What are Backups?

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Not all businesses realise how important it is to protect that data. It costs a lot in time, energy and money to re-create data after its lost and a lot of it can never be recovered. So, when we offer you Backups with any of our server options, what do we mean and why is it so important to your business?

What is data backup?

Data Backup is a process where your files are regularly copied and archived to another separate server so that if the worst does happen, data can easily and quickly be restored. This means that no matter what happens the data you need to keep your business running is safe from loss.

One of the great things about Backups is that you get to customise your Backup needs, so you decide what data is essential and we make sure that it is kept secure and retrievable. We can provide Backup packages that are tailored to your business needs, so whether you need 100GB or 1TB, we’ve got you covered. Once you’ve signed up, it is fully scalable so as your data needs grow, so can your Backup. We also ensure that your important data is backed up as often as you want, so you choose whether it’s every 15 minutes or daily or weekly. Once it’s set up to your specifications, you won’t even notice it’s happening, but you will notice when you need to retrieve a document that you’ve lost unexpectedly.

Planning is the key to success when it comes to backing up your data and making sure that you have enough storage space for your data is an essential step in the planning process. Accurately calculating your back up requirements can save you time and money. You can usually calculate the amount of space that you need by looking at the total amount of information that needs to be backed up, how often your data is updated and whether it has many graphics and images. You will then need to decide on when and how much data you want to keep. A good example would be weekly Backup, keeping 7 days of replications. If you have a simple application, Server or website with limited images then you can work on 1.5 times the size of your target.

Why are data backups so important?

Data loss can happen as a result of many things, including hardware failure, human error, software viruses and natural disaster. How many times have you forgotten to hit save on an essential document or what happens if your system becomes infected with a virus? If you are responsible for business data, these things are all risks you should consider. A loss may involve critical financial, customer, and company data, and without Backup, this could be disastrous.

You need to protect your business data. Data Backup and data recovery are essential considerations when you are reviewing your businesses data storage needs. Business decision-makers need to consider that all computer systems crash; all humans error; and disasters happen when you least expect them. Data Backup may seem like an additional cost when you’re already investing in a new or upgraded data storage system, but investment now could save you lots of time and money in the long run. Think of Backup as insurance for your data, you will hopefully never need it, but when you do, it is invaluable.

Building a backup strategy and disaster recover plan

All modern organisations rely on data, which must be securely backed up at regular intervals.
The procedures for a successful backup strategy remain relatively constant across organisations. Over the last several years there have been many examples in the media of companies who have neglected their backup strategy who have ended up losing a lot of money and their reputation.

Part of a backup strategy is building and effective IT disaster recover plan. Below are some key points to assist with your backup strategy:

Know your Backup environment

The environmental elements of a backup strategy include an examination of your information systems, especially with respect to data storage. The physical location for your backups is a key aspect. Consider where your data is now and where you want it to be to keep it safe. What happens if there is a fire? For this reason, most people choose to keep their data backups offsite from the location of the production data. The amount of data and its volatility will also help determine the optimum backup procedure.

The use of mobile devices is also an important security consideration in the environmental analysis since they can be easily lost or stolen. No system should ever have only one copy of a data set, especially if that data set is stored on a mobile device (such as a laptop). Your organization’s IT department should already have well-established security guidelines for backing up data. If not, you’ll also need to research and apply the best practices for your industry.

Backup Procedures 

A comprehensive backup plan includes the following phases:

  • Data selection
  • Scheduling
  • Management
  • Restoration testing
  • Service-level agreements

Data Selection 

Determine the data components that need to be backed up, and note their locations. This would include sets such as: databases, email, documents and configuration files. You should also rate the criticality of each component on a scale that at least contains low, medium and high ratings. Inform the IT administrators of this information so they can ensure the data is backed up.

This process may also identify data that doesn’t need to be backed up because it can be synchronised with the data on other systems. For example, you may be able to map drives with a Windows batch file that uses robocopy or xcopy. You can also use a cron job in Linux to rsync data. Synchronisation is most often used to copy data with a low priority whose loss won’t be critical to an organisation. The primary risk of this technique is that corrupt data can be synchronised just as easily as clean data and can just as easily be deleted. Any data that is synchronised also needs to be backed up, but perhaps less frequently.

These principles also apply to directory data. For example, Windows’ Active Directory data needs to be backed up to protect a system from a failure of the entire site, but the use of multiple domain controllers will allow the system to recover from the loss of a single server. Furthermore, it may not be necessary to backup a server’s operating system (OS) data since you can rebuild servers relatively quickly in a virtualized environment. If your environment includes a Terminal Server this is a very important point as you may not even realise that you have an Active Directory server and you will need to protect that setup.

Backup Scheduling 

You should typically perform a complete backup after the end of each business week to minimise conflicts with other processes. Differential backups that only backup modified files are often performed after the end of each day’s processing. Most modern backups systems will also complete one full backup and then only backup the deltas that have changed saving space in your backup media. This is particularly advantageous in that you don’t have to restore from 2 sets of media to get back to a particular point in time.

Backups of database data can be performed every few hours, depending on its volatility. The length of time that each backup should be retained is also an important aspect of scheduling backups of both databases and data. Do you have legal obligations to store it for a certain period of time? How long until you notice something isn’t right? How long do you realistically need to go back for? All of these (and more) are important questions as once a backup is overwritten, you are almost guaranteed to have lost the data forever.

Management 

Backup management usually includes automating backups as much as possible. However, you should also use appropriate tools to monitor this process so that your IT Administrator is alerted whenever a backup fails. Failed backups should be checked, resolved and a fresh backup taken as swiftly as possible. Obsolete data should be deleted or archived from systems to reduce the time needed to perform backup tasks. Some means of validating data without performing a restore should also be used to ensure the backups are clean and the data in the system is intact.

Restoration Testing 

Your IT Administrator must develop a detailed strategy for testing the restore procedure for each type of backup media, which historically would include disk and tape. Modern backups may also include cloud data or USB disks. This process usually includes restoring the backups to a test system to go through the data and compare it to the live data set. Validation of a database backup often consists of refreshing a non-production database from a production backup.

Service-Level Agreements 

Service-level agreements (SLAs) often cover details of an organisation’s recovery procedure such as the timeline and the client organisation’s expectations. Management should, therefore, review and approve an organisation’s SLAs to ensure they accurately reflect the actual recovery procedure. How quickly do you want to be able to restore data? Do your end customers expect you to be able to restore within a certain timeframe? Do you need to be keeping data for a certain period of time?

All of the above (and more) go into how your organisation develops a backup strategy to safeguard against data loss. This may seem like a daunting task but taking the time now to define this can save your entire business down the track.

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