Flooding in Western Canada may raise backup issues

Now that flooding has eased off in Western Canada, local businesses may have to deal with the fallout from failing to take backed up data to an offsite location, a business continuity expert said Tuesday.

Toronto-based CBL Data Recovery said it would offer a 35 per cent discount to any customer in British Columbia, Alberta or Saskatchewan whose IT operations were affected by the flooding that occurred earlier this month. The floods knocked out rail service in parts of B.C., highways were closed and hundreds put on evacuation alert. CBL said the discount would run until the end of next month.

So far, CBL president Bill Margeson said, the company has been working with small businesses or home-based business users whose hard drives were damaged by the flooding.

“We haven’t had a large enterprise yet,” he said. “They seem to have it under control.”

When a natural disaster strikes, it’s only logical that businesses should concern themselves primarily with the impact on employees, Margeson said. Given the extent to which most companies run their operations electronically, however, data recovery has to be part of the cleanup effort. “When the water’s still high, no one is really diving for their hard drive – although that’s happened,” he said. “It’s when things come back together and their infrastructure comes back that they start looking at it.”

Margeson recommends that in addition to doing a regular monthly backup of everything that goes on, enterprises should have one more that backs up operating systems, applications and other important information. That 13th tape should be stored somewhere other than the company headquarters, he said.

“Then, in the event of a fire or a flood, you go to the CEO’s nightstand and you’ve got the 13th tape,” he said. “You may still have a few days of data to back up, but at least you’re back in business.”

While Canada is dealing with flooding, the U.S. has looked at data recovery in the wake of events such as Hurricane Katrina. James McManus, a technology risk management professional at Jefferson Wells International Inc., a consulting firm in Brookfield, Wis., suggested that companies take several steps to protect against hurricanes. First, he said, IT managers should distribute to employees USB thumb drives carrying critical data and application backups that could be used from remote locations in an emergency. The drives should be kept up to date and stored off-site, he said.

McManus also said that companies should set aside time to perform a complete business- impact analysis, including ranking the importance of systems to determine which ones should be brought back online first after a disaster.

Although hard drive makers are increasing the density of their products, tape technology hasn’t quite caught up, Margeson said, and what is available is generally out of the price range of all but the largest businesses. “Disk-to-disk seems to be taking over,” he said. “It’s a lot faster than the other technology.” CBL is advising companies they can drop off storage media affected by the flooding at the UPS Store of Mail Boxes Etc. at no charge.

— with files from IDG Newswire