How SMEs are avoiding data loss with a cloud-based backup
5 min

Water on the ground, backup in the cloud

Water in the server room – a nightmare for any SME. And for Christof Lutz, managing director of Wilcowa AG construction machines, who was impelled to improve his company’s data security after an incident of water damage.

The alert came in the form of a chat message at eight o’clock in the evening: there’s water dripping from the ceiling in the server room. The caretaker, who was brought in right away, gave the all-clear and confirmed no damage had been done. Nevertheless, Christof Lutz, managing director of Wilcowa, went straight to the industrial facility in Regensdorf early the next morning. As an immediate measure, he moved the company server, which was standing on the damp ground, onto a pallet. He used a plastic sheet to protect the machine from the dripping water. ‘That was the moment I asked myself whether we’re really doing enough to protect our IT system,’ recalls the manager of the construction machine sales and service company.

Restoring a backup? An unpleasant prospect

Another stroke of luck: the server got splashed a couple of times but it was still running without any problems. Christof Lutz doesn’t even want to think about what might have happened if the water damage had been more extensive. After all, the local server hosts the ERP software, which the company uses to process all of its sale, rental and service orders at its three locations. A server failure would not only have caused considerable disruption to day-to-day business, but would also have triggered a series of emergency measures: replacing hardware, setting up the server from scratch and restoring the backup – all in the hope that this backup will be complete and up to date.

‘When everything’s going well, nobody thinks to ask about data protection.’

Christof Lutz, Geschäftsführer Wilcowa

At this point, Christof Lutz was already working on modernising the company and storing its data in the cloud. To this end, he collaborated with Pascal Steinger, owner of Swisscom IT partner HFN Installationen, on a range of pilot projects. For example, they planned to introduce Microsoft Teams as an internal communications platform. However, these projects didn’t include a new backup solution. No changes were planned for the server or data backup system.

The near-miss with the water impelled Mr Lutz to think carefully about data protection in the company. And to take time to address this issue, because: ‘when everything’s going well, nobody thinks to ask questions.’ Such as whether a local server in the company is still up to date and how data protection can be truly guaranteed.

A cloud-based backup? A reassuring prospect

Mr Lutz’s existing close cooperation with the IT partner proved to be useful in the present situation. As Pascal Steinger was already involved in the IT strategy and knew the situation inside out, he was able to propose – and implement – a new online backup solution very quickly.

Up to that point, company data had been backed up via the Internet to a network storage system at the IT partner’s premises. Due to the geographic separation, this method did protect the backup from natural hazards. However, the backup process involved too many manual steps and just wasn’t ideal in terms of performance and reliability.

At the partner’s recommendation, Christof Lutz opted for a managed, cloud-based solution by Swisscom. This solution is operated by the provider, who also ensures that the backup process is carried out properly in a Swiss data centre. This guarantees a functioning backup system for Wilcowa and takes some pressure off the IT partner, or as Pascal Steinger puts it, ‘with this solution, I can sleep easier too.’

Of course Christof Lutz thought about taking structural measures to improve the physical protection of the local server. But the managing director soon scrapped this idea: ‘I started out in the door industry,’ he says, ‘and for us, the cost of security doors, as well as the structural measures they’d require, would be disproportionate to the possible benefits.’

And so the cloud-based backup became the central pillar of the company’s data protection. As well as the automation and scalability of the storage space, its reliability was a clincher. ‘During the backup process, it’s essential to ensure that the data you’re backing up is also transferred correctly,’ clarifies Mr Lutz. Compared to the existing solution, the cloud-based backup improves the company’s data protection. The cloud solution also means that the IT partner doesn’t need to operate the company’s own storage hardware or make sure the backups are running smoothly.

Infrastructure like a large enterprise’s? A wonderful prospect

The server is staying on site for now. ‘Due to the many adjustments we’re making to the ERP and the company-specific templates, switching to the cloud-based version is very complicated and requires a lot of time,’ explains Mr Lutz.

However, the local server’s days are numbered. Because the IT-savvy managing director is already planning further investments in infrastructure. The cloud will play a crucial role in these plans: ‘As an SME, we don’t have time to manage our IT systems. And the cloud provides us with an infrastructure that offers the quality and the kind of potential capabilities that only large enterprises could afford in the past.’

The managing director was affirmed in his decision when, about a month later, there was a second incident of water damage. This was another minor incident. It was only then that the cause was discovered: a leaky pipe on an upper floor. ‘Locating the leak was highly time-consuming and required the services of building systems specialists,’ recalls Christof Lutz. ‘A cloud solution would have saved us this expense.’

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