The Olympic games are acting as a catalyst for businesses to explore the possibility of employees working from home to avoid nightmare commutes, but the importance of data backup and recovery for mobile workers needs to be addressed.

With an estimated existing 6 million ‘remote workers’ in the UK the question of how people who work from home are backing up a businesses most valuable asset – its data, has to be determined.

Analyst research shows that few remote users know how to get their laptops back up and running, and their data recovered, in the event of a failure. This is despite the fact that most employees at some stage in their working life will typically experience a hardware failure. While this is bad enough when it happens at the office, the issue is exacerbated when working remotely.

The number of remote workers is set to increase significantly in 2012 as the government is urging businesses in London to use technology to enable flexible working during the Olympics. Businesses will be expected to start putting plans in place to be able to do just that.

It is worth pointing out that working remotely for extended periods has its risks. Executives normally rely on the services of a local IT manager if anything goes wrong, especially when it comes to recovering data from a failed laptop. But when it’s a laptop that has an additional day’s worth of business data accumulated whilst working remotely, it becomes even more challenging.

Fortunately, it doesn’t take much to empower the user to self-manage, protect and recover their own laptop to a recent, safe system image, potentially resolving the issue in a few keystrokes. Armed with this knowledge and capability, staff are empowered to be responsible for keeping their business data safe no matter where they are. Thanks to advances in technology, with the right tools most businesses should be able to put remote working into practice without any disruption to the business.

An ideal solution for mobile workers would be a disk-based backup and disaster recovery approach for business desktops and laptops, which has centralised management capability. This solution would include disk imaging technology, which takes a ‘snapshot’ of the disk, including the operating system, meaning applications and data can be fully recovered in minutes rather than hours or even days. It can also recover just an individual file or folder that has been accidentally deleted or lost, which minimises downtime and improves productivity.

Users can back up a laptop to a variety of storage devices and locations including in a special protected partition on the laptop’s own hard drive. It may sound complicated but this is in fact incredibly quick and easy to do with the right software solution.

Another great option would be to use cloud computing for backup and recovery. Remote workers could use an online backup service to enable them to self-manage, protect and recover their laptop on their own whilst on the move, rather than relying on their IT department back at the office. Users can continue to back up their laptop whilst they are on the move, making sure that backups are kept up to date and in the event of a disaster, the most recent data can be accessed.

Clearly, to an overstretched IT department, a tool that empowers laptop users to easily recover lost data themselves from existing images of that laptop, wherever they happen to be, is of great benefit. Whatever type of backup you chose, the following guidelines should be useful:

  1.  Select where users are going to store their backups

It’s often best to ensure you have at least two targets to back up to, locally for fast recovery, plus externally such as to a networked storage device through a VPN connection or to the cloud. On site storage doesn’t go far enough as it does not offer protection from physical damage to your premises.

  1.  Document your backup policy

Who is responsible for looking after backups? How would your business react in the event of system downtime?

  1.  Educate users

Ensure that everyone in your company understands the importance of backups and how to carry them out when they are working remotely.

  1.  Don’t forget to test your backups on a regular basis

Once they’re set up it’s all too easy to forget to check if they are working until it’s too late!