The 7 Principles of Data Backup and Recovery
Today, every business uses networked computers and handles data. Therefore, data recovery has become a necessity. To recover lost data, you need backups. To keep your backups current, they must be taken regularly. To make use of backups, you need a ready-to-implement recovery plan. This has created the backup and recovery suite now seen as a mandatory part of your tech stack.
The core principles of data backup and recovery focus on business continuity. First and foremost, your business should be able to recover from a data-disaster and – ideally – suffer as little interruption to your technical workflow as possible. Frequent backups and swift recovery plans are what make this possible. Today we are exploring how backup and recovery services are designed to keep businesses running in the face of otherwise devastating data disasters.
The 4 Types of Data Disaster
- Hacking & Ransomware
- Natural Disasters
- Employee Error
- Corrupted Data
A data disaster is anything that deletes, changes, or exposes your company data. These four types of disasters are common enough that everyone should have a recovery plan and the appropriate backups to rebuild after one hit. Ransomware, much like bad weather, hits everyone indiscriminately. Employee error is a matter of statistical likelihood, and every now and then, a software update will corrupt itself and all the programs stored data due to a minuscule technical error.
Because these disasters can happen to any business, it’s vital to be prepared for hell and high water with backups ready to implement.
The Essential Purpose of Backups
Backups are a save-point for your business data, and you can make backups of anything digital. You can backup your databases, your CRM files, and the settings for programs frequently used by the company. You can even backup your office network configuration to help quickly reinstall in a new office or with freshly reset equipment.
Backups make it possible, if implemented correctly, to restore your entire business tech stack if infected, wiped, or if networked equipment is lost in physical disasters. The key to taking backups is to know what you may need to restore. Client files are obvious, but it’s also worth your time to backup internal files and documents, active projects, and configurations for your network and workstations. The more you can restore quickly after a disaster, the better.
Recovery is the Implementation of Backups
Of course, a backup is only as good as its recovery plan. If you have no way to transfer your database backups into the current tables, then your backup is just notes to transcribe by hand. The recovery plan creates a ready-to-implement procedure for data restoration. It is likely that your total recovery plan will be made of a stack of disaster-specific recovery procedures.
For example, you may have one recovery plan that restores databases and another that can restore your network after a malware infection and factory-reset of infected devices. Many companies start with a series of “What If” scenarios to guide their choice of recovery plans. What if hackers infect your entire network and all the workstations? What would you need to recover? Or what if a historic storm wipes out your local server bank, what would it take to rebuild with fresh servers?
Recovery plans help to direct which backups you should take, then make it possible to turn that archived data back into your working tech stack and active data.
The final piece of the puzzle is cloud implementation. Backups have always been important but now they are invincible. Cloud-stored backups aren’t just in one place with vulnerable physical server banks. Cloud storage uses echos of the data in multiple locations all over the world. It “floats” between server banks and serves data from whichever hub is closest to the query. This means that your backups are both immune to physical disasters and available online from any location.
The cloud adds an essential layer of protection and accessibility to the backup and recovery implementation.
The 7 Principles of Data Backup and Recovery
Now that we’ve explored the essential purpose of backup recovery, let’s dive into the principles of implementation.
1. Automate Frequent Backups
Always take frequent backups. The most recent backup determines how much of a time-warp your business tech experiences when recovery is complete. If your last backup was a week previous, then you have effectively lost a week of data – whether or not this is OK for your business model.
Backups are often best taken in the middle of the night when data is ‘stable’ at each date. It’s also impractical to rely on a human to take a backup at the right time every cycle – so automate. Make sure you have a well-designed system that takes automated backups of every file, database, and system you want a ‘save state’ to return to.
2. Increase Backup Coverage
Spread out your backup coverage so that more of your company’s data can be restored from a save-state. For more stable and unchanging data, you may need to take less frequent automated backups. For example, consider taking a backup of your employee’s workstation install and configuration. Create a recovery plan that loads all the right programs and company settings onto a brand new computer – which is useful both for post-reset recovery and incorporating new units quickly.
Back up your network configuration so that this can be restored quickly after an outage or infection. Back up your working files, not just saved database files, so that employees can jump right back into their projects after an interruption.
3. Optimize Backup Fidelity and Storage
Make sure your backups are high-quality and find ways to store them more compactly. This is an opposing process that must be done simultaneously. When prioritizing backup fidelity, your storage size often goes up. When optimizing storage, you may lose detail in your backups. Work with data experts to refine how your backups are taken and stored for optimal storage and recovery performance.
4. Encrypt All Stored Backups
Always encrypt your data, especially saved copies of your company’s inner systems. Encryption is our best tool to stop hackers from succeeding even after an infiltration. When hackers peek at or steal encrypted files, all they get is gibberish without the decryption key. Encrypt your backups from the moment they are extracted, even before they are uploaded to the cloud, to ensure your data is safe in transit, storage, and when returned to you for a recovery implementation.
5. Store Backups in Multiple Locations
The fifth core principle of backup recovery is to store in multiple locations. Back before the cloud, this was a vital piece of advice -and still is. The cloud makes it easy to keep your backups ‘floating’ so that no physical disaster can harm them. However, you still want a few copies in other places. You may choose to keep hard copies in the office or server bank. You may want to use multiple cloud services, in case one is compromised in any way. Make sure that one accident or act of sabotage could not wipe out all your stored backups – whether that disaster is digital or physical.
6. Create Recovery Plans for Diverse Disasters
Don’t just plan for one disaster; plan for all of them. Keep in mind that recovering a few pieces of data lost in an editing error is very different from restoring your entire database. Realistically, these should be two separate types of recovery plans. You will likely have around a dozen recovery plans based on what you are prepared to use your backups to achieve and preserve.
7. Test Backups and Recovery Plans
Lastly and with great importance: Always test your recovery plans and the fidelity of your backups. Never set up a backup recovery system and trust that it is creating usable backups without monitoring. When you first implement your backups, test every recovery plan to make sure that they effectively restore the data exactly as you would need in a disaster. Then, every few months, take a recent backup and run it through the recovery plans again to ensure you’re still covered.
Be especially aware if changes have been made to your tech-stack that may require updates to your recovery plan implementation.
Building the Right Backup and Recovery for Every Business
Each business’ tech stack and workflow is unique, which also makes your need for backups unique. Your data backups and recovery plans should be hand-tailored to the company’s needs. If you are looking to build or improve your company’s approach to data backup and recovery, contact us today!