Not very long ago, data disaster recovery was almost the exclusive domain of big business, which stood to lose millions if not billions of dollars in customers, lost work, and accounting chaos if they didn’t protect their data.
With gigabyte upon gigabyte of precious data, businesses were advised to protect their data or risk spending months or years trying to recoup their losses both data and financial. So businesses developed ideas for contingency plans usually called Business Continuity or Disaster Recovery Procedures that involve careful details for:
- Different types of backups of data performed at different times of the day.
- Storing all data both offsite as well as onsite. (Many New York and California companies, for example, store their records with huge data repository firms in Colorado.)
- Keeping copies of all forms, documents, and financial instruments (such as checks) in at least one other location.
- Having a backup physical site that can double as an interim business site if the main site is made unavailable; there are online sites that allow you to store data by uploading it, too.
- Performing regular dry runs of a disaster plan to make sure everyone knows what to do to keep the business running in an emergency.
But today, almost everyone including the most casual COMPUTER user has many gigabytes of data. And the more room you have for data, the greater the likelihood that some of this data is precious or cannot be easily duplicated.
Thus, you need to have a data disaster recovery plan as well, but one tailored toward your smaller budget and less complicated operation.
Why You Need a Recovery Plan
Who needs a disaster recovery plan?
Ask yourself these questions:
- Are you a proprietor of a small business that depends on your COMPUTER(s) to operate?
- Does your job often require you to bring work home to do on the COMPUTER?
- Does your job require that you communicate with the company network from home?
- Are you a student who depends on your COMPUTER to research and compile information and to produce papers for school programs?
- Do you sell materials either through your own web site or by participating with online venues such as eBay to conduct online auctions?
- Are you a hobbyist who stores important files and information on your hard disk?
- Do you have a fair amount of money invested in your home or office computer setup?
- Have you set up your home or office finances and bill paying using your COMPUTER?
- Does the job of keeping your home or office’s COMPUTERs running always fall to you?
- Are you concerned about losing material on your COMPUTER in the event of a problem?
If you answered yes to any of these questions, you need to have a game plan in place to be able to get the system up and running again if a problem keeps you from using your COMPUTER. Many of you will say yes more than once, making it all the more important that you have a way to take control of a bad situation rather than having a bad situation control you.
The Bigger the Drive, the Greater the Loss
Most of the material you work with on your COMPUTERs is written as a series of 0s and 1s (the binary language of computers) to specially coated platters that spin within the metal housings of your hard disks. Hard disks are usually mounted inside the COMPUTER, under the cover.
Today, COMPUTER hard disks have never been cheaper or more capacious. The average minimum hard disk is now 20GB, which can store many thousands of different types of files. You need the disk space, too, because you download huge files from the Internet (including 50MB sound files and 100MB videos) and install mammoth applications such as Microsoft Office.
But the larger your hard disk, and the more important and irreplaceable the data is stored to it, the greater the risk you run if the hard disk fails. You’ll read more about this in the section “About Recovery Software and Services” in a moment.
The Myth of the Paperless Office
Remember the old wives’ tale that computers were going to make your office paperless? You would be freed from cluttered desks, ink-stained hands, and bulky filing cabinets, they said.
Unfortunately, those old wives were so-called computer visionaries, and they were patently wrong. It was as misguided as the Internal Revenue Service’s Reduction of Paperwork Act that seems to demand more paperwork to fulfill. In fact, most offices report they actually consume more paper than they did before the major advent of COMPUTERs in the 1980s. Even at home, you’re swimming in papers you’re forced to keep.
For this reason, it’s not surprising that many users—myself included—are turning to cheaper, more reliable disk space (hard disks as well as recordable CD and DVD discs) to store the thousands of documents that need to be kept in archived records over long periods of time.
Disk storage has some serious advantages over “all paper.” For one, it consumes a great deal less space. You can fit hundreds of documents and many dozens of graphics on a single CD (and both recordable DVDs as well as hard disks are far more capacious). For another, if your file drawer of folders and papers gets wet, you’re out of luck. Get a CD wet, and all you need to do is wipe it dry and you’re ready to load your documents and print fresh—and dry—copies.
For this to work, you need to regularly copy the data to more than one location so that if one location gets hit by a problem, you can still grab the stored data from another. You see, once you try to centralize your records into digital format, it’s better protected than paper, but only if you keep the data safe.
Imagine, too, that you have a natural disaster such as a flood or fire. Let’s say you’ve had the smarts to combine all your most important papers and photos into four large cartons. Now, would you rather—in the face of disaster—lug out four huge boxes or a CD or two that contain the digitized contents of all four boxes?