World Backup Day: Best practices to back up your data
Data, it is said, is the most expensive part of a computer. Components may be upgraded and equipment replaced, but the precious data contained in all machines is virtually irreplaceable if lost. That is why a good backup plan is tantamount to keeping data safe, secured, and ready to use across any number of computing devices used daily. From smartphones to laptops to servers and wearable’s—data should be secured for all your myriad of devices, both personally and professionally.
Highlighting the cause every March 31st is World Backup Day! This day brings about awareness for every individual that accesses data from any device to review their backup policies and—if none are in place—create a plan that will protect all the data on all your devices so you’re never left out in the cold again.
Data loss comes in many shapes and forms, and it affects different types of devices in varying ways. Smartphones, for example, typically experience catastrophic data loss (being the type that is irrecoverable) due to being destroyed from human actions or extensive water damage. Desktops and laptops more commonly see the storage device, such as a hard drive, failing and taking with it any data stored therein. However, data loss doesn’t have to result from hardware damage as many valid forms of loss stem from theft of equipment, corruption, and increasingly from malware infections, like the ransomware that has been infecting corporate desktops and encrypting their data, withholding the encryption key until a ransom is paid.
Follow these best practices when choosing your ideal backup solution to guarantee data will be safe and fully recoverable.
Use Remote Storage
A key factor in your backup solution is remote storage. Backing up your data and storing it on the same disk as your original data can be an exercise in futility. Off-site, or at least off-server, backups will remain viable even if your main server is compromised, allowing you to fully recover your data.
Take Backups Frequently and Regularly
Prevent loss of your critical data by ensuring backups are taken frequently and on a regular schedule. Determining how often your data is updated can help you create a schedule of how frequently your backups need to be taken. Critical data that is updated constantly will need to be backed up more regularly – even hourly, whereas more static data may only need nightly or weekly backups.
Consider Retention Span
After determining the frequency you will back your data up, it’s also vital to consider how long you will retain each backup. Keeping every backup indefinitely isn’t feasible simply due to an often limited amount of space. Most backup solutions offer a series of retention schedules, such as keeping hourly and daily backups for a week, weekly backups for a month, and monthly backups for a few months or even years. This type of schedule allows for having multiple, recent backups in the instance a recovery is needed. Good business practices include retaining certain backups, such as monthly or bi-annual, for as long as possible, if not forever. In addition, we recommend researching your industry’s data retention standards and requirements. Certain industries, such as healthcare or finance, will have strict requirements for backup retention.
Get control and reporting you can use anywhere, with ease.
Managing your backup environment should be simple, and the software you use should eliminate any guesswork that could lead to lost data. You should know at all times if your data is protected across your entire network—including remote offices—by simply looking at a dashboard. The software should be simple to configure using wizards, yet powerful enough to meet your specific needs with customizable views, job propagation, and roles-based security.
Look for broad and deep technology that supports your complete environment.
Your backup solution should accommodate your environment, not vice versa. Demand a single solution to protect your laptops, desktops, and servers regardless of the platform and applications they’re running. Beyond the broad claims, check the fine print, and the level of protection offered for applications such as Exchange.
Keep Backups Encrypted & Protected
It’s not enough to simply backup your data in an off-site location. Encrypting your backup files is an important step in data security. Backup encryption during storage ensures that your data will be exactly what you expect in the event you need to recover it.
Choose a data protection partner who has deep know-how about compliance, and the technology to ensure it.
How do you recognize a strong compliance partner? They’ll gladly show you a table of regulatory requirements, and list for you how their products, services, and technology help you satisfy them. Even better: Use a vendor who successfully completes an SAS-70 Type II audit every year which helps you comply with regulatory requirements.
Find a vendor that delivers a complete DR solution.
You can’t say your data protection is complete until you have a disaster recovery plan that is itself complete and tested. Your backup vendor should have both the product mix and professional services team to help you prepare for a worst-case scenario. Make sure they can help configure your backups so you rebound quickly. Best bet: A vendor who can train you to deal with disasters confidently, based on your company’s actual configuration.
Ensure that backup is integrated with the change control process.
Backup environments are by their nature highly dynamic. Unfortunately, within backup organizations, too often the change process for backup is equally dynamic. Just as backup must be part of the strategic planning process, on an operational level, backup must be part of an organization’s formal change control process.
Create and maintain an open issues report.
Finding and fixing problems like the ones I’ve discussed are tactical activities critical to backup success. However, the process of managing those problems effectively and establishing appropriate metrics indicative of backup quality is essential to drive systemic improvement of backup infrastructures.
These tasks may seem basic, but accomplishing them isn’t always easy. They depend on a number of key elements: appropriate reporting and measurement capabilities, a high degree of staff competency within the backup organization and solid cross-functional communication. The impediments can be significant, including costs, resource availability, skill levels, organizational politics and a host of others.