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Why having a single data backup location is never enough

Last month, disaster struck at one of the world’s largest hosting providers.

A fire at OVH’s Strasbourg site destroyed one of their data centres and badly damaged two others. The fire was serious enough that a number of their clients lost data. In some cases, that data loss was total.

The simple lesson of the OVH fire is this: that having a complete disaster recovery system in place is absolutely essential. But what do we mean by complete? Was that not what OVH’s customers were paying for?

Multiple back ups are essential

OVH data centre fire - data backup recovery

Not quite. The fire shows that having a single back up of your business critical data simply isn’t enough. And also that having your data backed up in ‘the cloud’ in one place isn’t enough either. If you back up your data in the cloud, then it is still being stored somewhere in the physical world.

It is easy to forget that ‘the cloud’ is actually a real life data storage facility somewhere – one that is just as vulnerable to unforeseen disasters as your own business premises are.

What the OVH incident underlines is that many of their clients were not ready to act quickly if the worst happened and they were unable to access their data at OVH’s Strasbourg site. Ultimately, many of them just did not have any disaster recovery plan beyond their agreement with OVH. Or if they did, it was inadequate for their needs. Unfortunately the obvious practical advantages of storing data in the cloud can sometimes create a false sense of security.

The OVH fire is yet another reminder of why it is so important to think clearly about your complete disaster recovery plan. Here are some key factors to bear in mind as you develop your own plan.

What data can your business live without, and for how long?

Creating the plan starts with considering what data you need to keep your business running if the worst happens. This is at the heart of your disaster recovery plan. Look carefully at why you are securing your data in the first place. And, whether the current arrangements you have in place are up to the job. Identify what data is a priority, and then how long you can run your business effectively without it.

Ask yourself how much being unable to access it will cost your business, in lost time, money and reputation. Then think about the restore points you are happy to pay for as part of any disaster recovery plan. You might need to replace some lost data immediately, while longer restore points may be adequate for less business critical data.

Finally, look again at any disaster recovery plan you already have in place. Is it up to the demands of your business? And have you tested it recently to confirm that it actually does what it needs to do?

What is the back up plan for your back up plan?

If your physical office is flooded or destroyed in a fire, it is a disaster. But because you have backed up all your critical data to an off-site cloud provider, your business can continue once it is replaced. Yet what happens if the fire or flood happens at your cloud storage provider, as was the case with OVH? This is where having back ups across multiple sites as part of your plan is so crucial. But again, it is an area where many businesses fall short.

Data backup from Data Centre Fire

When businesses pay for off-site data storage, they are paying for someone else to manage the hardware for them, so they don’t have to. They are also paying for a system that can quickly restore their data when they need it, and get their business up and running again.

If it is a small amount of data, this might be a simple back up – the cloud provider makes copy of their data at regular intervals, and then sends them the latest copy if disaster strikes.

If it is a larger amount of data, then they might use complete virtual machines as we often do here at virtualDCS. These machines can then be put into action in the case of any issues with the client’s physical machines.

But paying a cloud provider to store your data in a single place is not a complete disaster recovery plan. It is just one part of it. Disaster recovery should never be a simple tick box exercise.

It is why we encourage all of our customers to always consider solutions that keep copies of their data in different secure locations. Each should be robust and complement the other. And crucially, we recommend testing just how quickly and efficiently you can restore from each site if you need to.

Why? Because as many of OVH’s customers discovered to their cost, the time to check whether you have an effective disaster recovery system in place is not when disaster strikes. By then, it is often far too late.

Need some help?
If you would like to find out more about how we can help you to keep your business data secure across multiple locations, give us a call to discuss your options today.

Call us today on +44 (0)3453 888 327 to discuss your specific needs, or just email

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