From fire to power outages to cyberattacks, there are many ways to lose your critical data. That’s why backup is crucial for a company’s success.
However, backing up without a strategy is very much a shot in the dark. Backup planning isn’t only about making a copy of your data.
It is also about being able to restore this data when needed. To guarantee recovery, you have to choose suitable storage options, diversify your backup destinations, set clear goals, test your backups, automate the backup process and manage your data.
All of these factors form a comprehensive backup strategy. You can ensure your data protection in 7 simple steps that will lead you to an effective backup plan. Is your company prepared for a disaster? Check these tips to make the most out of your backups and recover your critical data no matter what.
Step 1: Define Your Goals and Objectives
First and foremost, define your data backup and recovery priorities. You have to clearly set two key concepts: recovery time objective (RTO) and recovery point objective (RPO). These parameters determine the downtime you can afford and the amount of data you can afford to lose in the worst scenario, respectively. Being realistic is crucial for your backup planning.
If you aren’t satisfied with your calculations, you can always cut downtime costs and achieve tighter RPOs by implementing changes in your environment.
To build a well-crafted backup strategy for your organization, try to answer the following questions:
- What is the data you have to back up?
- What are your backup destinations?
- How often will you back up your data?
- How many devices would require data access?
- What is the estimated size of your backups?
- Who will be in charge of performing backups?
- How will the backups be monitored?
- Is scalability important for your business?
- What is your backup budget?
Further below, we will elaborate on these questions in detail to help you find the answers that are right for you.
Step 2: Choose Suitable Storage Options
After you have defined the essential components of your backup strategy, it’s time to find your approach to backup storage. Mainly:
- What backup storages cover your needs?
- Do you need fast access to the backups for your business operations?
The backup storage selection is crucial for a successful backup strategy. You should consider the following factors: security, accessibility and cost-efficiency. To find a perfect fit, let’s see what the available options are.
a. Backup to Local Disks and External USB Drives
These backup storage options are fast and don’t require a network. Local and USB disks are perfect for quick backups and a small number of systems. They are designed for restoration in case of cyber-attacks, system failures, human errors and data corruption.
As for the downsides, these backups can be destroyed in the event of a natural disaster. In addition, this option can end up being expensive and cumbersome for large environments, as these backups are mainly managed on a computer-by-computer basis.
b. Backup to NAS and SAN
Network-attached storage (NAS) and Storage Area Network (SAN) are among the most popular storage options. It is convenient to store the company’s backups in one place, and the recovery process is quite straightforward, especially paired with a granular recovery feature.
However, as with local disks, both SAN and NAS may not be enough to recover in case of a major natural disaster.
c. Backup to Tape
Tape is the best option for archiving and is generally considered the most secure offsite location. The latest tape technologies offer powerful compression, which makes them efficient for storing large amounts of data.
The biggest downside of these backups is lengthy RTOs because you have to physically keep tapes in a different location, away from your production site.
So, the extra interaction involved means that the recovery process isn’t fast. In addition, there is no option for granular recovery, meaning you can restore an entire system only. With tape, you should also factor in maintenance costs to ensure that your data backups are safe.
d. Backup to Cloud-Based Storage
Cloud storage is an offsite backup alternative to tape. The great advantage of cloud backup is that you don’t need any hardware. The only requirement is an internet connection.
At first, the cloud seems an affordable solution. However, it might get quite pricey depending on the data volumes you want to back up. It is an offsite destination, so it is safe from disasters that can hit the local data center. At the same time, it is an online destination, which makes it vulnerable to cyberattacks.
So what backup storage is the best? Every solution has its advantages and drawbacks. To make the best choice, you have to consider your RPOs, RTOs, and requirements unique to your situation. The best scenario would be to follow the industry-accepted 3-2-1 backup strategy. This means having three backup copies stored in two locations, one of them offsite.
Step 3: Think Beyond Your Office Computers
Of course, your desktops, laptops and servers in the office have to be backed up, but that’s not all.
