Have you ever been working on an important document for hours on end, and when you are close to completion, lose everything because you forgot to save it periodically, or worse, the computer you were using crashed? This scenario has happened to all of us at one point or another. The same scenario can be scaled up to servers and entire businesses. It is a fact of our industry that a catastrophic failure of a component, security update, or other possible issue could arise, taking down the system(s) you depend upon. Many start-ups and small to medium sized businesses underestimate the value of being prepared for disaster by having backups, load balancing, or redundancy within their sites and systems. Some feel that this scenario could not happen to them, or that the costs involved in being prepared outweigh the risk.
There are some simple precautions as a responsible business or technical person you can do to help prevent or mitigate the severity of such scenarios, such as building a Disaster Recovery Strategy. Your particular strategy may vary from others, but the overall preparedness for building a DR plan is usually the same. For the purposes of this article, we will focus on a single server plan, but this can be easily scaled up to multi-server configurations and complex designs:
Have you identified all software your business requires to function should a failure occur? What software is installed on your machine? Do you have copies of this software to reinstall, along with any license keys if it was not supplied by your provider?
Open Files and Databases
Are you running any databases, or have applications that keep open files on the system that are needed in the event of failure? Are you dumping the database(s) into an importable format and backing it up regularly?
Are you making copies of the data uploaded by your users or developers? Do you have backups of your website content? What about the user accounts and passwords used by your users?
Is your system up to date with the latest security updates for your Operating System? Is your OS outdated and has no updates available? More system failures occur from hacker intrusion versus hardware failure.
Do you subscribe to or use a back-up service? Even if you are, are you prepared for the length of time involved on bringing your system back online after failure?
Your system is only as strong as its weakest component. RAID, while it is good for protecting data in the event of a drive failure does not protect you against hackers or accidental file deletion. Even if you have a completely redundant load balanced cluster, you could be susceptible to hacker intrusion and loss of data should you not keep up to date on security updates.
Do you use a firewall on your system? If so, what ports are open to the outside world? Are the services on those ports kept up to date? Do you analyze the log files for those services and look for attempts at break-ins? Firewalls are good for protecting systems against hackers, but the firewall is only part of your security. Remember that the services you allow people to connect to could be vulnerable to break in, and therefore should be watched closely.
This article is not meant to scare you, but is intended for you to understand that there are several risks to businesses that can and should be prepared for. The better you are prepared and understand the risks on the Internet, the more profitable and successful you will be with your business.
If you are concerned about your ability to recover from a disaster, please feel free to contact your sales person and discuss how they can help you with your system. Or, if you have questions about your existing systems or protection against disaster, please contact our technical support personnel, and they will be happy to assist you.