On-line Data Backups – What a Customer Should Know and Compare Amongst Providers

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As we all know, backups are such an import part of your daily maintenance routine.  One of the many reasons companies choose to implement their ERP solution in the cloud is not having to worry about their daily backups.  That being said, I am always amazed at how little prospects ask about it or truly understand what is being backed up and for how long.   Even though there are thousands of people who use products like QuickBooks Online, NetSuite and Microsoft CRM online, none of these online providers will actually give you a “point in time” restore.  So you ask, what exactly is a “point in time” restore?

Let me break it down to a real life scenario:  On Monday morning (after a long holiday weekend with lots of turkey and football) your accounting department imported a massive sales transaction to your ERP system for sales that occurred over the weekend from an outside billing system  (maybe the point of sales system).  The person who did the import wasn’t at their best that morning, and didn’t realize that instead of importing the transactions into Company A, they accidently imported the transactions into Company B.  Unfortunately this mistake wasn’t discovered until Wednesday afternoon, when the Controller started looking at the posted entries in the General Ledger, and wondered where all this revenue came from.   Unfortunately by then lots of other transactions had been imported and the option of backing them out was not realistic.  So now what?  Well, a restore from last week (point in time) might be just the fix, so they check with their hosting provider to find out that a restore from last week is not possible because the company does not provide this sort of service.  “What”, you say, “How is that possible?”  Well, you come to find out that the hosting provider only backs up in mass, and they only backup for their own disaster recovery purposes!!  And since the environment is multi-tenant, they cannot just restore your database!!!  So no point in time restore and no individual company restore either.

Here is another real life scenario:  It is April and your auditors have come to visit.  As part of their annual review, they ask how your ERP system is being backed up and request that you restore a backup from December (4 months ago) to make sure that your hosting provider is retaining important information from last calendar year. You contact your hosting provider to find out that only 90 days of backups are kept and after that all data is overwritten or purged from the backups!!!  What?  Why weren’t you told this!!  Well, maybe you made an assumption that the cloud would automatically provide this?

Not All Hosted Backups Are the Same

While these scenarios seem unlikely to you, the three large providers I mentioned above cannot provide you with the backups you would need in either of these cases.  And neither do many other hosting providers!!  So what should a customer know and compare with hosting providers to make sure they are getting what they need in terms of backups?

  • Have your provider specifically give you the terms of your backup retention periods.  Most only provide for 90 days.  Here is what we recommend:
    • Daily, weekly, monthly and annual – Point in time backups and restore capability
    • Seven years of data retention – this is recommended for both private and public companies
  • Be sure to ask for the additional costs of those backups – so this doesn’t come as a shock later
  • Be sure you understand how much storage backup you will receive as part of your fixed monthly costs – another hidden cost that providers don’t share on their quotes
  • Make sure you understand exactly what is being backed up; data, custom code, Excel and Word documents you happen to store, scanned documents that are attached to your data, etc.
  • Ask for their written policy for “test” restores.  And if you are required to be audited, ask that a test restore be performed and documented at least twice a year.

Never make the assumption that because you are in the cloud, everything is backed up forever.  And always compare backup policies carefully amongst providers!

RoseASP has been a Microsoft Dynamics hosting provider of ERP and CRM solutions since 2000.  We give every customer daily, weekly, monthly, and seven years of annual backups as part of their monthly Dynamics hosting fees at no additional charge.  To learn more, visit us at www.roseasp.com

by RoseASP

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