CRN From the Coal Face

CRN From the Coal Face

05.9.2013 Who needs a backup plan?


Selling peace of mind can be hard work.



Knowing your organisation’s risk appetite – and understanding it across the board – is critical to ensuring all facets of your business are aligned. There are a range of areas where risk is measured – financial risk; safety for employees and clients; ethical risk; social risks and many more but to understand some of the complexity, pick just one area for a moment. Look at the safety of your employees. What risks are you prepared to take with your own employees? Are you prepared to accept the death of one your own?
Most people I know answer this question with a flat no but, without even realising it, there is some risk that everyone takes with the lives of their employees.

This risk may only be small, but it is there nonetheless.

As a simple example, if you have 200 employees and they each drive a vehicle 30,000 kilometres a year and you run your business for 20 years then, on current accident fatalities in Australia, you will probably have one death of an employee in a road accident. The numbers are very small and the chances are slim – but they are not zero. Similarly with flying – if the same business above had all employees travel overseas once a year in addition to several interstate flights a year, after 15 years the statistics would suggest that one employee would be lost in a plane accident.

Of course the numbers are much higher when it comes to accidents rather than just fatalities – my point is that, without realising, every business has some appetite for risk. That level of risk varies but there is some risk associated with everything you do. I have always found the appetite for risk in the area of backup as an interesting area. Many people have a belief that computers are getting so much better and so much more reliable that they won’t have a failure of their hardware! They also think that what worked for them yesterday will be fine for tomorrow (I can still remember back to the backup processes we employed with clients where a backup would take up multiple floppy disks and would involve one person sitting at a desk at the end of each day and swapping disks) but obviously needs change. Australia will add 50 petabytes of storage across all computers in the coming year. Try backing up all that data on a few floppies!

With all of that data to be backed up, strategies need to be employed that protect a business but some businesses find it hard to justify expenditure on something they hope they will never need. I have heard similar arguments in relation to insurance and security systems – it hurts spending money on something you hope won’t be used.

Against all of this is the backdrop that says a whopping 64 per cent of businesses simply close their doors if they have a major data loss without an effective data backup. There is a wonderful Dilbert cartoon with a picture of a cartoon character with his hands in the air and panic written all over his face yelling “Help! Help!” with the caption, “Our Disaster Recovery Plan Goes Something Like This…” Unfortunately for many managers allocating budgets, this can be a little too close to home.

Selling backup solutions can therefore be hard work with some C level executives. I always try and work on the very complicated backup regime that I call the ‘kick yourself theory’.

Ask a client to imagine that they had a failure right now and lost data back to the last backup.

How hard would they kick themselves up the behind? If it was only a gentle tap, then there probably isn’t a great deal of concern. If the kick was so hard that you would lose your shoe, then maybe the current backup process needs to be reviewed. Keep in mind that many clients think their backup is only required when they have a drive failure – hence the mistaken view that more reliable computers equals lower backup requirements.

The most common reason for data loss is actually human error with hardware failure a distant second.

You can then also require backups for intentional deletion of data; crime; fire and natural disasters. Hardware may be more reliable but backup is required for a range of other mishaps.

If you make some assessment of the appetite for risk of an organisation you are dealing with and develop some relatively simple discussion points around the downside of inadequate backups, your job of selling a solution becomes dramatically easier.

Tell me your best method of selling backup solutions at md@smallbusinessrules.com.

Having a plan is one thing

  • Government departments and agencies typically have a very low appetite risk. They are conservative by their very nature and strongly believe in the saying Primum non nocere (first, do no harm). Only after doing no harm do they look to be pro-active or try to achieve revolutionary outcomes. 
  • Several years ago there was a local agency that had a fire in their building. One internal area of the building was completely destroyed and many areas of the building suffered damage – in particular the computers due to the amount of water that firefighters used in the building to contain the blaze. After an initial inspection and quick relocation it was time to pull the data from the backup and start operating as quickly as possible. 
  • That’s when the trouble started. The backup strategies were in place and the system had been designed to allow for only minimal data to be lost in the situation of a complete failure. It was backup done by the book – with one minor missing component. The backup strategy had not been tested for some time and the worst possible situation occurred. 
  • There was no data on the backup tapes. They eventually managed to recover data from older tapes but it is a good lesson – when you sell an efficient well-planned backup strategy to a client, make sure you also sell them additional peace of mind (and additional recurring revenue) by testing the strategy on a regular basis.