up-to-date data recovery training.
9. No Data Recovery Equipment
If the system you are restoring to doesn’t match your existing system closely enough, your recovery system won’t work correctly.
The best idea is to buy two sets of servers using one as a backup when necessary. That way if one server starts experiencing any problems you can switch to the backup. Hardware is expensive so you may want to consider buying your server in batches. Plus let’s think what’s more expensive, some servers or the loss of business.
10. Lack of essential components
When disaster strikes isn’t the time to realize you didn’t have all the materials you needed to complete your recovery plan.
Keep basic items on hand:
- Different lengths of spare network cables,
- Power cords
- Hard drives for your servers
- Spare RAM
- Data cables
- Drive controller cards
- Extra external devices
11. Insufficient Backups
“Your Backup Cannot Be Read”
Sometimes those words can be like a punch in the gut. You can restore your system only to find out later that there are still issues such as an existing virus.
Examples of bad backups in data recovery
- Not compatible with all applications
- Backups are stored improperly
- Too complex backup applications
- Improper backup software
- Hardware issues
Honestly this goes back to the testing solution. Testing regularly will ensure that your systems and plan work when you need them the most.
12. And I would walk 500 miles…to my offsite backups
Many companies use a secondary site to manage their disaster recovery. Not having easily accessible offsite backups for data recovery or if your backup site doesn’t match your primary site can cause huge problems.
Well first things first, if you have a secondary site to backup your data have it resemble your primary site exactly.
Now for the distance predicament, consider using online backups. While the recovery may be slower due to the connection it can be faster than traveling to your secondary site.
Take a look at PC Mag’s review of The Best Online Backup Services for 2015 for more information.
13. Shallow Backups
With unique snapshots archiving permanently, your budget may feel a little squeezed for your backups.
To ensure lean backup, creating a schedule to rotate the backup of your media can help save you some money.
The key to this is to make sure that the schedule has the proper depth and redundancy.
A good idea is to keep nearline backups of a few days that rotate and can be transferred to a disk every week or so. After a few weeks you can transfer those disks offsite for remote storage and safe keeping.
You can also backup your exchange server several times a day that will save as nearline.
14. Unable To Selectively Restore From Backups
Sometimes while your data is being fully recovered you need to access a few important files. Why should you have to wait until the entire system is restored until you can use those select documents?
Your recovery plan should allow you to selectively restore files regardless of their location to eliminate downtime and increase recovery efficiency.
A data disaster can occur at any time. Whether it’s something as simple as a device crash or a fire that destroys your office, your company should have a data recovery plan. The fact is that a data disaster is not a situation of if it happens, but when. Looking above, you can see ways that people screw up their backup and recovery plan and how to prevent these all too common errors from happening to you. Save yourself time, money, and potentially your business by planning and implementing your data backup and recovery plan today.
Have you ran into another data backup and recovery problem? Leave a comment and let us know.
The statistics in this article are taken from The State of Global Disaster Recovery Preparedness Annual Report 2014.