Are you prepared when the unthinkable happens?
Will your business survive a serious data loss?
In hectic times of daily operations we don't think about what can go wrong. It's only when disaster strikes that we become aware of the fact that we do need a good plan for our digital disaster recovery.
Hardware can die, laptops and equipment gets stolen or destroyed by fire, your website host may cease operation or goes out of business. These things happen and can create a nightmare if you are not prepared to respond in such a situation.
If your business depends on the functioning of your website and online services, you have to get a plan before you need one. It's too late to think about business continuity when crucial data is already lost.
While all businesses are different and it's important that your individual plan addresses all crucial elements, there are also a number of general questions you'll need to have an answer for.
Not all data is equally important and if you separate the vital data from the rest your backup will be much easier and more reliable. It's generally not a good idea to backup everything. Even though it sounds easier to dump all data somewhere, in case of a recovery new systems need to be set up, different hardware may be used, and it is a lot more difficult to restore a system when you don't have a clear understanding of where your crucial data is stored.
It's difficult to define what crucial data is: your intellectual property, your development assets, copyrighted material, customer and financial information, keys, contact information, plans for the future, the list is endless. But if you don't separate these from other "unimportant files" like the operating system, you won't be able to restore the core of your business on the new systems easily.
Encrypted, Automated Backups
Can you put all your crucial files into an encrypted container?
If so, you are one big step ahead on the way to a reliable backup procedure. Even if the encrypted container is of considerable size (a few gigabytes) your assets are both safe and accessible when your container is stored locally or online. One thing you have to make sure is, that the encrypted contents of the container is periodically updated with your assets as they have changed and developed. And let me add: without the need of your intervention. These updates have to be automated or they will not be done at all.
And you have to use (i.e see) the data in your encrypted container to make sure you have a backup that will work if you need it.
Control over your WebsiteDo you have all the necessary information to move your website to another host?
Many small business owners are not the techie type and tend to delegate things to their "web guy". That's fine as long as they retain control over their business. The most important thing is to make sure your website is found. No, I don't mean Google, its the Domain Name System that must be working correctly for your website to be visible. You need to control your DNS, believe me, it's ultimately important, because if the DNS is screwed up nothing will work, your website will be invisible and no email will reach you.
And you cannot delegate this to you web guy, because if you do not control your DNS you do not control your business. It all depends on whether you are able to log into the account at the registrar for your domain name. If you can log in, you're in control, if not you have to get the information to log in there. If your web guy has the necessary information don't give in until he has surrendered the information to you and you're sure you can access this account.
You may not need to change anything now, but you may need to later, so guard the login information like the crown jewels. By the way, make sure that the email address used for registration can be used by you too, as you'll need it to be working to make contact to the registrar when you have to demand changes. A phone call will not work.
With control over your DNS you will be able to determine which machine on the internet will answer to calls to your domain name, so you can switch over to a different host if need be. You can be sure it's you making the decisions, nobody else.
Documentation and TransparencyAre all your software solutions and services well documented so that someone else can take over maintaining your website hosting?
Over time a website develops in different directions. Today websites are no longer pure static information pages but complex solutions with server code generating the pages visible to the user. Consequently, making a backup of your website is not only a matter of copying some files but to ensure you can rebuild databases and code on a different host as well. This complexity can easily lead you into a lock-in situation where you don't know which component plays which role because your website is not properly documented. Once being in such a situation people tend to remain there and to change nothing, fearing that their website would evaporate if anything is touched.
Obviously this cannot be tolerated, as adding new ways of interaction to your website is vital to attract new customers. Leaving everything as it is may not even be suitable for the foreseeable future. To allow your business to grow and evolve it may be best to use a virtual or dedicated server for all your online business needs. This way you will not only take advantage of the benefits of open source software, you'll also be able to ask other support professionals to maintain your website and add new services for your customers once the work is being properly documented on the server.
Preparing for the worst while hoping for the best means that you have to think about a number of procedures you cannot leave to chance. Contact us to find out how we can help to create and implement a reliable plan for your business continuity that works.