The 31st of March is World Backup day and it’s a great time to put a backup in place. Businesses are losing huge amounts of data every day, purely because ‘backing up’ is stuck at the bottom of their to-do list. So this is your reminder, that even if you only do this once a year when the calendar tells you to, it’s time to flip that to-do list and make it happen! But how? What’s the easiest, most effective way for your business to backup?
But what makes a good backup? The answer to that question can differ between individual businesses. Every business is different and has different needs when it comes to protecting their data. Here are a couple of things to consider when coming up with a strategy for your business.
What is being backed up?
The first step is to determine what needs to be backed up. In business, it's important to back up everything possible. This includes files that are on the company server, on PCs, work stations and even mobile devices like phones and tablets. It's also important to know what type of data is being backed up. When most people think about backing up files they think about Word documents and Excel spreadsheets. But what about LOB (Line of Business) application data? Email? Customer information? All of this needs to be considered as well as it's all extremely important.
Where is it being backed up to?
The next thing to think about is where that data is being backed up to. When asking clients this question, the answer we most often get is a small USB flash drive that the client pulls out of their desk drawer or pocket. This is not a good backup plan! Flash drives are fine for moving files around from computer to computer or for temporary storage of unimportant items but should never be used for backing up anything that is business critical. Flash memory is very volatile, you simply have no idea when plugging the drive in if it's actually going to work. If you are currently using flash drives for backup, you need to finish reading this article and then immediately start thinking about your backup strategy.
Cloud Backup: What it is (and what it isn't)
So if a USB drive isn't good for backup what is? One of the most common ways to back up data is to the cloud. But what actually constitutes "cloud backup"? There are several different ways to put files in the cloud but not all of them can actually be counted on to have your files there when you need them. Cloud sync services like Google Drive, Dropbox and iCloud are designed to mirror the changes to files as they're made. Services like these are not cloud backup. They are merely platforms that allow you to access files between devices and share files more easily with others. If a file is deleted or corrupted, the cloud copy is also changed meaning you no longer have a working file. Additionally, if someone deletes the file on their device, the cloud copy is deleted as well meaning if someone accidentally deletes that important spreadsheet it's gone; cloud or no cloud.
A proper cloud backup solution puts files into cloud storage as they are changed and then keeps the old version of the file. This way, in the event of ransomware, corruption, or even someone accidentally deleting the original file there is still a copy available in the cloud. Additionally, if ransomware or corruption destroys the original, there are still older versions that can be reverted to.
Cloud backup is a great way to help keep files safeguarded against loss but there's one big issue with it. In the event of a data disaster, it's important to get back up online as quickly as possible. When relying on a cloud backup the restore process is only as fast as your internet connection. This brings up an important question:
How much downtime is acceptable?
In business, downtime is the last thing you want to deal with but when problems occur it's inevitable. The key is determining how much downtime is acceptable for your organization. Are you okay with employees not being able to work for several hours? As they say: "time is money" and the cost of losing data is much greater than the initial expense you may pay to get that data restored.
A good backup strategy can help mitigate downtime by getting critical systems back online in a matter of minutes or even seconds. Local, non-cloud backups are best when it comes to being able to restore quickly and resume operations. Unfortunately, the biggest problem with local backups is that, in the event of a large-scale disaster (fire, flood, power event, etc), it is common to lose both the systems that the data is contained on as well as the devices containing the backups.
Defining the right backup strategy
Now that we've covered some of the pros and cons of different backup styles, you should have a good idea about what to shoot for with your own company. Cloud and local backups can be mixed and matched to create a comprehensive plan that covers all of the important scenarios ranging from software disasters like ransomware to physical ones like fires or floods.
One of the most popular strategies when it comes to backing up business data is to use the "3-2-1" plan which dictates that there should be at least 3 copies of your data with 2 of those copies residing locally and one being stored off-site or in the cloud. This way, you can restore files from local backups quickly, but in the event of a large scale disaster you still have the cloud backup to fall back on as a "last resort".
It's important to remember that having different types of backup is also an option when using a 3-2-1 style plan. You may elect to keep full system images locally, but keep just a file level backup in the cloud in order to save on storage costs. Alternately, some backup solutions keep an image of important systems on-site and in the cloud at the same time. In the event of a problem the damaged system can be started up virtually in the cloud allowing you or your employees to continue working while the system is repaired and the backup can then be restored to the new/fixed system when it's ready and things keep chugging along as if nothing ever happened.
Testing the recovery plan
Ideally, you would prefer to never have to resort to your backups. Ever. The absolute last thing you want to have happen though is to need to resort to your backup... only to find out it doesn't work. This is why testing your backups for continuity on a regular basis is extremely important. A backup isn't a backup if it can't be restored. Setting a schedule to test your backups on a regular basis ensures that your data is actually as safe as it's expected to be.
There are tons of ways that backup consistency can be checked. All of them depend on what is being backed up and how it's being backed up along with what the expected procedures are when it comes to restoring. One important thing to keep in mind is that you should never restore a backup to a system you actually use when testing. You don't want to potentially erase a perfectly working system by restoring a corrupted or non-functional backup over it!
When it comes to business, selecting the right continuity strategy can be a huge challenge. On top of that you then need to monitor and maintain that plan. If you'd like more information and assistance with getting your business properly backed up give us a call. We specialize in setting up and monitoring backup solutions for small businesses and would be happy to assist you. We can even manage and test your backups for you so you don't have to worry about it. Request a free consultation by getting in touch with us at (402) 685-4357 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.