Cybersecurity is not something to be taken lightly by businesses.
It is not enough to have basic protections like anti-virus software to protect your valuable files. Hackers spend their time finding ways to get around it. Sooner or later, they will.
When that happens, you will not have to worry about permanently losing data.
That is if you have implemented a backup strategy to protect your business’s information.
Why Having a Backup Strategy is Vital
Losing data can not only put your customers’ data at risk but also have a significant impact on your credibility.
The average cost of a breach is seven million dollars as of 2019. It is estimated that 60% of companies that experience data loss close within six months.
Alternatively, you could be at risk of losing data permanently. Viruses and malware that attack your hardware can destroy it, but these are just some of the most dominant threats.
Studies show that 45% of all unplanned downtime is caused by hardware failures, while 60% of IT professionals say that careless employees are the most significant risk to their data.
All of these risks can cost your company money and, without an adequate backup system in place; you could lose everything.
Even if your company manages to survive a data loss, it could be costly. Research shows that, on average, companies pay $7 million to recover from a loss. Many companies do not have that kind of money to spare.
These expenses, as high as they are, only tell part of the story. The other price may be something irreplaceable. I am talking about the faith and trust of your customers. If they feel their data is not safe with you, they will take their business elsewhere.
The solution is to create and implement a data backup strategy. With the right tools, planning, and training, you can protect your data.
The Components of Efficient Backup Strategies
Before you create your backup strategy, you should know what to include.
Let us break down some of the backup strategy best practices:
- Cost. You will need a data backup plan that you can afford. It is a good idea to think beyond dollars. Keep the potential expense of a breach or loss in mind. Then, weigh that against the projected cost of your backup system. That will help guide you.
- Where to store copies of your data? Some companies prefer cloud-based backup. Others like to have a physical backup. The most cautious companies use multiple backup sources. That way, if one backup fails they have another in place.
- What data risks do you face? Every company must think about malware and phishing attacks. However, those might not be the only risks you face. A company in an area that is prone to flooding must consider water damage. Having an off-site backup and data storage solution would be wise.
- How often should you back up your data? Some companies generate data quickly. In such cases, a daily backup may not be sufficient. Hourly backups may be needed. For other companies whose data is rarely updated, a once-weekly backup may be enough.
- Who will be responsible for your backup planning? Employee training is essential to an effective file backup strategy. You need knowledgeable people you can rely on to keep things running.
These things are essential, but they are only the tip of the iceberg. You must consider each aspect of your backup plan in detail. Then, you will have to implement it as quickly and efficiently as possible.
Step 1: Assessing Your Company’s Backup Needs
The first step is to assess your company’s backup needs. There are many things to consider. Let us break it down so you can walk through it.
What Data Do You Need to Protect?
The short answer to this question is everything. Losing any data permanently is not something you want to risk. You need data to keep your business operational.
There are some specific questions to ask, both in the short and long-term. For example:
- You might need the ability to restore data as quickly as possible.
- You might need the ability to recover data.
- You might need to keep services available to clients.
- You may need to back up databases, files, operating systems, applications, and configurations.
The more comprehensive your data backup plan is, the less time it will take for you to get back in business. These questions can help point you in the direction of the right backup solution for your company. You may also want to think about what data is most important.
You might be able to live without an immediate back-p of somethings. However, you might need instant access to others.
What Are Your Data Risks?
Given the current pace of cybercrime growth, you will want to consider the best practices to protect your data from hackers. Here are some questions to ask to determine which risks you must consider.
- Has my company ever been hacked before?
- Are careless employees a concern when it comes to security?
- Is my location at risk for weather-related damage such as flooding or wildfires?
- Do clients log in to my system to access data or services?
Asking these questions will help you identify your risks. A company in a hurricane-prone area might be worried about flooding or wind damage. A customer system linked to your data adds additional risks. Be as thorough as you can as you assess your risks.
What Should Your Backup Infrastructure Be?
The infrastructure of your backup system should match your needs. If you are concerned about the possibility of hardware failure or natural disasters, then you will want to consider off-site backup solutions.
There may also be some benefit to having an on-site physical backup for quick recovery of data. It can save you if you lose your internet service, as might be the case during an emergency. The best way to avoid a continued business disruption is to choose a remote cloud disaster recovery site, possibly with your data center provider. You need to pick a place that would provide you with access to IT equipment, internet service, and any other assets you need to run your business.
Imagine a hurricane hits your facility. A disaster recovery plan enables you to continue your business from a different location and minimize the potential loss of money.
How Long Does Backed Up Data Need to be Stored?
