You Do Backups but Do You Know How to Restore Data?

It’s 5 o’clock on a Friday afternoon and the manager is getting ready to close up shop. One more email comes through from a customer with a file attached describing a new job. Tired from a long week of work, but wanting to make the customer sale, he opens the file. And that’s when he realizes, this was no email from a customer, it was a piece of ransomware; malicious software that is written to intentionally make data unavailable so that the victim will pay up to have the data restored. Within seconds the malware encrypts a series of data files on the manager’s local machine and the server to which it is connected.

Irritated but not alarmed, the manager is relieved because he knows that the company backs up all its data. And that’s when the panic sets in. “I know that we backup our data but I have no idea how to do a restore!” he thinks to himself. Frantically he starts trying to look for the phone number of the system administrator only to find that this information is in the computer and is no longer accessible because of the malware attack.

Nearly all IT experts will agree that backing up company data to an external hard drive, cloud storage solution, etc. is a critical part of your business. However, what good is having a copy of your company information without the ability to restore your data? Although having an IT person on staff to handle these matters is ideal, negative events have a tendency to occur at the most inopportune moments don’t they?

To ensure your data restore goes smooth, here are a couple tips:

Develop procedures ahead of time:

Although the restore may be typically done by an IT person or staff, it is important that these procedures are documented and disseminated to other qualified individuals in the organization as well. The document needs to be written in clear, plain language so other technical team members understand and can be relied upon to do the restore if necessary. At MVS, our back-up procedure is shared internally and online so all team members can access. Also, non-technical team members should be provided the technical staff chain of command in the event that the first line of support is unavailable. The main goals of the restore are to minimize data loss and get the company up and running as soon as possible in order to limit downtime eating at company profits.

Test, test and test!

It is imperative to make sure that once the procedures are in place, the company performs a test to restore their data. Many times companies will save their information without actually testing to see if the data can be restored properly. The information may be stored in a nice, neat package, but what’s in the box may be a giant unintelligible mess. Other tools may be necessary to sort through the various file types to get the information into a format that the system can recognize. If a full restore test is not done, the realization that other tools are needed may be too late.

Qualified personnel who at some point may be involved in the restore process should participate as well. The familiarity level of the process and the ability to adjust to unforeseen circumstances rises with each iteration of testing. Not only will employees become more comfortable when disaster strikes, but they may be able to improve upon the process with each test. Remember, backing up data is like buying a fire extinguisher. Having the ability to restore data from a backup is like knowing how to use it to put out a fire. And if an employee doesn’t know how to put out the fire, they need to be able to easily find someone who can.

Information is the lifeblood of any business. Helping companies manage their information effectively is our business.