The (Business) Day After: Making a Double Rebound from Disaster

Topics: Cloud Backup

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Companies backup systems so they can carry on in the aftermath of calamity. But what happens when the devastation is so fierce that it hits the backups too? Don’t panic. You may still be able to get your enterprise up and running again.

It’s almost unthinkable. What happens when the tapes you’ve created to safeguard your company's valuable data are damaged when a natural or manmade disaster occurs?

Despite your best efforts, that can happen in any situation—no matter how secure your office, warehouse or storage facility may be. But don’t throw up your hands in despair. In many cases, data experts can resurrect your business; when a flood, fire or similarly damaging event takes its toll on your tape, paper, video, or other types of electronic and magnetic media, they can recover information you thought was lost for good.

Rolling Up Their Sleeves to Get You Going Again

When making plans for dealing with the unexpected, your recovery provider will dispatch a team of professionals to perform in-person assessment. These experts will assess the scope of the damage and recommend a course of action. Often that means shipping damaged materials back to a central facility while your site is cleaned and restored.

Of course, recovery must be customized to your company’s particular situation. Your partner’s evaluation team will let you know the options to get you up and running again quickly.

From the Simple to the Complex

  • Dealing with it onsite: For simple needs, the data recovery team can perform its data resuscitation within your office, from start to finish. This approach works well for paper, microfiche, X-ray, film, video and electronic or magnetic media. As part of this process, technicians might freeze-dry, scan or film paper records and books; clean X-rays; and stabilize or copy data stored on magnetic media.
  • Making the decision to move backup tapes offsite: When damage is more extensive, the recovery team may recommend moving troubled tapes offsite for more in-depth work.
  • Restoring your facilities: To have your backup tapes running smoothly with no errors or glitches, your premises must be as spotless and free of contaminants as possible. If your facility has been damaged by fire or flood, the entire area must be cleaned and restored before you can resume working.

Avoiding Damage in the First Place

Human error is often at the center of information loss, and when your staff allows problems to slide, that can send your firm tumbling toward disaster. For instance, if tapes suffer major temperature fluctuations every night, they will weaken and become more likely to snap. When your staff fails to maintain drive heads’ cleanliness, or cleans equipment incorrectly, tapes may be more prone to breaking. To avoid such problems, know the cleaning cycle and storage conditions recommended by your vendor—and then make sure your staff understands and adheres to those criteria.

A Backup Maintenance Checklist

  • Are data storage facilities kept at a constant temperature, day and night?
  • Do you have a humidity gauge to measure and control potential harm to your data? Is someone checking it regularly?
  • Do you rigorously maintain your drives’ cleanliness so not even a speck of dust disrupts data recording?

The Perils of Overwriting

Accidentally overwriting your data is one potential disaster that’s easy to sidestep. The solution might already be installed on your server. Backup programs typically include overwrite protection, so they will alert you before you make that blunder—that is, if you’re paying attention.

It’s still important to keep to a plan: Organize your tapes and be meticulous about ejecting them when they’re finished, label them right away, and put a new tape in immediately. Most backup programs also will issue an alert if you’re using a tape that’s already populated with data.

Be proactive about this: Make sure your backup system offers overwrite protection. If it doesn’t, ask your software vendor if an update or a plug-in is available. If your system is too outdated for that to work, it’s time to retool. All the benefits you’ll get from upgrading your software will make the chore worth your while.

Curbing a Fire’s Ongoing Damage

Fire is tape’s worst enemy, as thin tape can easily melt when it gets too hot, and there’s no recovering from that. But even smoke can cause damage, by generating minute soot particles in the air that can cling to the surface of magnetized tapes.

If you’ve had a fire near your tapes, never try using the tapes yourself. You can easily spread the contamination to your drives, which will then spread it to other tapes. Instead, bring in a trusted data preservation company to clean the tapes and remove the particles.

An Unwelcome Rain

Picture this scenario: There’s a fire in your office, and while your systems escape the blaze unscathed, the sprinkler system goes off. You could find your backup tapes, which are typically stored in bins, floating in gallons of water.

The best plan here may seem counterintuitive: Leave the tapes in the water. If they’re already wet, exposing tapes to air as you try to dry them could spawn rust—yet another problem to deal with. Leave them in the waterlogged bins and bring in a data preservation expert. The tapes must be manually cleaned in a solution that will remove dirt particles, then dried carefully and finally read. The good news is that with proper handling, all or most of your data can be safely recovered.

A disaster is a setback, but it’s not necessarily fatal. With a trusted partner, you can almost always recover the critical information your business depends on.

Do you have questions about data backup and recovery? Read additional Knowledge Center stories on this subject, or contact Iron Mountain’s Data Backup and Recovery team. You’ll be connected with a knowledgeable product and services specialist who can address your specific challenges.

In Search of an Ideal Storage Environment

What does the perfect location to stash your documents and data look like? One thing’s for sure: It’s not the file cabinet down the hall.

How about something safer and more sophisticated? Iron Mountain’s main underground storage facility, nestled in western Pennsylvania, occupies a former limestone mine. Located 180 to 220 feet below the surface, it features full backup power, its own fire department and water treatment plant, armed security, and 24/7 operation.

Situated in a rural area, the site has a Level 4 U.S. Government security rating; most important, this massive underground location’s rock-steady temperature and humidity controls make it ideal for storing all kinds of documents and backup media.

Data backup plans don’t get any more serious than that.


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