A Small Biz Owner’s Guide To Creating A Rock-Solid Backup And Data Recovery Plan
Preparing for business disasters is probably not your cup of tea – unless you’re a doomsday prepper outside of the office. However, news headlines summing up the data loss and cybersecurity fiascos that hit the likes of the NHS and Sony say otherwise.
If you’re running a business, taking extra precautions to safeguard your data is no longer optional. It’s a must.
Let us help you stay in control of your data.
In this brief guide, we will look at some simple steps and tips for creating a reliable backup and data recovery plan for your organization.
Why You Need A Real Backup And Data Recovery Solution
Backing up data may come naturally to some security-conscious business owners. But chances are, you’ve seen companies larger than mom-and-pop shops still fail to back up. Perhaps they’re not convinced?
If you’re in the same boat, the following reasons will make you think otherwise.
Reason number one why you need a real backup solution:
You are in the software business. Everyone else is. Whether you run a retail store, a creative agency, or a startup, you rely on data and software to do business.
Second, today’s customers expect your availability 24/7, regardless if you’re a small business with less than 10 employees or a large enterprise.
And last but not the least:
Threats and risks to your business data can strike at a moment’s notice.
The list includes disasters like earthquakes and structural fires, hackers armed with malware, insider theft, and employees with poor data hygiene. All of these and more can compromise mission-critical systems and confidential information.
If one of these threats hits and destroys your servers today, where will your business be after 24 hours? Will customers be able to transact with you as usual? Or will it cripple your company?
When a ransomware locked out South Korean hosting company Nayana from their servers, the company had no choice but to pay $1 million to get their data back! Not everyone has the luxury of being able to pay a 7-figure ransom.
Unless you have a reliable backup system in place, your chances of rebuilding and operating in a “close to current” state, just before the disaster, are pretty slim.
Perhaps you’re wondering:
“Why can’t I just use sync and share solutions for backup?”
If you’re a one-man business or a self-employed professional (aka freelancer), Google Drive and Dropbox may work as a backup solution. If you grow bigger, however, you’re doing your business a disservice by staying with sync and share software.
These platforms are built for, you guessed it, syncing and sharing files to as many devices as possible. They lack the critical features real backup solutions have like:
- File versioning or point-in-time recovery
- Protects only a portion of your data (ex: synced folder)
- Not addressing potential problems like losing an entire server
But perhaps the biggest disadvantage to sync software is that they’re prone to data loss. Synchronization databases, desktop clients, and synced folders can get corrupted. They may also stop working for hard-to-tell reasons leaving gaping holes in what was supposed to be a constant stream of backups.
The 3-2-1 Backup Strategy
So if sync and share solutions don’t cut the mustard, what does?
Answer: the 3-2-1 backup strategy.
This strategy states that you should have:
- Three copies of your files, folders, and data
- Two local copies
- And, at least, one offsite backup
We’ll look at each of the components below to give you a better understanding of how the strategy and why it’s effective.
First on the list is the local or original copies of your data. They sit on desktops, laptops, and servers. Note, too, that printers may also store information, like soft copies of important business documents (ex: RFQ, employee contracts, etc).
If you’re using a managed printing service, you will want to coordinate with your service provider to ensure these machines are backed-up, too.
The first layer of backups sits on site. Backing up files locally lets you access the most recently saved copy or version of a file instantly. Meaning accidentally deleting or overwriting a file will only cause minimal disruptions to work.
You can use hard disk drives and even thumb drives for local backups, though hardly recommended.
HDDs and thumb drives will fail, which throws a monkey wrench in your backup plans. If you need to go this route (ex: due to budget concerns), make sure you have two local backups just to be safe.
Optical media are more reliable than external drives and are more cost-effective for small businesses. Blu-ray discs, in particular, are an excellent choice. Not only are they hardy, Blu-ray discs can also have up to 128GB of storage space.
Businesses with 50 or more employees, on the other hand, are better served by a network attached storage (NAS).
In a nutshell, a NAS is a special purpose machine without hard drives. After filling the empty bays with hard disk drives, though, a NAS operates as a file server that gives everyone within the network access to all shared files.
Moreover, the hard drives built for NAS provide large storage capacity and has better tolerance against hardware failure.
At Least One Offsite Backup
Your mission-critical data may be safely tucked into an onsite office NAS. But if theft or natural disasters strike, local backups won’t do you any good. For these scenarios, you need an offsite backup to bounce back.
You have plenty of offsite backup vendors to choose from, like eVault, Mozy, and BackBlaze. These providers have their own backup clients. But if you already have one, some service will let you use a different software and provide you with cloud storage.
When shopping for an offsite backup provider, you will want to pay close attention to the following:
- Cost of storage: With the cost per GB of space on a constant drop, paying more for storage than you should don’t make sense. Today, backup providers offer affordable storage plans, which rounds up to $0.050/GB or less.
- Data encryption when in transit and at rest: Make sure the provider has strong encryption protocols in place to protect your data – not only during transfer but also when data is at rest in their facility.
- Reliable software: A backup service whose software fails routinely creates a false sense of security. Take advantage of the free trial or account, and test the service (and the software) for reliability before signing up.
- Added redundancy: If you can, go with cloud backup providers who provide extra security by backing up your backups to another data center. So in the event that an asteroid hits your office and workmen accidentally cut the power to the first data center, you can rest easy knowing an extra copy of your data is safe and sound at another facility.
Must-Haves For Your Backup And Data Recovery Plan
You already have a time-tested strategy in place. We also looked at some options for backup software and hardware. But your system isn’t complete yet. You still need to account for other critical components.
Key Performance Metrics
As with any business initiatives, you need metrics in place to create and measure your backup system and its efficacy. Here are the three most important KPIs:
- Recovery Time Objective (RTO) refers to the amount of time you need to recover lost data.
- Recovery Point Objective (RPO) is the maximum amount of time in which your business might lose data due to a major incident. Establishing the RPO sets the limit for your IT team to work to.
- Maximum Tolerable Period of Disruption (MTPoD) is the maximum amount of time your business can stay unavailable before stakeholders, like customers and investors, deem the situation unacceptable.
Frequency And Extent Of Backups
Next, you will also need to decide what type(s) of backups to use. You have three types to choose from: full, incremental, and differential backups.
- Full backups are the most basic type of backup operation. As the name suggests, this method creates a complete copy of a data set (ex: from an individual server or laptop) to a backup media like a DVD or hard drive. Full backups reduce your RTO but know that it also needs more time and storage space to carry out.
- Incremental backups, on the other hand, only copy the data that has changed since the previous operation. Hence the name incremental. Since they only copy the most recent changes, incremental backup operations complete faster and require less storage then full backups.
- Lastly, differential backups copy changes from the last operation – but it will also copy all data changes since the initial full backup. The storage and time necessary to carry out differential backups are more than incremental but less than full backups.
Daily full backups can work if you have the resources. Otherwise, you can use a combination of a weekly full backup and a daily incremental or differential backup to cover your bases.