Considerations for Developing Your Backup Plan

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WHY BACKUPS ARE IMPORTANT

Computer backups are critical to your business. The Number 1 cause of data loss for businesses is its own end-users. Whether accidental or intentionally malicious, end-users are the primary cause of data loss for any business. Add to that other risks such as hardware failure, viruses and other malicious software, theft, natural disaster (fire, hurricanes, flooding, wind, etc.) and you can see there are a lot of ways to lose data.

Loss of data can be small (overwriting a file), disastrous (a database failing, resulting in closing your business until it’s restored), or somewhere in the middle (losing data, but the business can limp along until it’s recovered). Whatever the case, it is going to cost you time and money. You can minimize that cost now, by implementing a backup solution that best balances your business needs and budget.

There isn’t a question of if you will lose data, but when. Data recovery is very difficult, time consuming and certainly expensive. Having a backup plan in place before you need it is critical. Backups are like buying insurance. No one wants to go through a catastrophic event, but we understand they happen. To be ready, we buy insurance. It’s a cost we don’t like to pay, but we recognize the importance of it. Computer backups are the same – it’s like an insurance policy against losing your data. Just like insurance, you can create a plan that balances your risk tolerance and budget. Pay more, get more. Pay less, get less.

MANAGED BACKUPS

Backups are complicated, daunting tasks. If not managed properly they can be time consuming and not give you confidence in the quality and reliability of your backups. Managing backups isn’t your area of expertise. It doesn’t need to be. With a Managed Backup service, you can relax knowing the experts are managing things.

With Manged Backups, you have the confidence of knowing that your data is protected. The backup systems are monitored and tested. You’ll get reports and status updates letting you know things are taken care of.

Managed Backups
  • Expertly Managed
  • Continuously Monitored
  • Regularly Tested
  • Priority Response
  • Reporting to You

3-2-1 RULE

At a minimum, you want to follow the 3-2-1 rule.

3 – Keep at least three copies of your data (your original, plus 2 copies).
2 – Your backup copies should be stored on at least 2 different storage media. It’s unlikely you’ll have both media fail at the same time, but having different media reduces your risk.
1 – One of your backups should be offsite. Offsite can be an external hard drive sitting in a bank vault or in the cloud. Wherever it is, should your building burn down and all your local backups melt with the original data, you have the offsite backup for recovery.

OFFSITE

Getting at least one copy of your backup offsite is critical. There are a number of events that can occur to make your local data (both the “live” data you use and the backups) inaccessible. Having a copy offsite gives you protection from such a site-wide event. “Offsite” can be “online” (accessible via the Internet) or “offline” (not accessible via the Internet, such as an external hard drive stored in a bank vault).

Online

Pros:
– Backup pushed offsite automatically for you
– Can be monitored for integrity
– Is faster to put offsite and bring back than offline storage
– Can be used to create a virtual machine based on the backup for faster restoration of data

Cons:
– Can be more expensive than offline storage

Offline

Pros:
– Can be cheaper than online storage

Cons:
– Slower to get offsite or use for recovery as it requires human effort
– Cannot be monitored for integrity

RECOVERY TIME and RECOVERY POINT OBJECTIVES

When making your backup plan, consider two main points: Recovery Time Object (RTO) and Recovery Point Objective (RPO). These metrics create a framework within which we develop and customize your recover plan. These are your pain points, beyond which the business suffers real difficulty.

Recover Time Objective

The RTO is a measure of how long your company can tolerate not having access to the lost data. Your RTO might be 3 hours, 30 minutes or 5 minutes. Whatever it is, when you’ve been without your data for more than your RTO, your business starts to be negatively impacted.

Gone are the days where simple file copies of data make sense. Imaging takes a snapshot of your entire computer – the operating system, installed programs, data files, databases, everything. Using these images, we can recover individual files or the entire contents of the hard drive(s). We can even use the images to create a virtual machine of your failed computer, providing a near-instantaneous recovery of your data. Using system images makes recovery of failed system much faster and simpler, allowing your business to recover much more quickly.

Recovery Point Objective

The RPO is how old the recovered data can be. This is basically a measure of how frequently your data is backed up. If you backup your data once per day (let’s say 5AM), then you have a 24-hour RPO. Imagine your server hard drive dies right now, and you have to reinstall everything. The recovered data will be whatever was backed-up at 5AM today. If your data loss happens at 4:55AM today, then your data will be from yesterday’s 5:00AM backup (23 hours, 55 minutes old). Having a shorter RPO means you take more frequent backups, and thus have less data to recreate when you recover from a failure. Fortunately, there are ways to economically grab backups as frequently as every 15 minutes.

Keep this in mind: You should have a local copy of your backup and some kind of offsite copy. Your RPO is only as good as the method that takes the longest to complete (typically offsite). If you take backups every 2 hours but only takes copies of the local backups to a vault weekly, you can’t meet a 2 hour RPO. You have a weekly RPO. Consider if your building burns down, or there’s been an overnight break-in. The data you have available to you isn’t 2 hours old, it’s last week’s. So whatever your RPO is, it’s important to make sure that ALL copies of you backups are able to meet that objective.

Objectives vs Actuals

Objectives are just that – objectives. The reality is there are a lot of variables that affect actual Recovery Time and Recovery Points. It’s important to plan for them. If you have a 4-hour RTO, then prepare for a 2-hour RTO. If you have a 6-hour RPO, prepare for 2-hour RPO. This gives you a little extra slop room to account for unexpected variables that delay either objective, and still give you a good chance of hitting the required objective.

VIRTUAL MACHINES

Some backup solutions offer the ability to spin up a virtual machine based on the latest image. The backup images are saved on another computer. In the event of a total loss of the production server, the backups can be converted almost instantaneously into a brand new instance of your server, based on the latest backup image. This affords you the quickest recovery time, giving you a temporary machine to keep your business running while waiting for your primary server to be fixed.

MONITORING AND TESTING

There are a lot of options to create good, reliable backups. It requires a thorough understand of your business risk, budget and comfort levels. Whatever you choose to do, the last component to consider is monitoring and testing your backups. Regardless of the details of how/when/where you backup, ALL backups must be monitored and tested to ensure they’re working – and continue working – as expected.

GET A CUSTOMIZED SOLUTION

Whether your business requires next-to-zero downtime or can have a couple of hours before systems are up and running, there’s a solution to meet your needs.

Call today for a free consultation and quote for a customized solution that keeps your business running when disaster strikes.