February 4, 2020
Building a Comprehensive Backup Strategy for Your Organization: What, How, and Why
With digitization shaping the modern business world, the importance of data and its protection is becoming increasingly more evident. For customers, even minor downtime can be indicative of the fact that business is unreliable and unsustainable. Business data availability and integrity can be tested with hardware or software failures, ransomware attacks, human errors, and more. For a business to remain competitive and succeed in the long run, it must deliver a high level of promised services. Thus, you need to build a solid backup strategy ensuring your business-critical data and applications remain safe and secure under any circumstances.
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Why a Backup Strategy Is Vital for Your Business?
Let’s start with defining what a comprehensive backup strategy actually is, so as to better understand its role in modern business environments. A backup strategy determines which actions should be taken to ensure continuous business performance even in the face of disaster. Regular data backups lie at the core of a solid backup strategy, guaranteeing that your business-critical data is securely stored and can be recovered.
Data loss can happen to anyone, resulting in the loss of productivity, revenue, and customer’s trust. Thus, a responsible business owner must make backing up data a priority. When properly implemented, a backup strategy along with a disaster recovery plan can help you address potential risks and threats, reduce the cost of downtime, and eventually save your data, reputation, and business.
Components of an Effective Backup Strategy
Before you can start developing a backup strategy, you first need to answer the following questions:
What data do you need to back up and in what amount? Where do you need to store data backups? What are common risks and threats your business faces? What amount of resources are you willing to allocate on backup strategy implementation? How should you choose a backup strategy?
Each of these questions reflects an essential component of a backup strategy. All these components will be discussed below as we describe their role in minimizing the consequences of unexpected data loss.
Data backup needs
This component defines which data must be backed up to ensure the survival and operation of your business even in the case of a data-loss event. You need to carefully assess what type of data must be stored in backups and assign a priority level to them. A priority level determines how losing this particular data set might affect your organization.
What’s more, the choice of data to back up will dictate which backup storage to use, how much storage space you need, which preventive security measures to deploy, and how much to spend on the backup strategy implementation.
After you have decided which data should be backed up and in what order, you need to establish an approach to backup storage. Here, you have two questions to answer: which backup storage devices you should use and how accessible data backups should be in order to keep your business operations running. To find the right answers, let’s look at all the options available:
- Backup storage devices. Backup data can be kept on various storage devices, local or USB disks, network attached storage (NAS) and Storage Area Networks (SAN), tape, and cloud. All these types of storage media offer different levels of accessibility and recoverability. Thus, in order to make the right choice, you need to calculate the recovery time objective (RTO) and recovery point objective (RPO) that comply with your business needs. RTO determines the tolerable amount of downtime for your business, whereas RPO specifies the tolerable amount of data loss measured in time.
- Backup storage location. Depending on the priority level of data, you can choose to store your backups on-premises or offsite (in the cloud). Locally stored backups are easily maintained and secure, but they are more prone to damage and destruction in case of disaster, leaving you with no chance for a successful recovery. Cloud-based backup storage, on the other hand, is a more flexible and affordable option which minimizes management overhead and business downtime typically associated with on premise backup. Currently, most organizations prefer running hybrid backups, so as to have an easily recoverable onsite backup as well as a reliable off-site backup, reducing the risk of complete data loss.
An effective backup storage must be accessible, secure, and cost-effective. Keeping these three factors in mind can help you make the right choice.
Risks and threats
The next point to consider with proper care and attention is the risks and threats your organization is most likely to face. Analyzing most common disaster scenarios helps calculating the true cost of service disruption and data loss as well as identifying your infrastructure’s vulnerabilities. Data can be lost as a result of ransomware attacks, human errors, hardware or software failures, power outages, natural disasters, and more. If you are aware of what might put your business at risk, you can adopt disaster prevention and mitigation measures that work specifically for your organization. This is a sure way of making your infrastructure more resilient and sustainable.
Your backup schedule must be set up according to your business needs. Consider how critical a particular data set is and how its loss can impact your business. When it comes to the files of lower priority, weekly or monthly backups would suffice. However, if your organization produces a large amount of data on a daily basis, you should set up hourly backups to keep your data up-to date. The following backup frequency levels are differentiated: continuous, hourly, daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly.
It is also important to consider the parameters of the backup window, which is a time slot for effectively running data backups without disrupting business operations. The most common approach is to perform backups overnight or on weekends when the infrastructure has minimal workload.
Managing backups is an important but extremely challenging task which can take a lot of your time and resources. That being said, the real cost of data loss on your business can be much higher. The best way to mitigate the effects of a data loss-event is to be prepared and address any risks and threats in advance.
However solid your backup strategy is, it cannot work if there is no one trained and ready to monitor its implementation. You need to form a team of reliable and knowledgeable employees who can control backup and recovery processes from start to finish. The backup team will be responsible for:
- Running backups according to the set schedule;
- Identifying system’s weaknesses and fixing existing issues;
- Updating the backup strategy with regard to changing business needs;
- Informing employees of existing and newly added backup policies;
- Testing the backup strategy to ensure that data can be recovered from backups.
By trusting your employees with backup administration and monitoring, you can be sure that your backups are actually running, critical workloads are protected, and data recovery is possible.
Now that you have finally developed a backup strategy, you are ready to integrate it into your data protection infrastructure. It might look good on paper but does it actually work? To verify that your backup and recovery processes are running as expected, you need to perform backup testing. Three factors should be considered prior to running backup tests: what, when, and how often to test backups. It is recommended to go through various disaster scenarios to fully test the potential of your backup strategy.
As a result of backup testing, you will determine whether your backups actually work, how fast your business operations can be restored, and whether there are any issues with your backup strategy that need fixing. Regular backup testing helps your refine the existing backup strategy and achieve the best possible outcome.
A backup budget determines how much your organization is willing to spend on implementing a backup strategy. What’s more, you need to calculate the potential cost of data loss for your organization and consider its future business growth. Thus, it is better to invest in building a comprehensive backup strategy than suffer from irreversible data loss later.
Backup vendor selection
Lastly, you need to choose a reliable backup vendor that can help you integrate a backup strategy into your infrastructure. In this regard, you need to consider the solution’s price, available data protection options, supported platforms, the vendor’s reputation, etc. Thankfully, most backup vendors allow you to see their solution in action by running personal demos, downloading a free trial for a limited amount of time, or joining their beta test programs. This way, you can try out the product functionality in your environment, weigh its pros and cons, and determine its ability to implement your backup strategy.