Of all the records that your office creates, very few warrant the creation of back-up tapes and those that do will typically be an essential record. In short, essential records are usually records that are necessary to conduct emergency responses, to resume or continue operations,and to protect the safety and rights of residents. Other records that might warrant back-up tapes but are not essential records are records that would be difficult and time-consuming to re-create and records that are historically significant. For more information on how to identify essential records, check out this blog post.
Once you have identified records that are essential to your office, you will want to consider what is called the LOCKSS approach: Lots of Copies Keep Stuff Safe! The more copies of these essential records that you have on hand, the easier it will be to mitigate a disaster of any size. We recommend keeping 2-3 copies of the important records of your office.
To be clear: This approach is for essential records only, there is no need to create convenience copies or back-up tapes of everything in your office! Be choosy about what you’re duplicating to avoid creating piles of useless records.
The safest thing to do for your essential records is to use a strategic combination of back-up methods. One of the easiest methods to use is a duplication or mirror server that syncs with your main server every night to save the most recent copies of your server and protect against crashes, viruses and other digital calamity. This is great for your everyday back-up needs, but what about those essential records? You’re going to want copies of those both on the back-up server and somewhere that is incorruptible, but still easy to retrieve. This is where good, old-fashioned back-up tapes come into play.
There are a lot of vendors out there who can help create back-up tapes of your critical data and records, just be sure that they are clear on your legal obligations to keep those records for their full retention and that quality control is performed before the project is finalized. Remember, if something does happen that destroys your working copies, these back-up tapes will be your only option to retrieve your office’s essential records – you need to make sure that they have been captured in full and are accessible and shelf-stable over long periods of time.
Once your tapes have been created and reviewed, it’s time to choose where to store them. Remember, it makes no sense to make back-up tapes and then store them in the same building as your main operations because if a disaster like a flood or earthquake happened, your tapes would be just as damaged as your other records! You’ll need to choose an off-site storage location for your back-up tapes. Some local governments have been successful in exchanging back-up tapes with other local governments in counties that are in different hazard areas than they are. Others choose to store the tapes with outside vendors or at the State Records Center, which is a secure, climate-controlled facility that any state agency or local government in Texas can use. A few guidelines to consider when you are choosing where to store your back-up tapes:
- The location should be within a reasonable distance, so recovery time is short and manageable. Aim for a location that is no more than five hours away.
- The location should be climate-controlled and keep the tapes safe from environmental hazards like sunlight, water, humidity, etc.
- Try to find a location that is subject to different natural hazards than your own region, if possible. If your county often floods, try to find a storage facility in a neighboring county that would be protected from any regional flooding.
You should also consider setting up a regular schedule to review your back-up tapes for usability and accuracy. The back-up tapes should contain copies of records that are reasonably current or they could be useless in the event of a disaster.
TSLAC does not require local governments to have back-up tapes of their essential records, but it is a recommended business practice to do so.