The enterprise and the entire economy run on data. It’s information that largely gives a company a competitive advantage and allows them to reach consumers. Protecting this information is of paramount importance, and firms should employ various best practices for both managing data and recovering it in a usable state if something goes awry.

Hard drive
– Pixabay / Bru-nO

Develop a formal plan

A formal plan adds transparency and accountability to the data management and recovery process. The plan should be a segment of a broader disaster recovery plan that details what steps the staff should take in an emergency. IT and other staff should build the plan by asking questions about how data is currently stored and if those systems are prone to failure.

They should also explore which systems must be always-online and how they can be protected with redundancy. The plan should detail how data will be recovered if lost or stolen, including specifically which staff members will work with a data recovery specialist.

Test the plan

The plan itself should also be tested frequently and have metrics attached to various benchmarks. The tests should examine if the various processes make logistical and business sense, for example if the company is using the best cloud provider for its needs. Should the company consider blending the cloud with on or off-premises physical storage? Are failures occurring frequently? If so, why are they happening, and what can be changed to prevent future events? Team members should also be tested on their understanding of their role in protecting data.

The time required to perform recovery must be tested. If certain company systems are absolutely crucial, then how would ten minutes or ten hours of downtime impact the business? Recovering data takes time, and IT should develop priority lists so the most urgent data is recovered first.

Embrace automation and use monitoring

Time-consuming data recovery services aren’t needed when the files are easily accessible from the backup location. IT can increase the breadth of backups by implementing automation that frequently mirrors all files to the cloud or on-premises storage. The automation schedule and scope of files covered should be reviewed and updated frequently as new sources of data are developed.

Monitoring tools such as a SMART (Self-Monitoring Analysis Reporting Technology) solution should be used in tandem with the automation in order to spot eminent device failures. Such a solution allows IT to swap out servers before they cease working and potentially cause data loss.

Train employees

Firms can reduce the need for data recovery by properly training staff members on best practices for avoiding data loss. This training is particularly needed for any data that is created on endpoint devices, as users often are not saving information to the right location on such devices. Education is crucial to ensure every member of the team follows data backup procedures. Such efforts cannot only fall to IT, since data comes from so many different sources, from mobile phones to CRM file outputs. While the cloud’s position as the primary backup source is growing every year, employees still store data locally. Training can change employee’s mindset in terms of viewing data as a precious commodity, one that should continually backed up and protected.

Avoid “free” tools

Even at the enterprise level, employees are using devices such as GoPros and digital cameras to capture company-related events. Maybe they’re taking drone footage of their firm’s conference or 100 shots of a new construction project. In either case, this type of usage means important company-owned data is stored on small SD cards. These cards are prone to corruption and errors which can make the data inaccessible. Users should avoid turning to free software tools found online in an attempt to recover the data from these cards, and instead use software that is recommended by the device manufacturer. Free online utilities can be filled with malware and they aren’t typically backed by a reputable company that has staff on hand who can help with problems. Video and image content can be invaluable, so firms should have the right software tools on hand to perform basic recovery functions.

Have a recovery firm on speed dial

A data recovery firm should be a “last resort” for enterprises. Ideally, the proactive steps to protect data such as formal planning, staff training, redundant cloud backups and other best practices will mean data is never lost. However, if flooding reaches all of the servers or an employee’s laptop is corrupted and they kept sales data on the actual machine, then a recovery specialist is required. Perform some due diligence to find a reputable firm before they’re needed. The best companies will operate specialized software in a clean-room environment and will also have bulletproof security when it comes to protecting your data.

Of course there are dozens of best practices for protecting data, but these tips provide enterprises with a good starting point. The theme running through these tips is “proactivity”, meaning firms should put in place the right processes that can prevent the need for recovery.