Drew McCallum is the senior product manager with LabTech and a contributor to the Recovery Zone.
When I was a managed service provider (MSP), I always did my best to ensure our business had a well thought out process for backing up client data. We leveraged Small Business Server for most of our clients, had everyone’s My Documents folder redirected to the server and felt confident we were fully protecting our clients’ data. We were wrong.
One Monday morning (these things always happen on Mondays), the CEO of one of our clients called in a panic because an important file had been corrupted. I told him, “No problem. We can easily recover it from last night’s backup.” I asked where the file was located and that’s when the trouble began.
It turns out the CEO had cut and paste the file from the My Documents folder directly onto his desktop so he could access it easily. Big problem! We were only backing up the My Documents folder, not individual desktops. Months of work were lost and the mistake ultimately ended up costing us this important client.
Today, as a product manager overseeing third-party integrations with LabTech, I get to work closely with numerous MSPs who manage backups. Over time, I’ve asked many of these partners how they handle this situation in their own business. Here are the three primary solutions that routinely come up.
Educate Your End Users
Communicating with your end users and educating them on where they should store their data is essential to making sure important data is backed up properly. I can’t tell you how many times we’ve found mission critical information on client computers being stored at the desktop level. Developing a communication plan that includes the entire user base ensures everyone understands where they should be storing data and more importantly, the risks to their own work if the data is stored elsewhere. And don’t simply send an email to the office manager, either. Develop a communication plan that will reach every employee at every client location. Monthly or quarterly emails are a low cost way to accomplish this, as are periodic lunch and learns at your client sites.
Backup VIP and Mobile Workforce Machines
VIPs and mobile workers present their own set of challenges. VIPs are often omitted from standard practices or have custom software installed. Mobile workers are typically on-the-go, don’t leave their laptops in the office, and may not use VPN on a routine basis. Establishing a backup strategy that protects these users is vital, as they are often the most vulnerable to viruses, physical damage, and loss or theft. In addition to educating these users, many MSPs include these machines in their regular backups to ensure data saved at the desktop level is protected.
Backup Every Machine
When I first heard that some partners were backing up every single machine on a routine basis, I was skeptical. I thought the storage requirements would be unmanageable. As it turns out, more mature MSPs implement OS standards that eliminate redundancies and enable de-duplication technology to be effective, allowing them to easily and affordably backup every machine. From a storage perspective, an environment with 300 Windows 7 machines only has to be backed up once. Review your clients’ environments and your backup software to see if such standards would allow you to do the same thing. I bet they do.
No single strategy will be a perfect fit for every client. Instead, incorporate a combination of solutions that allow you to best protect your clients and their unique backup needs. Evaluate your users, find out where they save their data, educate them and implement the most appropriate solution that provides the best protection possible.
Learn from my mistakes. Take the steps now to ensure you’ll be able to restore all your clients’ data when the need arises.
Photo credit: Devin Moore via Flickr