Do your backups work

Every time we sit down in front of a new computer, at any client we visit for the first time, we ask: “Do you have backups of your data? Do you do regular backups”

Sometimes, we get the strange response: “Oh, I don’t need backups.”

We usually follow up with the question: “so, if this computer crashes right now or is stolen, there is nothing on here you would miss or need?”

In the majority of the cases, the confident user suddenly becomes flustered and realizes that they do actually need some things on the computer.

When the response is “yes”, however, there are a few popular responses. A common one is: “everything is backed up on the external hard disk. My techie set it up.”

We then ask if there is a second backup drive as one single drive offers no protection against theft and the most common cause of loss of data – ransomware – which when it attacks will encrypt all the data on the main computer drive as well as all attached USB drives. In the overwhelming majority of cases, the user was never told this.

Another thing we ask is: “when’s the last time that the backup ran or was tested?”. Most end-users just trust it was done right and never needs to be checked. In way over 75% of all testing, we find the only backup was the first one or that nothing is being backed up at all. 

We recently had a client who was diligently swapping backup drives for over six years and were actually backing up absolutely nothing as the data was stored on a different computer!

Another common response is “everything is backed up in the cloud with OneDrive or iCloud or some other cloud provider”

Upon checking the setup of the cloud service, however, we very often find that the most obvious settings were overlooked in the initial setup and only a small portion of the clients data is actually backed up or the majority of the features weren’t customized or activated. Very often the computer guy doesn’t even double-check their work or doesn’t follow-up to ensure the clients files are backed up.

No training or explanations are given to the client on how to check for issues or errors that may indicate a failure in their cloud sync or external hard disk backup system.

The value of a good backup is only realized when your system or file server crashes when you get your data encrypted by ransomware. 

Non-technical folk instinctively trust IT, people. Sadly, not every IT person knows what they’re doing. IT techies with limited experience know very little about cloud systems. The reason for this is that almost all qualifications for IT are related to computer hardware and diagnosis. Your general mobile tech has little to no understanding of mail systems, and cloud backup services. This only comes with experience and training. 

A good IT guy needs to understand how data is stored, how software works, where data is stored and this only comes with time, self-study and experience. If an IT guy isn’t constantly being coaxed to upskill and improve their knowledge, they will fall behind relatively quickly.

We have seen an alarming level of ignorance and incompetence far above what you’d expect from most service providers.

We’ve seen IT companies set up OneDrive, DropBox, iCloud or other backup systems and then not select the correct data to be backed up and then basically leave their customer on their own to figure things out. 

We’ve seen IT companies make costly, highly inefficient recommendations and set up off-site backups at great cost to customers where a cloud backup system would work significantly better and not only that, the cloud backup cost was usually even included in the price of a clients existing subscription.

For example, if you own a OneDrive for Business Subscription, not only can you back up your local Documents, Pictures and Desktop on your Windows computer, but you have access to a shared space for all your users called SharePoint which is not just a file backup system, but a sophisticated document management system as well.

There are so many backup systems available. Are you using the correct one? Is it working? Call an experienced IT consultant at the IT company near you. IT NEAR U and get the right advice and training on your backups.

Contributed by:
Craven Coetzee

IT Near U
craven@ITnearU.nz
0800420042
Wellington New Zealand

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