While office workstations and servers may have most of your critical information, you also have to consider business data stored on your employee’s computers and mobile devices, along with corporate storage networks, cloud-hosted resources, emails and your website.
It is crucial to think these moments through and include them in your data backup strategy. However, knowing all your data locations is one of the biggest challenges in today’s computing environments.
Also, consider including data stored only in hard copy because it isn’t easily reproducible. Even though most documentation is digital today, some legal, HR or financial information can remain in hard copy. Generally, these documents are stored in a safe, archive or file cabinet.
However, it is a great idea to include this data in your backup planning. You can scan it or generate it electronically.
Step 4: Automate Your Lifecycle Operations
A successful data backup strategy can’t exist without automation as multiple tasks must be conducted daily, weekly, monthly or even annually. It’s simply too difficult to efficiently achieve the level of consistency required by means of manual data backups and system tests. Routine daily tasks are fundamental and include the following processes:
- Backup and recovery job monitoring
- Success and failure reporting
- Error analysis and resolution
- Backup storage management
- Backup scheduling
As for the weekly and other long-term processes, sysadmins should focus on:
- Performance analysis
- Capacity analysis and planning
- Policy review
- Backup and recovery testing
- Architecture planning
Evaluating your tasks is an integral part of a successful data backup strategy. Analyze your environment to optimize your resources and process.
Step 5: Organize Backup Administration and Management
The previous step brings us to efficient data administration. Your biggest enemies are inconsistency and a lack of centralized backup management. Administrating backups is a challenging task that requires a lot of your time and resources. You have to be organized and prepared to address any risks and threats to avoid data loss.
Implementing the steps from this blog post will help you build a solid backup strategy. However, to implement your backup plan, you need a trained team that will follow the strategic guidance. You require reliable and knowledgeable specialists to control the full cycle of backup and recovery.
This backup team has to be responsible for:
- Running backups according to the fixed schedule
- Checking system’s weaknesses and fixing them
- Updating your backup strategy if the business needs change
- Educating other members of your team
- Testing backups
Managing and monitoring your backups is the only way to ensure that your backups are actually running, your critical data is protected and data restoration is possible.
Step 6: Test Your Backups
I’ve already mentioned testing before, and I can’t emphasize this enough. Test, test, test and test. Period. How else would you know that your backups are running and effective?
Testing can seem overwhelming, but it won’t be if you are consistent. Backups can fail, but it’s better for it to happen in a test than in a real recovery situation.
These are the factors you have to consider thoroughly:
- The backup test frequency is directly related to your backup frequency. If your critical information gets backed up more often, you will test these backups more frequently.
- Always analyze the testing results and see where you can make improvements. Sometimes you might require external auditing to improve your backup effectiveness.
- Based on the review, adjust the backup strategy. Your data backup plan isn’t a fixed document and any helpful changes are welcome.
- To be sure your testing is right in place, the best would be to have a documented plan. This simple step will organize the testing schedule and help avoid any discomfort related to testing for your team members.
- Be consistent not only with backups but also with testing.
Step 7: Choose a Reliable Solution
After defining all of your data backup priorities and forming a backup strategy, it’s time to choose a reliable backup and recovery vendor to integrate your plan into your infrastructure. The market offers a wide range of solutions.
However, the best idea is to consider data protection options, solution price, supported platforms and other technical considerations for your particular case.
Consider a comprehensive backup and recovery solution you can trust. If you aren’t sure, try the free trials, free editions or demos that vendors offer for their potential customers. It might be your perfect first glance at the functionality of the solution.
Creating an efficient backup strategy is the only way to protect your data against potential system failures, cyberattacks, data corruption and other threats.
It seems like an overwhelming task that requires the investment of time and money. However, this cost is much lower than that associated with the downtime, data loss and consequences for your business if you don’t do it and an event occurs.
In addition, backup planning brings clarity to your goals, concerns, weaknesses and potential risks.