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In today’s increasingly globalised and technologically advanced world, every business needs robust systems and procedures in place to protect their data in the event of anything going wrong. With a 2014 study by EMC asserting that data loss (including downtime) costs US $1.7 trillion a year to businesses worldwide, gone are the days when your backup system could simply be copies of your most important files on a pen drive.
The most common causes of data loss
There are four most common causes of data loss: natural disasters, human error, technical failures, and cyber-attacks. Any one of these can put your business out of action for a significant period of time. The longer this goes on, the greater the impact on your business.
According to the National Archives and Records Administration, over 90% of companies who experience seven days or more of data downtime will collapse within a year. Say, for example, your business suffered flood damage. How quickly would your current recovery systems allow you to get back up and running? These days it’s vital to have a sound business continuity plan (sometimes known as a backup and disaster recovery plan, or BDR) in place.
Size doesn’t matter
A lot of small businesses tend not to worry sufficiently about data recovery, thinking it’s only large companies that are affected by security breaches.
There are two major flaws in this argument: Firstly, it doesn’t take into account the fact that cyber-attacks are only one cause of data loss and consequent downtime. And secondly, cyber criminals are getting smarter all the time, and are increasingly focusing on businesses that they believe will not have sufficient protection in place. In most cases, these are SMEs; EMC reported that data loss for small businesses has increased 400% in the last two years.
I pay a provider… What could go wrong?
The unfortunate answer is, everything. Even if your backup and recovery systems are managed by a third party provider, you are still responsible for having correct backup procedures in place in the event of anything going wrong.
Hundreds of customers of 123-reg, the UK’s largest accredited domain registrar, found this out to their cost in April 2016, when 123-reg managed to delete a large number of Virtual Private Servers as part of a routine maintenance operation. Unfortunately, they didn’t keep backup copies of their customers’ data, so had no way of retrieving the information. This meant hundreds of their customers lost access to their own websites and all their data. For those who didn’t have their own backup and recovery systems in place, this had disastrous consequences for their businesses.
Cloud storage must be safe, though, right?
Not necessarily. By law, all UK companies are required to know where in the world their data is being stored and managed. Currently, the UK is required to comply with EU data protection laws, which state that personal data can only be stored in countries that have the right data safeguards in place. However, many cloud storage providers keep their prices low by storing data in countries outside the UK and Europe, and they are only legally obliged to operate by the data protection laws of the country in which they are based.
Sometimes the laws of another country will allow the sharing of a great deal more data than EU laws will. This has caused France and Germany to introduce new laws stating that all data must be stored in their own countries. In the UK, if your business wants to work on a government contract, you must ensure that all data relating to that contract remains onshore in the UK.
If you don’t know where your cloud storage provider stores your data, including any backups it keeps, that is not only illegal, it could also have serious implications for your business in the event of a data breach.
How to protect your business
There are a number of important steps to take in order to make sure your business is protected against data loss, and to make sure that if the worst should happen, you can get back up and running again as quickly as possible. These include:
- Keep your own backups. If these are automated, do regular checks to make sure everything is working as it should.
- Make sure your data is well organised before you back it up. That way, if you ever need to retrieve it, all your files will be orderly, saving you time and money sorting them out.
- Make sure your backup strategy incorporates all your devices, including printers, scanners and mobile devices, not just your computers. If you use a Managed Print Service, you’ll have to involve them, too. This can be advantageous, as they’re usually highly experienced in making devices secure across a variety of industries.
- Introduce clear guidelines relating to data security. Train all employees and have procedures in place to make sure they are all adhering to them.
If you want to outsource your data management, you should be looking for a company that has the following:
- A solution that is compatible with your hardware.
- Flexible pricing to accommodate the growth of your business.
- A good reputation and a service that you know other companies are happy with.
- 24/7 support, although this one can be tricky. A lot of cloud storage companies provide this by having operations in several companies. Make sure you choose a company whose operational bases all comply with UK data protection laws.
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