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Redundancy vs. Backups: Does Your IT Support Team Know the Difference?

With the rate of crippling cyberattacks growing and the start of a summer season known to bring strong storms to the Philadelphia area, now is the perfect time to make sure you’re backing up critical data and have a redundant IT infrastructure in place, keeping you running even when a flood, fire, storm or cyberattack were to strike.

Redundancy and backups are both necessary to any business IT strategy, but many business owners don’t fully understand the difference between the two, and more importantly, why both are needed. Today we’ll overview why your IT Support team needs to make sure your business has redundancy in its IT systems and why backups are crucial to keeping your business safe.

What is Redundancy and Why is it Important to Your Business IT?

Below are ways your IT support team should be thinking about redundancy and disaster preparedness.

What is Network Redundancy?

What if a critical device on your network breaks? You might find yourself at a complete work stoppage. Having redundancy by providing additional pathways through your network via redundant routers or switches, for example, ensures minimal downtime and complete continuity of your services.

What is Hardware Redundancy?

Does your IT Support team able to quickly replace failing pieces of equipment? When it comes to critical hardware—servers and hard drives—it is important that your IT Department or IT Support team is able to (1) understand when hardware needs to be replaced so that you don’t experience a crash and (2) is able to quickly replace and keep your business online when a drive looks like it could be failing to prevent costly outages.

More often than not, IT Support companies are caught up in the weeds—user issues consume every hour of their 9-5 shift and many support teams aren’t paying enough attention to the bigger picture of your business’ IT infrastructure and strategically ensuring your hardware doesn’t fail and in the event it does. Nine times out of ten, these teams don’t have a way to replace equipment quick enough to prevent an outage. Often, hardware failures take days or even weeks to fix if your team isn’t constantly thinking about the possibility of a hardware failure.

What is Power Redundancy?

What happens when the power goes out? Will your servers be powered off? Or do you have a backup power supply—a generator, for instance—that specifically keeps critical hardware running?

If your IT Support team simply plugged your server into an outlet—hopefully at least using a surge protector—you likely won’t be running anything when the power goes out. Your IT Support team needs to be evaluating your backup power supplies and have procedures in place on when backup power should be used.

What is Geographic Redundancy?

What happens if a tornado or flood hits your building and you have everything—your backups, your servers, your workstations—all inside? Most often, geographic redundancy is important for how your data is backed up. If it is only backed on in one location—say your local office—and a disaster strikes, wiping out everything in that office, the backup is probably gone. Having a redundant backup in an entirely different location—one that wouldn’t have been hit—will allow you to recover quickly with little downtime. Your Business Disaster Recovery Plan should already identify a fail-over location for your data in the event your current location is inoperable.

What Are Backups?

A backup is essentially the process of duplicating all of your important data—documents, photos, network configurations (or anything else that your business needs to stay running)— at specific regular intervals and storing it off of your network. These backups make sure that you can go back in time and retrieve important data or files in the event you lose or cannot access them for any reason:

  • System infections or malware
  • Wrong switch off of the computer
  • Computer or server crash
  • Files deleted by mistake

Why Should You Backup Your Files?

I’m sure you already appreciate the value of data in your business. While software can be reinstalled, it may be difficult or impossible to recreate your original data or recreate the exact configuration of your complex network.

It is essential that your IT Support team back up your data regularly and have a plan in place for recovering your data in the event something happens. Cyberattacks, computer crashes, corrupted and wiped files and stolen hardware can all be instances where backed up data ensures nothing is lost. Make sure your IT Support team backs up AND tests their backups to make sure when you need to restore something, you will actually be able to!

Key Differences Between Redundancy and Backups

While the concepts of redundancy and backups are very similar, there are a few important differences.

Backups are specifically about creating copies of data in the event your business experiences some catastrophic event, where data loss occurs, whereas redundancy is much more than just data storage. Redundancy makes sure your business is able to provide continuity in its service no matter what happens. Redundancy ensures your data is stored in multiple geographically disparate locations.

But just because your business has redundancy, doesn’t mean that everything is backed up! If you were to delete a critical file from your network, having a redundant server that is performing the exact same functions will do nothing to help you get that file back.

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Both backups and having redundancy contribute to your business running smoothly. Backups make sure if something is lost, corrupted or stolen, that a copy of the data is available at your disposal. Redundancy makes sure that if something fails—your computer fails, a drive gets fried, or a server freezes—you are able to work regardless of the problem.

Is your IT Support making sure your important files are backed up? Are the testing your backups? Does your network have enough redundancy to make sure that if something breaks, it doesn’t cause a big work stoppage? If you have any suspicions, contact us today for a free network assessment.

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