The Indispensible Data Backup

We were recently told by the IT person for an organization that had six weeks earlier lost all their data, that backing up was not a priority. Yes, they were having the same problem again. No, they did not have a good backup. They had needed to get up and running again and that took priority over getting a backup system in place. We were flabbergasted. They had just paid us to recover their database because they did not have a backup from which they could restore…yet backing up was not a priority.

On a regular basis, we are confronted by a customer organization that has a catastrophic event resulting in the loss of their entire SOS database including all of their practice management information…patient billing, clinical records, schedules. Some of the events have been a hurricane, a fire, or a crash of the computer causing irreversible corruption of the data. In the case where the customer has regularly been following our recommendations for data backup including verification and off-site storage, they merely retrieve their most recent backup, restore it to their computer in the appropriate folder, and pick up their work where they left off.

In all too many instances, that is not what happens. In some cases, the customer has not been creating backups of their data at all! In many others, they have been writing over the same single copy of their backup over and over again. If their hard drive fails in a progressive manner becoming flakier as it goes, their database becomes corrupted in the same gradual manner and their lone backup becomes as unusable as their corrupted database. Sometimes, they make their backup onto a partition of the drive on which their production database resides. When the main one goes, so does the backup. And quite often, they make backups regularly, one tape for each day, but they never verify that the backup can be restored. 

We have created documents, newsletter articles, email rants and verbal tirades trying to communicate the absolute necessity of having excellent backup procedures that are followed without fail and that produce reliable, verifiable backups of all necessary data. This information is certainly effectively used by many of our customers, but we do not seem to be successful at reaching others.

We need help understanding how folks think about data backup so we can more effectively assure that it occurs. How does an organization justify not making and verifying a backup of their mission critical data? What are the “reasons” that get used? If your company does not do data backup, what are the obstacles to doing so and how do you rationalize not removing the roadblocks? What can we and other software companies do to assure that backup happens? What have you done to assure that data backup works effectively in your organization? If you “got religion” about backup at some point, what triggered the change?

Talk to us, please. We need your assistance here.


0 thoughts on “The Indispensible Data Backup

  • What are the critical files to be backed up? I always do claims and data and once in a while just copy the whole SOS folder onto my portable hard drive.

    • Judy,

      You are doing the right folders. Just make sure you sometimes verify the integrity of the backup and that you have multiple iterations in case the one you need to restore from is bad. There is a document in the Document Library on our web site that details the folders and our recommended method.

      Thanks for your comment.

  • Susan Hasselle says:

    Several years back I took Seth’s sage advice for backing up our data base with RW CDs and periodic non-RW CDs. At the time I believe he advised me not to use memory sticks for backup. Any further recommendations regarding external backup drives and/or memory sticks?

    Also, what is the most efficient way to verify that the backup is good?

  • I don’t understand how a patch could have corrupted your data. In addition, the database used by SOS has a feature called a transaction log. The technicians at SOS can often recover everything entered since the last backup from that log, if it is intact. That means that even your two days of data entry might not be necessary — it could be reentered automatically from the information in the log.

  • Nancy Cloutier says:

    I actually have different backups I use and alternate regularly between an external hard drive I transport home and CD’s and Carbonite backup program. Our organization had a problem with a patch I inadvertantly installed and it corrupted our data. The biggest inconvenience was driving home to retrieve the backup I had done 2 days prior. Only had to recreate 2 days of work which was bad enough for a 6 provider clinic.

  • We have had to learn the hard way about the value of backing up. But, in both instances our backup programs were intact and we were able to restore without too much difficulty.
    I learned my lesson years ago about backing up and as my Scottish grandmother used to say, “Once burned, twice remembered.” We are currently using NovaBackup as recommended by you folks and find it easy to use and very reliable.
    I too, have run into people who don’t backup and then are dumbstruck and awe stricken when their practice disappears. Their rationale appears to be that something bad won’t happen to them. This must be a version of why some people will refuse to wear seat belts since they have no intention of getting into an accident. I am as equally baffled as you are as to why they don’t get how important backing up is and how “not” in control of the universe they really are. By that I mean, anything can happen at any time…fire, flood, mechancical failure and the like. But for some reason they don’t feel that it will happen to them. Of course, we must remember that computers for most folks are magical instruments and even though “I” might not understand how they work, someone else does and once the information goes onto the hard drive, some magician can always retreive it…sadly, of course, this is not true…

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