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Your data is your businesses biggest asset. What would happen to your business if all of your data was compromised and lost, either partially or completely? Would you be able to recover from this kind of data loss?

Having a backup plan is the first step in protecting this valuable asset. You can save yourself time, money, and stress by starting a plan and sticking to that plan.

The following are the basic things to consider when developing a data backup plan.

Audit your data for requirements

When you only have one shared drive, or you only need a single copy of a shared folder, backups are not too involved and are pretty simple to plan for and run. However, once you start adding mail servers, databases, separate servers, different directories, and have different retention periods or archival purposes, backups can start to get more complicated and what’s needed to perform those backups becomes more complicated as well.

Performing an audit of your data and requirements can give you a clearer picture of your backups and what to include in your backup plan.

When performing your audit, make sure to inventory all the servers that need to be backed up, what function each server holds, as an example if it’s a database server, a mail server, a file server, etc., and how far you need to go back to retrieve data before it’s no longer needed.  Once this is determined you can find software or a service provider that will adhere to these requirements.

What will you backup to?

With faster Internet speeds and with storage becoming so inexpensive, there are many options for you when it comes to data backups. Additionally, there are software considerations as well as media considerations to take into account when determining what solution will be best.

Amongst your options are offsite/online storage, tapes, and hard drives. These options all hold different pros and cons.

  • Tapes

These are typically faster for backups, but they need to be stored off site when not in use and need to be accessible if any data is to be recovered. Additionally tapes and tape drives are expensive, and have a limited capacity for the speed.

  • Hard Drives

Hard drives also need to be stored off site and need to be easily accessible in the event of a recovery. They are however a much cheaper investment for the capacities they offer. They are slower for backups however and a full backup can take 4 times as long as a tape backup

  • Online/offsite

This type of storage is fairly inexpensive, can be fast and is easy to access in the event of a recovery. It also usually allows for incremental backups that allow a greater retention period.

However these are all limited by your internet connection. If you have a slow connection, a full image backup can take days to complete, especially when backing up multiple servers.

Backup scheduling

Depending on your media and your backup method selection, choosing a backup schedule can be just as important of a factor for your data backup plan.

If running a full backup every day, this should be run in non-peak times. When running backups with large amounts of data, significant infrastructure resources are used to run the backup. This will put stress on other systems such as the servers and network infrastructure itself. This will cause performance issues for databases and for your internal network.

If however running a type of backup that allows for many small incremental backups, this is usually not as great of a performance impact and can allow for a better retention period.

With an incremental backup, data can be backed up based on previous successful backups and only records information that has changed since the last successful backup based on a backup image.

Can your data be recovered?

When planning for data backups, you should always make sure that the backups that have completed can also be recovered in a short period of time.  What good is a backup if it takes several days to recover information? You should always know how long it takes to recover your data. This can be done by performing scheduled restores. During these restores you should plan a time to perform full system recoveries as well as performing spot recoveries of random data.

For instance you may schedule once per year to practice a full system recovery and schedule once per month to recover data chosen at random. This will ensure that your backups are useful in a true disaster or in case of regular recovery.

Managed service providers of backup systems will typically be able to perform these sample restores for you to their demo hardware.

Furthermore, you should also make sure that there is accurate reporting of all backups and whether or not there were successful or failed backup attempts and the reasoning for failures if there are any.

Secure your data

It’s is very easy to, especially in the case of media that you keep with your as opposed to offsite media, expose your data to potential security vulnerabilities. You may currently be running backups to a hard drive and taking that drive home with you on a regular basis, but how often do you leave your vehicle or the data itself unattended. As an example you may stop at a gas station on the way home with the data media in the back seat of the car.

Making sure that you secure your data with encryption is just as important as making sure that you have an accurate backup. What good is that backup if anyone can access that data and restore it to their systems? By using encryption you eliminate the risk of that possibility. Encryption is very easy to perform and most systems include encryption.

Final Thoughts

No one is immune from the need to recover data. It can be very stressful when data is lost, accidentally deleted, or if a disaster strikes, but being prepared can help get everything back to normal as easily as possible.

Having a good backup plan that follows the guidelines discussed here can help keep your data safe and secure and ensure that when disaster strikes you are not left unprepared.