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Backup training for general IT admins in the wake of COVID-19

In addition to the resources already available within a typical IT department, many external resources are available for all kinds of IT training requirements.

The current COVID-19 health crisis has some IT administrators taking on more roles, following layoffs and furloughs because of the pandemic. As a result, there might be a need for general IT admins to perform backup-related activities that should technically fall to a backup specialist. Although those admins might have scheduled and performed backups early in their IT careers, they might need some refresher training to ensure on-time, properly executed backups.

It's critical to reiterate the importance of data backups -- especially during special circumstances, such as the current pandemic -- and why general IT admins should be prepared to perform backups, get up to speed on data backup policies and procedures, and learn what resources IT managers can use to train admins on backup activities.

Why is data backup important?

Without standard, documented, repeatable data backup procedures, important electronic information might be lost or compromised. It's also important to regularly back up critical systems, specialized platforms and other IT resources to secure locations. Loss of or the inability to access critical company information, such as patient healthcare records, could place the organization at risk of possible legal actions, such as regulatory penalties resulting in fines and other remedies.

Smart organizations err on the side of proactive and regularly scheduled backups, whether incremental or full, to ensure that their critical data resources are available and recoverable when needed. These smart firms also increase their chances of protecting their data by using at least two data backup repositories, whether on site or remote using managed backup service providers.

Who is typically responsible for data backup?

Assuming detailed procedures are in place and IT admins and technicians are reasonably familiar with the backup process, virtually anyone in an IT department can handle backups. Backups are often scheduled and processed electronically, with data backup admins monitoring the processes to ensure they are performed correctly.

Assuming employees not specializing in backup are aware of those resources, they should also be able to handle backups. As it's not uncommon for organizations to standardize on one or more data backup approaches, the process of backups should be straightforward and most likely documented for ease of reference as needed.

Why could data backups fall to general IT admins?

Given the current experience of the COVID-19 pandemic, employees who handle data backups could be terminated or furloughed, or they might be unable to perform their duties due to the coronavirus. Depending on how the organization manages its data backup process, such staffing losses could be a potential threat. In such situations, IT leadership might initially assign the backup process to others who are senior enough -- e.g., Level 2 or Level 3 engineers supporting the help desk -- to easily take on backup activities. If that level of expertise is unavailable, an organization might task less experienced employees with backup duties.

On the assumption the data backup process is fully documented, including steps to take and scripts to be entered, most anyone with minimal IT skills ought to be able to handle backups. Because data backups are such an important IT activity, it's highly unlikely that the procedures aren't documented. In addition, IT admins working remotely probably have remote access to IT operational systems, including backups, so that backups wouldn't be interrupted or need to be rescheduled.

Data backup training considerations

Considering the importance of data and system backups, the following backup training actions can help ensure minimal to no disruptions to the data backup process:

  1. Existing data backup admins or techs should regularly review backup policies and procedures with other IT team members to ensure sufficient staff is available to back them up, if needed.
  2. Ensure that data backup policies are periodically reviewed, updated as needed and reviewed with IT employees, such as at weekly team meetings.
  3. See if the organization's data backup system vendors provide refresher training on their systems that can be delivered to IT employees.
  4. See if the organization's data storage repository vendors provide refresher training on their storage resources.
  5. As part of IT succession planning, identify employees who will be trained to replace the lead data backup techs and arrange for data backup training on the current resources.
  6. Periodically schedule standby data backup team members to perform data backup activities to ensure they are comfortable with the procedures and policies.
  7. Consider providing third-party training on data backup to new IT employees.

Training resources

In addition to documentation and training provided by data backup vendors currently in use at the organization, plus training provided by experienced data techs in the firm, the following is a list of IT training and certification firms that address a broad range of IT issues:

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