Disaster Plan Crucial For Business' Computer Data

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Reprinted From: The News Journal
Written By: Richard P. Sommer, CPA & Steven T. Martin
Developing a disaster recovery program for your company's computer system is essential to safeguard against downtime and data loss or corruption from a number of possible threats - from natural disasters to viruses.

A disaster recovery plan needs to include documentation of the computer configuration, backup copies of the application software and most importantly, backup copies of your data. It also should specifically identify for various levels of interruption what needs to be done and who has the responsibility to do it.

The plan must be tested periodically to assure that it's working correctly.

The very small business with one computer has two options depending on the amount of data that needs to be backed up. One is the DOS/Windows backup utility that comes with the computer. This is an inexpensive, yet effective solution.

But as the number of required disks for the database increases, the more time- consuming this project becomes for the person who's job it is to sit and feed the disks.

In the case where several megabytes need to be backed up, a tape backup drive is a better solution. This is available from 250 MB and costs less than $300.

Tape backup drives come with software that allow regular, unattended backups - including program files. This allows for the quickest recovery in case the hard disk drive fatally crashes. For a relatively small cost, this solution is convenient and frees up the computer during business hours.

It is important to maintain and rotate several tapes (two weeks' worth, for example) and periodically take one out and save it. This enables data to be restored from any point in time (as long as there is a backup) without having to make up lost data manually.

Periodically test backup tapes by restoring some files to a temporary directory to make sure the backups are working. Keep backups in a fireproof safe or cabinet and take the most recent copy offsite in case the office is destroyed.

There are companies with multiple computer sites operating duplicate equipment and data for the sole purpose of an emergency backup system. These hot sites ensure a business's critical operations can continue to function in the event the primary location becomes unusable.

If a disaster occurs, the action plan must address all variables. Where will the business function if the principal location is not usable? How and where will the necessary equipment be obtained (computers, copiers, telephones, etc.)?

A disaster recovery plan should be updated on a regular basis to ensure appropriate timely measures will be implemented in a crisis. The plan, and a complete listing of all equipment and software, should be made available to your insurance carrier.

Finally, make certain key individuals are aware of the disaster recovery plan and able to implement it if necessary. Develop practice drills to prepare staff if such a crisis occurs.