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Coronavirus prep could prompt better disaster recovery

News Analysis
Mar 03, 20204 mins
Backup and RecoveryDisaster RecoveryNetworking

On the chance that the COVID-19 virus forces masses of employees to work from home, this could be the time to review your disaster-recovery plans and address shortcomings

young man on video conference coronavirus remote communication telecommuting by gcshutter getty ima
Credit: GCShutter / Getty Images

Backup and disaster recovery systems often do not get the respect or budget that they deserve, and despite its potentially dire dangers, the coronavirus COVID-19 could actually help change that.

Most things you would do to prepare for the disease are no different than what you should normally be doing, but concerns about the virus might help accelerate existing plans or to reconsider some long-standing policies.

Prepare for a mobile workforce

Most employees are already very mobile and do most of their work on laptops and mobile devices, so it’s perfectly reasonable to think that your company is prepared for a mobile workforce. However, just because your employees can work from virtually anywhere doesn’t necessarily mean that you are prepared for all or most of them to be mobile all of the time. Don’t underestimate the degree to which face-to-face interaction is at the core of how you do business.

If your company strongly encourages workers to stay home in response to the virus a significant portion of your company might be working from home for extended periods of time. From a data-protection standpoint; this significantly increases the chances that important intellectual property will be created outside of your data center. If your company currently relies on storing such data on file servers or similar systems, remote employees will probably not be able to use such systems easily. As a result, they will create and store important data directly on their laptops, leaving centralized company storage out of the picture

This means that you should probably examine your company’s policy regarding data protection of laptops and mobile devices. Many companies don’t provide backup and recovery for mobile devices, despite the fact that most experts feel they should. Now might be a good time to do so.

The main reason early attempts at laptop backup failed was users would kill the backup process because it slowed them down, and it cost too much. The good news is several providers can back up your laptops and mobile devices in such a way that users never realize backups are running.

A common alternative to mobile device backup is a centralized communication and collaboration system, such as Office 365 or G-Suite. Employees should be trained in the ways to best use these them so intellectual property is stored there versus on the laptop only.

Protect SaaS data

The more you rely on SaaS products like Office 365 or G-Suite, the more you will want to ensure that the data stored there is properly protected. Be sure to examine the service agreement each vendor provides to see what, if any, backup and recovery services they provide. Most SaaS providers don’t offer any.

Do not confuse features like the ability to restore a deleted email within the service itself with actual backup and recovery (that would conform with  3-2-1 Rule, which calls for making up three copies on two different media, one of them off-site). Most of these features use versioning, not backups, to provide this functionality. If something catastrophic were to happen to your account, most SaaS vendors have no ability to restore it, and have nothing in their service agreement that says they will even attempt to do so.

Consider cloud-based backup and DR

If the worst happens and your IT staff is unable to physically manage your data center, your company might have trouble responding to a disaster. Most traditional systems require physical presence and the moving around of physical media.

Cloud-based, fully automated disaster recovery services are available. If your company used one you could fail-over your entire IT infrastructure without ever having to be physically present anywhere. All of your data and services would be automatically migrated and run from the cloud, which could free you up to handle other issues. (A fully automated DR system is also a great way to prepare for ransomware attacks – something else that’s happening way too much these days.

Don’t panic

Design and implement a backup and DR system that can handle the worst, and you’ll be able to ride out any doomsday scenario with ease.  Then you can focus on the truly important asset – keeping your people safe.


W. Curtis Preston—known as Mr. Backup—is an expert in backup, storage, and recovery, having worked in the space since 1993. He has been an end-user, consultant, analyst, product manager, and technical evangelist.

He’s written four books on the subject, Backup & Recovery, Using SANs and NAS, and Unix Backup & Recovery.

The opinions expressed in this blog are those of W. Curtis Preston and do not necessarily represent those of Foundry, its parent, subsidiary, or affiliated companies.

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