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Prevent Data Loss During Relocation (Checklist)

Like many accidents, data loss is more likely to occur when organizations go through changes in their routines such as relocating to a new office or upgrading to new systems or hardware. Changes in a system increase chances of problems and as such it is prudent to evaluate your data protection strategy before making significant changes in your organization.

Today we make a few suggestions to help you prevent data loss when moving offices, but the same ideas apply to many other situations.  While moving, equipment can be jostled, dropped, or subjected to higher or lower than normal temperatures, which can cause seemingly fine equipment to fail.  During an office relocation equipment is also subject to loss or theft which could spell a big problem for organizations without effective data backups and security.

Before your organization relocates to a new office:

  1. Review critical equipment for signs of hardware problems
  2. Ensure that regular data backups are running as expected
  3. Verify that all important data is stored on central servers
  4. Schedule a special, image level backup
  5. Test data recoveries
  6. Ensure systems are secured at all times to mitigate data “leakage”
  7. Pack systems and backup data separately
  8. Create a contingency plan

Let’s take a look at each of these in more detail.

1. Review critical equipment for signs of hardware problems

Ideally no hardware problem would go unnoticed in your organization, but sometimes problems occur that do not disrupt services and thus can go unnoticed.  In particular check each piece of equipment (server, desktop, switch/router) for the following problems:

  1. Error indication (such as a lit red light/LED, flashing LED, or alarm sounding)
  2. Unusual noises emitted from the equipment (such as clicking/screeching drives and fans)
  3. Error logs indicating persistent errors or hardware problems
  4. RAID sets that are impacted or degraded (contain failed or failing disks)

Any of those problems make it even more likely that your system will not handle the relocation well.

2. Ensure that regular backups are running as expected

Hopefully your organization already has a data protection plan and data backup system in place to protect against common data loss threats including viruses, accidental deletion (human error), and equipment failure. However, when was the last time this system was tested?  Right now, just before the relocation, is a great time to make sure this system is working properly.

Don’t have a data backup system in place yet? Now is the best time to get that up in running. If you don’t have time to implement a complete data protection plan now, at least perform image level backups of all computers prior to the move (see #4 below).

3. Verify that all important data is stored on central servers

When planning for a relocation we need to make sure your important data, such as accounting data, client lists, product documentation, etc., is accounted for and backed up with your regular backup process. If data is spread out across desktops, laptops, and even smart phones in your organization this can be a daunting task. One tactic is to centralize all important information to one or more central servers, such as a file server, then instruct all employees that any business critical information should be stored there.

When packing each workstation for transport, verify that no important information is stored only on the device (such as in “My Documents” or on the desktop) or that the devices containing important information are protected by your data backup system.

4. Schedule a special, image level backup

Just before a server system is scheduled to move, plan to take a one-time “image level” backup of that system, if your regular process does not already include this.  An image level backup not only protects your critical business data from loss during the relocation, it limits the downtime you will experience if the system fails to work after the move as the image level backup can quickly restore your system to new equipment if needed.

Many software packages exist to take image level backups, such as StorageCraft’s ShadowProtect. Make sure the package you choose offers hardware independent restores, such that failed equipment need not be replaced with the same exact model of hardware.

For non-server equipment, such as routers and switches, make sure that a configuration backup is taken before the move. Just like the server image level backup, this configuration backup will save crucial time later should a key piece of equipment need to be replaced after the move.

5. Test data recoveries

Before systems are moved, make sure the regular and special image level backups actually work.  It sounds obvious, but it is very easy to get the thumbs up from a backup program when no data was actually backed up, or was backed up in a non-retrievable way. Statistics show that untested tape backups can be unreliable when they are needed the most with close to 40% of organizations having a tape restore fail each year.

Locate a spare system and, at a minimum, test recovering data to that system from each backup type (image and regular file-based backups). Additionally ensure that test restores from your most critical systems take place.

If there is anything worse than losing data after a relocation, it’s losing data when great time and resources were spent to protect it. Make sure your processes are tested.

6. Ensure systems are secured at all times to mitigate data “leakage”

Hardly a week goes by without word of another company losing thousands of customer or employee records including credit card, social security numbers, or other sensitive information. If your businesses deals with this information, and most do, make sure steps are taken to prevent the loss or theft of your data during the move.

The best protection comes in the form of data encryption that “locks” data stored on your equipment.  If data is encrypted, a thief may still get away with your expensive equipment, but at least your customers won’t be at risk for identify theft and you will avoid being in next weeks paper.

7. Pack systems and backup data separately

When packing servers and other IT equipment for your office move, pack and transport the media containing regular and image level backups separately.  If both systems are packed together and lost, stolen, or damaged, you are out of luck.

8. Create a contingency plan

Moves are tough, but if you have a disaster recovery or business continuity plan in place, it will be much easier.  These plans take into account problems that may arise while moving equipment and other events, such as failed equipment, vendor issues, internet/phone connectivity problems and more.

It’s tough to implement a disaster recovery plan just before a big relocation effort, but at least get it on your to-do list for after the move and next time the process will be much easier.

Conclusion

In closing take a moment to plan your relocation carefully and make sure proper steps are in place for protecting your data. Moving can be a very stressful time and it can be difficult for your staff to keep up with regular business demands while pulling off a successful move; make sure they have the resources they need.

Need help making sure your systems are properly protected and are up and running quickly after a move? Would you like to learn more about IT disaster recovery planning or implementing a backup or archive system? Contact Red Wire Services today at (206) 829-8621.

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