Many times the answer to this question is a resounding YES. Data backup is something that everyone knows is important, yet always seem to relegate to the cheapest option possible or forget about until Billy Bob in accounting deletes half of the company files. Oops! In fact think about it, when was the last time you actually tested one of your backups by restoring from it? Do you have failed backups? Do you only backup a portion of your data so you don’t go over your limit? Did you add a location where you save data, but forget to back it up? Is the data that was backed up recoverable – in other words, did it get corrupted somehow in the process? Do you have any idea about all of this? Most people don’t.
Every so often, we have someone who is not a managed client call and ask for help because their server or main computer suffered a failure. They really need it back up and running and need access to their data. When asked if it was backed up we get some variation of “well it is supposed to be backed up”, which could mean just about anything. So now the recovery process just got a lot more difficult, more expensive, and less certain. Many of those folks lose data and in the process cause themselves a lot of work to try to recreate that data. In the event of disasters where most or all data was lost, some 25% or so of businesses never recover and eventually shut down.
Sometimes folks are also sold on odd ideas of backup. Some of these are more hardware redundancy than backup. Another thing that more and more people think is keeping their data safe is cloud file syncing. There is some safety there, but it is certainly not backed up and is still risky.
Backup has changed over the last couple of years. Tape is on its way out for sure. Cloud based backups have become ubiquitous, which is good and bad. So, what does a good, solid backup look like? Here are a few things to consider.
Your backup should contain a local instance for quick restores and offsite or cloud for redundancy and safety. If you only have an offsite, or cloud, copy of your data and the time comes to restore a large amount of data, then be prepared to wait quite a while! A local instance will save you time for most routine restores and the offsite instance serves as a safe copy for you.
Your backup data should be protected from prying eyes. This means encryption while it is being sent to its destination and at rest at its destination. If it’s encrypted, even if it’s hosted by a third party they won’t be able to view it.
These days many backup vendors incorporate delta backups, which means that the only thing that is backed up is changes in files. This technology means much quicker backup times. Now the thing to look for is delta restores. A few vendors (very few) have incorporated restoring only changes in files, which greatly reduces time to restore as well.
Keep data at specified intervals
Your backup not only needs to be able to keep a few versions of files that you backup, it needs to be able to keep monthly versions, or quarterly, or yearly, or whatever your business requires. Inexpensive cloud based backups do not incorporate this feature. Why is this important? Do you know the last time that file that you need to restore had the correct information in it? Quite a few data restores need to go back a more than a few versions to find the correct one, or one that isn’t corrupt, or one that Billy Bob accidentally deleted 6 months ago, or…. well you get the idea.
Test restores on a regular basis
Stories in the IT world abound of backups that were no good when trying to restore. This is THE reason you should test restoring data on a regularly scheduled basis. There is nothing worse than having the good feeling that your data was backed up being destroyed by finding out that the backup is no good for one reason or another.
What kind of backup do you need – backup only? Disaster Recovery? Business Continuity?
The last thing to decide is how long you can be without your data while it is being restored. If a disaster occurs, will your business be ok while you order another server or computer to restore the data to – days, or even a couple of weeks? Or, would you need to be able to spool up another instance of that server or computer within a few minutes or something in between? That is the difference between a simple data backup and Business Continuity.
Hopefully this has given you some good food for thought. The safety of your data really needs to be taken seriously and should be managed by you or by someone else.