The many facets of protecting your data include locking down the network as well as just making sure that poor programming won't corrupt it. But here we're talking about the data as a whole- the data, code, and supporting files as an investment piece of intellectual property. Following a few simple guidelines will help make sure that your current set of data is safe.
Back up your data regularly. This includes not only your data files, but also the programs you use to create the data. You don't necessarily have to back up the program from the server itself, although you'll automatically save configuration files if you do. But you should make backup copies of the CDs or disks that contain the software you need to run your business. There may be legal limitations and liabilities for doing this, so be sure to read your software license. But most software vendors these days allow you to make a personal backup for use so that you can store the original away for safekeeping. System administrators should always use the backup copy when installing software on various machines and save the original in case the backup gets corrupted.
You can back up your data in many ways, including using software that splits your backups across CDs to multi-tape machines that grab the data from across the network. Figure 17.1 shows a sample of the Backup utility that ships with Windows 2000. It allows you to back up files, even across a network, but is limited in that it doesn't work across multiple media or back up SQL Server. If you have a large amount of data to back up, you might want to invest in a more automated type of backup system. Multitape backup systems rotate the tapes automatically based on a schedule you set to make sure they save all your data.
Figure 17.1: Windows ships with a backup software solution, but you might want to invest in something hardier.
Some companies provide backup services via the Internet. Using a secure, generally Point-to- Point Protocol (PPP), you send your files and data on a scheduled basis to an offsite facility that takes care of creating a backup tape. Should you need access to the backup, you call the company, and someone brings you a tape, or you can download your files across the Internet, just as you sent them.
Pat yourself on the back if you already back up your files regularly. But see if you get two pats- do you periodically test the backup to ensure its integrity? We've heard many horror stories of system administrators not being able to restore a backup set because the backup device had a flaw that prevented the making of accurate copies. Just because the text on the screen says "Backup Complete," doesn't necessarily mean you'll be able to restore from the backup. Backup tapes can lose their optimal tension over time, or they can just wear out. Sometimes, backup software is simply buggy and may have a problem with the restore procedure.
To prevent adding your name to the victim list of failed restorations, immediately test the restoration capabilities of any new backup software or device you obtain. And you should periodically spot-check restoration from tapes, CDs, or whatever media you use for backups. Likewise, test the restoration capabilities of any online service you may employ. You don't really want to take another company's word that their software works without testing it, do you? You know, that old "trust, but verify" adage?
Kudos to you for implementing a backup plan in order to keep your data secure. You've guaranteed that you have backup copies of your critical files and software if disaster strikes and you need to restore the data. But suppose something happens to the office building-fire, flood, tornado-are your backup copies safe? Unless you're already storing your backup copies off site, you probably can't truthfully answer yes to that question.
Keeping copies of your backup media off site helps protect you in the event of catastrophic disaster. If the office burns to the ground, you've at least got a copy of your data you could port to another computer or server and be up and running with as little data loss as possible. Set up a schedule to store backup media off site, either with someone in-house whom you trust implicitly or with a company who will pick up your backup media regularly. Generally, companies that warehouse backup media as their business have fireproofed storage facilities, are bonded against disasters, and have great credibility. If you find one in the yellow pages, ask for a list of references, or, at the very least, call the Better Business Bureau to find out more about the company before you turn over your important data to them.
Obviously, you don't want other companies gaining access to your data, especially if they're competitors. You're going to take steps to ensure that your information is secure while it's on your servers. You need to carry this diligent behavior one step further to include when the information isn't on your servers. What we mean is, you should also ensure that any failed or replaced media are wiped clean of data before you dispose of them or return them or whatever you do with them. Just because a hard drive crashes doesn't mean that all the data on every sector of the disk is gone. It just means that the drive won't work in your computer any longer. If you plan on throwing the disk away, you'll either want to completely destroy the disk (take it apart, smash it, burn it) and scatter its parts across trash bins or wipe it with a bulk-magnetic eraser, also known as degaussing it. Just as an accountant will shred confidential documents, destroy your confidential files when the media on which they're housed must be destroyed. You don't want your trash to give away your company secrets, right?
Degaussers come in many shapes and sizes. They also have varying magnetic field strengths. You'll find degaussers that can handle video tapes, metal tapes, backup tape cartridges, and even complete hard disks. As you might expect, the prices for these machines range from anywhere less than $100 to several thousand dollars. Some companies offer degaussing services, however, at relatively inexpensive prices.