Is Your Most Valuable Asset Insured?

August 2006, Auto Dealer Today - WebXclusive

by Jeff Smelley - Also by this author

Do you have a backup of your Information Technology (IT) system? Where is it? What does it contain? When was it done? Who is responsible? All of these are pointed, important questions which should have precise, reliable answers. Oftentimes, these questions are asked too late, which is after a disaster has occurred.

The most valuable component of your IT system is your data. The information on your customers, inventory and financials are one-of-a-kind assets. Nowhere else will you find the same collection of data providing so much critical information about your dealership. Yet, we leave this unprotected without even a thought. Develop a plan for backing up your data that reflects the importance of the task.
A proper backup plan should include the following features:

  • Media – what backup media will you use: tape, CD, DVD, removable hard drive, etc.?
  • Content – what is to be backed up: system data, dealership data, documents, spreadsheets, operating system, etc.?
  • Schedule – when will backups be done, how often, what time of day?
  • Who – what individual in your dealership will be responsible for performing, cataloging and storing your backups?
  • Storage – where will backups be stored and what level of protection does that provide?

The media you use should meet several criteria to be an effective media for you. It should have sufficient capacity, speed and most importantly, reliability. Capacity is easy to determine, and in every case you can use multiple units of a media. Capacity only becomes critical when the number of units of the selected media required impedes the ability or likelihood of the backup being performed.

Each media choice has advantages and disadvantages that should be weighed when making your selection.

Tape backups are convenient, require little intervention (normally) and are available in a variety of capacities. Tape, however, is vulnerable to a number of factors including wear from reuse, electromagnetic interference and inconsistency in the media and is obsolescence and tends to be slow.

Optical media, such as CDs and DVDs, are inexpensive, not easily erased without intent, do not deteriorate over time and are quick. These optical discs, however, are more limited in capacity thereby often requiring multiple disks and better labeling, cataloging and storage. They often cannot be done unattended which is both an advantage and a disadvantage.

Content is quite simply a matter of including all non-replaceable information into your backup. The only information you cannot recover is your own data. DMS-related data should be identified by your software supplier. Be sure to include spreadsheets, word processing documents, training materials and any other information you may have developed for your dealership. These items are costly to recreate should you lose them.

Scheduling is simple. Do backups every day without exception. Make two copies, possibly using two different media. Invest the time and resources to insure when you eventually need your backup it will be current, complete and available.

Who is the responsible person(s) in your dealership to handle your backups? Designate a key person and a secondary person. Most dealerships want their backups performed unattended, automatically and without effort. This seems like a great idea, but if you don’t designate someone to verify the task is completed, usable and meets your needs then you are at risk. Unattended backups are like passive restraint systems in vehicles; when they work they are wonderful, when they don’t work or are insufficient to the task the results are often catastrophic.
Remember, you can only expect that which you inspect. Check regularly to be sure what should be happening actually is happening.

Storage, the last criteria, should insure that the media is protected from accidental or intentional destruction. Keep your backups put away and locked up. Store your second copy at a secured remote location in the event of fire, flood or other calamity.

Ignore these guidelines and you are inviting a disaster. Address these issues and you can rest assured you have done all that is reasonable to protect your most unique, precious and irreplaceable asset.

Vol 2, Issue 11

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