How to back up your remote workers

A woman working on her laptop

There has been a revolution in where, when and how employees work. Estimates suggest there are around six million remote workers in the UK

And that means as their people become more decentralised, companies are facing the challenge of keeping their data centralised, safe and backed up.

Remote working risks

Working remotely or homeworking for extended periods does have some increased risks. If your employees usually rely on the services of an in-house IT manager or IT support company when things go wrong, it's probably going to be more difficult for them to access that help when they're off-site.

It's also easy for people to fall into the habit of saving things locally to their laptop rather than centrally on your network - particularly if you don't have an efficient remote access system in place. That means that if something does go wrong, it can be hard or impossible to recover that data.

Give your people the power to manage their own data

Fortunately, it's possible to give your employees the ability to manage, protect and recover their own laptop, potentially resolving issues in a few keystrokes. This helps staff keep their data safe no matter where they're working from - which in turn helps your business put remote working into practice more easily.

The key lies in selecting the right backup tools for your business and implementing them before anything goes wrong. That way you'll know you've taken measures to aid recovery, should you need them.

Remote workers have some specific data recovery needs. In the worst case they'll be disconnected from your other business systems completely - meaning they can't restore their computer using files stored on your network, and meaning support staff can't connect to the computer to reload key files.

To deal with this scenario, you need to combine local and remote disaster recovery systems.

Local recovery tools

Local recovery tools will allow a remote worker to restore their laptop to a working configuration without any external help.

This usually involves creating a disk image of the core software on their computer. Stored in a separate space on a computer's hard drive, a disk image is like a photocopy of how a computer's files are set up.

If anything goes wrong, you can access the disk image by pressing a particular combination of keys as the computer starts up. An automatic recovery process will then restore the software and settings for you. Often, you can fix a non-working computer in a matter of minutes.

You need to use special software to create a disk image, and it's a job best done by your IT supplier or in-house IT staff. The aim is to give employees everything they need to reconnect to the company systems, so they can access centrally-stored files and resources again.

Remote recovery tools

It's vital a recovery disk image is combined with some remote recovery tools. Most importantly, you need to ensure that any important files or data created by your remote workers is backed up somewhere safe.

Storing it as part of a disk image is not enough: if the computer gets smashed or stolen, you've lost that data. Instead, you need to back it up over the internet, either to a network server in your business or to an external service, like cloud hosting or online backup.

A good online backup service will automatically update back up files as your staff change them, vastly reducing the chance of serious data loss.

Top tips for recovery

No matter which combination of backup methods your choose, it's important to bear these key points in mind:

  • Think about where you'll keep your backups. It's usually best to keep duplicate backups in two different places. One can be local, like on a disk image on your computer's hard drive. That allows for fast recovery. The other should be remote, like a server, external backup or cloud hosting service.
  • Document your backup policy. Make sure it's clear who is responsible for looking after backups and how your company should react in the event of a problem.
  • Educate your remote workers. If you're going to give your staff the ability to restore their computer in the event of problems, it's vital they understand the importance of backups, where to store files so they get backed up properly - and what to do in the event of a problem.
  • Test your backups regularly. Once you've established a backup process, it's easy to leave them running in the background without checking if they're working properly. But the last thing you need is for them to fail when you need them most!

Remote workers do pose some new challenges for business IT backups. But you don't need to make vast changes to accommodate them - for most companies with a good security plan in place, it simply means extending provision to encompass employees who are based away from your premises.

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