Despite countless warnings and alarming statistics from many sources, the majority of SMBs (small and medium-sized businesses) are still reluctant to take the proper precautions to assure business continuity after a disaster. Our own records based on 11 years of research exclusive to NYC companies with fewer than 100 employees indicate that 90 percent of these businesses have faulty backup and disaster recovery systems.
According to a 2011 Symantec SMB survey (note that the statistics for companies with fewer than 100 employees are far more drastic):
• 52 percent of SMBs do not have a disaster preparedness plan.
• Of the SMBs that do have a disaster preparedness plan, only 24 percent are using the cloud.
• SMB’s went through an average of five outages in 2011.
• 49 percent of SMBs implemented a disaster preparedness plan due to a previous outage or data loss.
Reliable backups are the core to any data protection strategy, but by many estimates from various sources, more than half of all backups fail either in whole or in part. Here is a list of the 5 problems that cause backup failure, in decreasing order of frequency:
1. Media failure
Tapes are the real culprit here. If you take out tape drives, media failures would be at the bottom of the list. Be sure you follow the vendor’s directions for handling and storage, replacing the tapes regularly and cleaning the drives according to the manufacturer’s schedule. It also means discarding any suspicious tapes. Don’t assume disk-based backup protects you from media-related failures. While the incidence of media-related failures is considerably lower with disk than tape, failures still occur. Also don’t try to save money by using backup arrays that don’t have features like redundant power supplies and hot spare disks leaves data at risk.
2. Human error
In spite of its No. 2 ranking, human error is the most prolific cause of backup failures. The best safeguard against human error is to invest in a managed service provider that will configure, monitor and maintain your systems on a continual basis. Don’t take their word for it- if they don’t have the means to issue a weekly change and status report on your entire backup and DR infrastructure then they are probably not doing it! Secondly, make sure that the people performing backups and restores understand exactly what they need to do- and what not to do. It is also a good idea to take humans out of the loop as much as possible. When configured properly, backups should be automated and should not require any human action.
Modern backup software is extremely flexible and the installer has a lot of options to choose from. Choosing the wrong options can result in incomplete backups or backups that fail completely. A related problem is that backup configurations are no more static than anything else in a modern storage environment. As resources are added and shifted and as priorities change, the list of files to be backed up needs to change as well.
3. Software failure
Sometimes new software or new versions of software can cause backup failures. For example, Service Pack 2 (SP2) for Windows XP turns on the firewall by default. When Microsoft released SP2, a lot of network backups failed because the backup software wasn’t designed to work through a firewall. More commonly, the problem is misconfiguration caused by person who sets it up.
4. Hardware failure
Libraries, disk arrays and other backup hardware can also fail. Most of the causes and failure conditions for backup hardware are the same as for other kinds of hardware, but there are a few conditions that are specific to backup systems. For example, drift produces a particularly nasty kind of failure in tape drives. As the drive ages, the heads slowly wander out of alignment. As a result, other drives can’t read the tape — and the drive can’t read a tape it wrote some time ago. The dangerous part of this is that the drive can almost always read a tape it just wrote, so the tape passes an immediate verification step in the backup process without complaint.
5. Network failure
Backing up over a network increases efficiency by reducing the number of backup devices. However, it also introduces another point of failure into the backup process. Everything from a failed or flaky HBA to a misconfigured switch can cause a backup to fail. This is a less prolific source of backup failures because the network, LAN or SAN, is used for much more than just backup, so problems will tend to become obvious before they can hurt your backups.
According to a 2011 Pepperdine University study, 29% of data loss incidents were the result of human error. We believe that statistic to be grossly underestimated. Technology on Premises believes that computers and backup systems (other than tape drives) are nearly perfect. The reasoning behind this statement is that if you dig deeply enough, behind every computer error you will find a human error that caused it. This is why we do not employ any junior-level engineers.
If you’re a small business and are concerned that your Backup or Disaster Recovery systems may not be up to par, please call us for a free Backup Systems Assessment at 866-272-5435 .