History of Data Backup in Business

Since the advent and the proliferation of personal computers and application software, digital data has mushroomed. Critical data that once only existed on shared servers has propagated to computers on our desktops. With that, the need for data loss protection also moved to those individual computers. We now need to protect each work computer of employees that are generating business files in the form of general documents, spreadsheets, presentations, or specific functional data that existed in various forms of databases.

A new chore was added to business and the employees: to make a copy of the critical data on a medium that is compatible with the computer in use, but is usually stored separately from the computers. Various forms emerged; floppy disks, digital tape technology, CD/DVD, hard disks technology and later solid-state flash based technology in the form of USB memory devices.

In the beginning, before offices are networked, each employee using a PC takes responsibility of protecting his own work that he generates on the computer. But as networking technology became more common and the usage of PC’s and variety of available software applications grew, management saw that the company must take the ultimate responsibility for protecting the company’s data assets. A new job function was created: the IT personnel.

The primary responsibility of the IT person is to manage the company IT network infrastructure and also to protect the company data assets. The latter involved periodically backing up data files of shared servers that run database applications designed for various functions such as accounting, production control, customer relation, shipping/receiving, inventory management. Also backing up individual workstation PC of each employee that may be generating other data assets such as marketing, sales, documentation, software code generation, etc.

Typical process for backing up shared servers involved having a large capacity magnetic tape product (high capacity hard disk storage system in later days) that is manually or scheduled to run on a weekly basis. IT person must manage tape capacity to constantly change the tape or disk to make sure there is space to complete the intended backup.

Backing up individual work PC’s usually are a different story, as the number of workstations in the company can be quite high. The backup schedule for those workstations tend to be a bit sparse, and not all workstations may get the same frequency of backup. The process implemented to backup these workstations can vary from one office to another. In the simplest form, the IT person goes around with a direct attached external storage device and running a backup software or doing a manual backup procedure. More sophisticated forms could involve a large capacity centralized backup disk device to receive the backup material from the workstations over the office network. Similar process running on an automatic or manual schedule, is often used in backing up each individual PC.

So over time, a dichotomy started to appear in regards to how different companies deal with backup. Businesses that are well off tend to spend the money as needed to staff an IT team (sometimes quite large) and the high-end storage equipment needed to do the job. On the opposite end, companies with low budget tend not to have the essential IT personnel to be able to implement a good backup regimen. Instead, those companies rely on the employees to do their own backup, or, in some cases, one “involuntary” IT person whose real job may be something else but are assigned by the boss to be the go-to person for IT issues. This involuntary IT person may also be the person responsible to backup the company PC’s using his/her best knowledge and judgment to do the backup job, which in many cases the strategy may be inadequate or may contain mistakes that may sometimes prove to have disastrous outcomes when it is too late.

back button