Website backup isn’t sexy, but it’s do or die

Mark Busse – One Comment

no_os.gifI work in a world of data. Most of what I do directly involves the manipulation of data or the transfer of data from A to B. Most of what my clients do is manipulate or transfer data from A to B. Indeed, most of my clients are paid by their clients to manipulate data in staggeringly attractive, innovative and interesting ways, then reliably transfer it somewhere (a web site, a print house, a CD).

Manipulating bits to display intuitive, amazing nav, stunning illustrations and rock-solid copy is sexy. People will buy you drinks, toast your creativity, and possibly co-parent your children for a well-made, hip web site or annual report.

Backing all that stuff up is not sexy. In fact, it’s probably unsexy. Wait…no, it’s definitely unsexy.

So with that in mind, here’s a dirty little secret: many of my clients who are paid by their clients to manipulate data into interesting, attractive and possibly useful ways are one disk crash away from losing that data forever.


About half of the businesses I consult have no significant backup system. When I ask about backup, half say something like, “Yeah, we’ve been talking about getting some backup for a year now…but we have a sprinkler system so if there’s a fire, we’ll be fine.”

It’s remarkable how quickly a single sprinkler head can fill an office with water. But it’s more likely that your sprinklers will go off when the maintenance people hit them while trying to change a light bulb than due to heat from a fire. Anyone who has been inside an office building that’s had a flood will appreciate the devastating effects it can have. Fire is a minor threat by comparison.

And all hard disks fail, eventually.

Systems Administrators are a strange breed; we think about risk all the time. And I know it’s weird to suggest that you put your data, that very valuable data you’re paying someone to manipulate, alter, massage or otherwise sex up ahead of the creative ideas…

But I dare you, I double-dog dare you to go into the next meeting with a creative firm and, after the pleasantries and the pitch, ask them this: “If there was fire or hard disk crash in your office, would you be able to get the data back that I’m thinking about paying you to create? If so, how quickly?”

If they can’t answer the question in two sentences, preferably something like, “Well, we move your data offsite nightly, so we might lose a day’s worth of work for you, but we’d be able to get everything we’d worked on up until 6:00pm last night back within 24 hours,” you might ask them when the last time they did a test restore of one of their backups was. By this time, you might notice moisture on their upper lips. If you see that tell-tale glisten, I recommend building another couple of weeks into your project plan to allow them to rebuild your data (and the data of the their other customers with pending projects) from scratch, just in case.

Seriously. Back. It. Up. Dammit.