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Issue: 56 - Aug 15, 2013
Who’s Backing up Your Data?
By: Nancy A. Dewitz, Technology Consultant, DVMConnexx, Inc.

Every week 140,000 hard drives crash in the United States1

Backup protocols are discussed but not always followed

Part of my role as a technology consultant takes me into practices to evaluate how technology can best serve them. I start by interviewing owners and staff and I always ask about their backup protocol.

Owners tell me that at some point they’ve given their staff directions about how to ensure the data is backed up. They may have told them, “The backup is to be completed every day and a copy is to be taken off site by someone.” Sounds like a good plan.

After meeting with the owners, I move on to working with the staff. I ask them questions like “Can you explain your backup process to me?” “What 

happens daily with your backup?” I get some interesting looks and the answer can bounce between staff members. “Sally, you take the backup home at night, right?” Sally returns, “Sometimes, I do, and sometimes I think someone else is doing it.” “So where is the backup today?” I might ask. Fingers start pointing to the shelf by the server. So I ask, “Is the backup media removed every day from the server to insert a new one?” The response is generally, “well, we try to remember.”

Many practices think they’re covered but they’re not

This scenario isn’t unique. I’ve encountered it in several of the practices in which I’ve consulted. Staff members get busy and data backup becomes one of the last items on their minds. They all know what should be done—but what is getting done is far different.

It is not unusual for support to receive calls from customers saying, “my computer just stopped working.” Unfortunately, computers don’t usually give us any notice. They just decide that yesterday was their last day to show up for work. When these calls come in, we ask the client to retrieve their backup. All too often there is an eerie silence on the other end of the line. They had good intentions, but good intentions don’t protect data.

On the following pages I’ve reviewed what you should consider when developing a back-up protocol and provided a few device and/or service options.

Too often, data loss leads to business failure

If you have never suffered a data loss event, I am happy for you. You’ve been lucky… so far. According to a study cited on, 44% of loss is due to hardware or system failures.2

It’s what happens to companies after a loss of data that is the real tragedy. One study reports that a company that experiences a computer outage lasting for more than 10 days will never fully recover financially and that 50 percent of companies suffering such a predicament will be out of business within 5 years.3

My goal in working with practices is to make sure that your business does not become a statistic. The best backup plan is generally a combination of online services and on-site devices.

What to know when considering online backup services

Online backup services are readily available. While some options are better than others, the only really bad option is not using at least one service. Here are some important factors to consider:

  • Most of the systems you see on the TV are designed for a single home computer, not for the business you are in. Some will not handle a backup from a server.
  • Most services offer some sort of notification of failure. Someone has to be assigned the role of monitoring the service to receive that notice and respond accordingly.
  • Some services will give you direct access to your files. This is a great way to test that your backup is being done properly. Check the service by going online, retrieving the backup of a document and saving it to your computer.
  • Before agreeing to a service, find out the cost, if any, for retrieving your data in the event of a disaster. Some services charge nothing. Some have a large fee and do not usually tell you about this up front.
  • Paying that little extra to have your backup monitored by a professional will give you peace of mind and alleviate the burden of your staff having one more thing to do. The backup service you choose should communicate with you via email and person-to- person to determine the best course of action in the event of a failure.
  • IDEXX has an option for off-site storage of veterinary images. After images are sent to IDEXX ImageBank™, they are immediately available online on any computer with Internet access. Images remain your property and can be returned to you even if you discontinue use of the service. 
  • ImproMed has the ImproMed Data Security Solution (IDSS); a completely customized data backup and storage system for your veterinary practice data. Critical data can automatically be transferred from your clinic to a secure location at ImproMed.

The worst time to find out that data is missing is when you need it

On-site devices vary from those you can carry out the door to larger storage devices that remain on-site. There are many choices and several pitfalls of using an “on-site only” backup device. For one, it’s important to test the device. The worst time to find out that data is missing is when you need it. According to a study from the analyst firm The Diffusion Group, 40–50% of all backups are not recoverable.4

What needs to be backed up?

The first order of business is to decide what data is in your business. Make a list and think about what each piece of that data means to your business. Four buckets of data that I like to use are: mission critical, critical, noncritical and personal data (not personnel files, but cute-kid pictures, etc). How you prioritize your data can help you select the level and type of backup for that data (see chart below). Take some time and categorize all the data you find. Doing so can save you time and money in the event of a disaster.






Nancy A. Dewitz, Technology Consultant DVMConnexx, Inc. Green Bay, Wisconsin,   


1.  Mozy®  website. Stash saved the day!  Accessed December 13, 2012.

2.  Protect  Data website. Statistics about  leading  causes of data  loss Accessed December 13, 2012.

3.  Boston Computing Network website. Data loss statistics. Accessed December 13, 2012.

4.  AtomBackup website. Data loss statistics: an industry study by The Diffusion Group.  Accessed December 13, 2012.