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Business Data Backup Solutions and Data Loss Prevention

Information SecurityThe world is an unpredictable place. It sounds cliché, but that makes it no less true. Unforeseen events can cause your primary data to be damaged or lost. If you run a business or keep important personal data on your computer, you must take every precaution to ensure that data is protected.

Loss of business information is not uncommon and costs companies millions of dollars a year. If your bank suddenly lost all of your account information, including your balance, how much damage would that cause? How about your small business financial records or personal data like class work or irreplaceable photos? We don’t want you to end up in a situation like this. We have been through it and it is a miserable experience.

But what can cause data loss? Here is a list of some of the ways data can be lost. In the paragraphs to follow, we will show you ways to avoid or mitigate these hazards.

  • Laptop theft
  • Power events (surges, dropouts, etc.)
  • Accidental damage
  • Equipment failure
  • Viruses and Spyware
  • System intruders and user error
  • Catastrophic Events (fire, floods, natural disasters, burglary)

Laptop Security

Kensington LockAs people become more on-the-go than ever before, laptop sales have grown, and along with it laptop theft. Laptops are most commonly stolen when they are left unattended in a public place. There are simple steps you can take to avoid having your laptop stolen. First, never leave it unattended. If you are at a restaurant with Internet access, the library, your college, or anywhere else where your computer is in plain view, take it with you whenever you leave your seat. Sure you might lose your seat or have to lug it to the bathroom, but it is better than having it stolen.

If you are traveling by car, never leave your laptop in plain sight when you park your car and walk away. Put it in the trunk before you leave your house. Don’t try to hide it under a pile of junk or your coat; thieves are wise to that. If you don’t have a trunk, try a stowage compartment (third row seat, spare tire compartment, etc.) if it will fit. If not, take it with you or don’t bring it at all. This holds true for any piece of portable technology that could be of value to thieves, including iPods, GPS units, netbooks, projectors and cell phones.

For frequent travelers or those of you who need to have your laptop with you all of the time, consider a different way to carry it other than the traditional laptop bag. There are many options, such as laptop backpacks and attaches which make it less obvious that you are carrying an expensive piece of technology. All of the logos on these bags are small and/or from brands that don’t scream, “There’s a Laptop in here!” We purposely excluded manufacturers like Microsoft, HP, Belkin and Toshiba for that same reason. Some great examples are

If you travel and stay in hotels often, it is best not to leave your laptop in your room or in your room safe. Instead, try to leave it in the hotel’s main safe (which can be done at the front desk). If you are going to an area with a high crime rate, it is always best to leave any valuables at home or in the hotel main safe.

The Kensington Lock system is on 99% of all laptops (as well as many monitors, projectors, docking stations, desktops and other devices). This locking system is an industry standard, so all locks will fit any device with a Kensington lock slot. You can find one such product here. There is also LoJack for Laptops, which is a subscription-based service that uses software embedded in the system BIOS to track the laptop’s location and aid in recovery if it’s lost or stolen.

Power Events

A power event comes in multiple forms including noise, surges, spikes and lightning strikes, sags and blackouts. All of these events can cause damage to your computer and result in data loss.

  • A blackout is a total loss of utility power, which will immediately shut down your computer causing you to lose whatever you were working on and potentially corrupt other data.
  • Noise is any interference on the power line that disrupts the power sine wave. Noise can cause unexpected errors and glitches in program and data files.
  • A surge is a short-term increase in voltage that can cause stress on electronic components and lead to premature failure.
  • Sags, also known as brownouts, are short term decreases in voltage levels. They can cause system crashes resulting in data loss and they decrease the lifespan of electronic equipment, especially motors (like the one found in your hard drive).
  • Spikes are instantaneous and dramatic increases in voltage (a lightning strike is a prime example) and can travel along electrical, telephone or cable lines. Spikes can cause catastrophic damage to electronic equipment and will cause irreparable data loss.

Data Disaster RecoveryThere are a number of factors that put you at risk for power events. Some of those include the age your building’s wiring, the frequency of lightning strikes in your area, distance from your power company and the proximity of office equipment or machinery (including large appliances) to your system. Though this is something that goes unnoticed by many, consider that all modern servers and critical computer systems employ power protection as part of their infrastructure. Though you may not be a large corporation, bank or web host, home and small business users also need to protect their systems from power damage.

The solution to this problem is the Uninterruptable Power Supply (UPS). These devices condition the power being supplied to your devices to filter out noise, sags and surges and block spikes. They include a battery that allows your computer to run if the power goes out, giving you the opportunity to save your work and shut down the system. Many also provide ports to protect phone lines, Ethernet and coaxial cable. Higher-end units also provide a USB connection to your computer that allows it to monitor the frequency of power events, perform health checks on the UPS and automatically save your work and shut down the system if there is an outage.

The type of UPS you get depends on your needs. Generally speaking, the more powerful a computer you have, the more powerful the UPS needs to be. Most UPS manufacturers also back these devices with a 2 year warranty and an equipment protection warranty typically over $50,000. That means if everything is correct on your end and a power event happened that the UPS couldn’t protect you from, they will cover your losses up to that equipment protection guarantee amount (see the product documentation for official warranties).

The brand that we find has the best quality products, service and warranty support is APC. We have used them for over 12 years and highly recommend their products. Some good choices for different computer systems (PC and Mac) include

Business Data Backup Solutions

Offsite Data Storage BackupThe best way to protect against data loss from equipment failure, damage, theft, viruses, natural disasters, intrusion and user errors is to back up your data. (If you are looking for information on virus and spyware protection, see our article on the subject here.) There are many business data backup systems available to protect your critical data, all of which are affordable and easy to implement.

The first method, which is the easiest and most affordable, is to purchase an external hard drive. These come in many different sizes, work with both PC’s and Mac’s, and will accommodate a variety of data storage backup demands. They also typically come with backup software that schedules and automates periodic backups and encryption software that secures the drive from unwanted access.

There are also enclosures that are built to house bare hard drives you may already have. If you need to retrieve data from a hard drive you pulled from an old or damaged desktop or laptop, especially if it won’t fit in your existing system, an enclosure is the way to go. For backup purposes, however, we do not recommend using a very old drive because it will not be as reliable or fast as a newer one. As computer builders ourselves, we recommend the following external drives and enclosures:

Computer Data BackupThe other option is RAID (Redundant Array of Inexpensive Disks or Redundant Array of Independent Disks). An example of one RAID configuration (RAID1) is where you have two identical hard drives and identical data is simultaneously written to both. The computer would see this as a single drive. This way, if one drive fails, the other drive still has your data. This solution is for the more tech-savvy because you have to open your computer case to install the drives and you may need an add-on PCI RAID controller card.

Some computers have RAID functionality built in (just plug in 2 identical drives, tweak a setting and go), while others require an add-on PCI RAID card. This is a good solution if you do a large amount of work on your computer daily and may not have time to back it up as you go. Security is handled by the password protection on your computer. Another implementation is the external RAID. This is just like an external drive, except it has more than one hard drive in it. Little technical expertise is needed; plug it in and go, the same as you would with a regular external drive. Some good external RAID boxes are

Note: If you are looking for a way to keep out intruders and unauthorized users (coworkers, the kids), whole disk encryption is a good choice. We like PGP Whole Disk Encryption. Check it out here.

 

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