What is Data Backup?
Table of Contents
- By Bryan Lee
- Jul 31, 2023
For most businesses, data is their most valuable asset. When that data is managed correctly, it keeps an organization running smoothly with the correct information always close at hand. However, data quickly becomes an Achilles Heel when handled poorly.
Threats to your data come in myriad forms. An inexperienced employee could delete vital records without knowing what they are. Or a disgruntled employee may destroy files out of spite. There are even criminals who hold your systems hostage with ransomware or threaten identity theft while demanding exorbitant funds.
Data backups are a quick and accessible way to safeguard against these dangers. These are secondary copies of your digital assets stored on separate devices or locations. Backups prevent a catastrophic event from completely paralyzing your operations and is an indispensable practice for all businesses, regardless of size.
Considering RPO and RTO
At the end of the day, a backup is just a bookmark. It represents a point in time to which you can revert your damaged systems. However, a business is an ever-changing machine, and people are constantly adding new files, updating documents, and downloading new software. So, any data added after the most recent backup won't be included when an emergency strikes.
This dangerous time frame is known as the "recovery point objective" (RPO), representing the longest stint you're willing to go before creating a new backup. The safer option is a shorter RPO, but you'll also have to dedicate more time and resources to the increased backups.
Most companies seem to follow an industry-standard RPO of 24 hours. This may sound like a tedious, daily task, but current solutions are streamlined and offer a lot of flexibility in how you implement the process. For example, you can assign varying levels of priority for different operations. For example, administrators can set shorter RPOs for vital systems such as payroll records and extend the RPO for less necessary data.
While RPO focuses on how much you can save, "recovery time objective" (RTO) focuses on how quickly you can recover. Studies report that the average business loses $5,600 for every minute of downtime experienced. Even small enterprises report losing anywhere from $20,000 to $50,000 per hour of downtime, according to a survey from Infrascale.
Clearly, your RTO must be as brief as possible. However, many factors may increase your RTO, such as your backup medium and the cause of the interruption. Administrators must consider this when choosing their backup strategy. Achieving an RTO of less than a few hours requires a robust IT infrastructure and is expensive.
Types of Data Backup
The 3-2-1 approach is the most cost-effective and safe data backup method. This approach recommends storing data in three locations, using two storage types, and keeping at least one copy off-site. Following these rules protects your data from hacking, server wipes, and even physical disasters.
There are several storage types to choose from. Ultimately, the kind of data you handle and your RPO and RTO goals will determine what's best for your business.
Backup as a Service (BaaS)
Cloud-based services are the new norm as businesses shift away from in-house hosting. BaaS vendors automatically schedule backups through a user portal. The data is stored at the vendor's server location, saving you the resources that normally go into configuration and maintenance.
Hardware solutions include any appliance used to store your backup data. Individuals can get away with an external drive or a large thumb drive. However, businesses require enormous storage space and typically opt for tape drives for hardware.
The main downside of hardware solutions is the maintenance and update costs. As with all technology, tape drives must be upgraded periodically to optimize your setup. Replacing entire hardware systems is quite costly, and small businesses should approach this option cautiously.
Software solutions include any backup programs installed directly on your devices. This option offers the fastest RTO and can include additional security features like data encryption and redundancy (backing up to multiple devices.) It can also differentiate between "existing data" and "updated data" and only update the files that have changed since the last backup was made.
Software's main weakness is that losing access to your specific devices renders it all moot. BaaS Cloud solutions can be accessed from any device with an internet connection, and hardware only needs access to the physical storage unit.
Various Methods Of Data Backup
A full or traditional backup is the simplest and most comprehensive data backup method. Just like it sounds, the process copies all of your data to another location at once. Modern solutions don't perform a full backup daily but recommend doing one at least weekly or after a major update. While this method provides complete data restoration capability, it can be time-consuming and requires the most storage space.
To address the problems of a full backup, in comes the incremental backup. During the first backup, all data is copied into storage, similar to a full backup. However, subsequent backups focus on what's changed since the last backup, such as updated or newly created files. This approach reduces time investment and conserves storage space.
Differential backups strike a balance between full and incremental backups. Similar to incremental backups, they start with a full backup. However, instead of copying only the changes made since the last backup, differential backups copy all data that has changed since the previous full backup. This means that each differential backup includes all changes from the last full backup.
Cloud backup involves storing data on remote servers hosted by a third-party provider. It takes the burden of configuration and maintenance off the user's shoulders but entirely relies on internet access. Cloud backups are accessed through web portals or specialized software.
Off-site backup involves storing data copies at a location separate from the primary data source and local backup. This approach provides an extra layer of protection against physical threats and disasters. For example, you could retrieve an off-site backup even if a water pipe burst and damaged your hardware backups.
The Importance Of Data Backup
It's not a stretch to say that many companies are only as good as the data they hold. This is what makes cyber threats like data breaches so dangerous. However, outside of the financial consequences, losing vital data can permanently affect the quality of a company's output.
Despite this, there seems to be an overconfidence in cybersecurity measures. Malicious hackers around the world are always on the hunt for weaknesses in popular security systems. These bad actors can break into your servers with just a small amount of negligence on your part.
While having a solid cybersecurity plan is excellent, you'll regret not having a backup prepared when that plan fails.
What Data Should You Backup?
Knowing what to backup and prioritize is the first step to optimizing your process. After all, you don't want to waste time daily performing a full backup for data that hasn't been touched.
Administrators should start by backing up operating systems, applications, and configuration settings. These aspects must be saved in their most current version with every backup, or it could lead to an opening in your cybersecurity network.
Next are critical files, including customer information and financial data. This may include contact information, payment info, communications, and relevant databases for customers and vendors. For employees, you'll prioritize things like payroll and tax documents.
Make Sure You Have a Backup Plan in Place
The right backup plan is an invaluable part of any organization's security. It can save it from financial losses caused by excessive downtime, human error, and cyber attacks. The optimal backup strategy depends on factors like data volume, budget, and location.
A combination of cloud backup, local backup, and off-site backup offers the most comprehensive data protection approach, striking a balance between convenience, security, and data redundancy. However, many combinations will fit the bill. If you need to discuss your backup strategy further, our team is on call and ready to build a plan that works for you.