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Your data is protected: but is it protected enough?

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Storage briefing You might think your data is protected, but is it protected enough? There are plenty of statistics around on how rarely businesses survive the complete loss of their IT systems and data, but these days, it's not just a matter of business continuity - it's a legal requirement as well.

While IT suppliers tend to focus on the US regulatory regime, citing Sarbanes-Oxley, HIPAA and the rest, there are plenty of relevant UK and European rules too. They range from data protection laws, through more industry-specific regulations such as banking's Basel-2, to recent EU proposals for US-style rules requiring companies to inform customers when they lose their personal data.

The practical upshot of all this regulation is that not only must you to keep data for a certain length of time and make it available to the relevant authorities, but you must keep it securely and safely - and once that length of time has expired, you must delete it thoroughly.

While larger organisations typically have staff in place to look after their data and ensure all that regulatory compliance, for smaller ones it's not quite so easy. Still, there is plenty that the small or mid-sized business (SMB) can do to protect itself and its data.

Make sure you understand what you are trying to protect, though. For a start, it is not simply the data on your servers that must be backed up, it is the applications. Does your backup software let you rebuild a crashed or failed application without rebuilding the whole server, for instance? Most apps are more than just data files - they are programs, registry keys, and other stuff as well.

Then there is mobile data - there can't be many organisations now that don't have laptops, and the data on those needs protecting too. That means client software to do remote backups, but it also requires encryption to protect sensitive data if the machine is lost or stolen.

And with the growing use of smartphones and PDAs, those need protection too. They are easily lost, yet can as easily contain confidential information.

Once your data is backed up, is it secure? It may need encryption to guard against the loss or theft of a backup tape. You will want an off-site copy too, in case some disaster destroys your data centre - or simply prevents you getting access to it.

Fortunately, remote backup is getting easier. You can use iSCSI to backup servers on one site to a tape library on another, for instance. And if you only have the one site, there are several managed services offering to remotely and securely back up your systems.

Lastly, don't forget your users. One reason for having backups is to protect them against their own errors - but you don't want to be the one running around looking for tapes when they overwrite a vital document.

That's why many backup programs now include self-service file restores, whether from tape or a disk-based backup. ®

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