Finally, you will need to consider how long to keep the data you store. Storage is cumulative. If you expect to accumulate a lot of data, you will need space to accommodate it. Some companies have regulatory requirements for backup. If you do, that will impact your decision.
You should evaluate your needs and think about what structure might be best for you.
Step 2: Evaluating Options To Find The Best Backup Strategy
After you assess your backup needs, the next step is to evaluate your options. The backup solution that is best for another company might not work for you. Let us review the backup options available to you.
A hard drive backup is kept on-site and often mounted on a wall. They usually come with a storage component. The primary benefit of hard drives is that they can easily be attached to your network.
The downside of a stand-alone hardware backup is that if it fails, you will not have a backup. For that reason, some companies choose to use multiple backup systems.
Buying backup software may be less expensive than investing in dedicated hardware. Many software options can be installed on your system. You may not need to buy a separate server for it.
You may need to install the software on a virtual machine. A software backup may be the best choice if your infrastructure changes often.
Cloud services offer backup as a service or offsite backup. These allow you to run your backup and store it in the vendor’s cloud infrastructure.
The benefit of cloud-based storage compared to dedicated servers is that it is affordable and secure. Companies with sensitive data and those who are subject to regulatory requirements may not be able to use it.
A popular solution is to implement a hybrid backup solution. These combine software and cloud backups to provide multiple options for restoring data.
The benefit of a hybrid service is that it protects you two ways. You will have on-site backups if you need them. Moreover, you will also be able to get your data from the cloud if necessary.
You should also consider what each option means for your staff. Unless you elect to use a comprehensive BaaS option, your employees will need to handle the backups. That is an important consideration.
Backup Storage Options
You will also need to think about where to store your backups. Here again, you have more than one option.
- You can back up your data to local or USB disks. This option is best for backing up individual files and hardware. It is not ideal for networks. If the drive is destroyed, you will lose your backup.
- Network Attached Storage (NAS) and Storage Area Networks (SAN) are also options. These are ideal for storing data for your network. They make for easy recovery network data recovery in most situations. The exception is if your hardware or office is destroyed.
- Backing data up to tapes may be appealing to some companies. The tapes would be shipped to a secure location for storage. This keeps your data safe. The downsides are that you will have to wait for tapes to arrive to restore your data. They are best suited for restoring your whole system, not individual files.
- Cloud storage is increasingly popular. You will need an internet connection to send your data to the cloud. There are options available to help you transmit a significant amount of data. You will be able to access your data from anywhere, but not without an internet connection.
To decide which option is best, you will need to consider two metrics, RTO and RPO. The first is your Recovery Point Objective or RPO. That is the maximum time you are willing to lose data on your systems.
The second is your Recovery Time Objective or RTO. That is how long you want it to take for you to restore normal business operations.
Step 3: Budgeting
The third step is creating a budget for your backup plan.
Some solutions are more expensive than others. Buying new hardware is costly and may require downtime to install.
Cloud-based solutions are more affordable.
As your budget, here are some things to consider.
- What is the maximum amount you want to spend?
- Do you plan to allocate your budget as an item of capital expenditure? Perhaps you would rather log it is an operating expense. Some options will allow you to do the latter.
- What would it cost you if you lost data to a cyber security attack or disaster?
- How much will it cost to train employees to manage the backup? If you are not choosing BaaS, someone in your company will have to take responsibility for backup management.
If you choose backup as a service, then you may be able to pay monthly and avoid a significant, up-front expense. Be realistic about your needs and what you must spend to meet them.
Sometimes, companies underspend on backups. One reason is that a backup system is not viewed as a profit center. It may help to view it as a data loss prevention solution, instead.
Step 4: Select a Platform
Next, it is time to choose a platform.
If you have made careful evaluations, you may already know what you want. As I mentioned earlier, some companies prefer multiple backup options to cover themselves.
Choosing only one backup option may cover your needs. If you are sure you will have an internet connection; a cloud back-up might be sufficient.
You can access it from anywhere and get your data quickly.
The most significant argument against a cloud-based service provider is confidentiality.
If you are storing sensitive data, you may not want to rely on an outside company. Regulations may even prohibit you from doing so. If that is the case, think about off-site, secure storage for your backups. That way, you can get them if your business is damaged.
Step 5: Select a Data Backup Vendor
It is time to choose a vendor to help you implement your new backup strategy. You may opt for an all-in-one service. Some companies can provide hardware, software, and cloud-based solutions. They may also be able to help you with employee training.
Any time you choose a vendor, you should request a data center RFP or proposal. That is the best way to know which options are available to you. As you compare quotes, take all elements of the project into consideration.
- The overall cost of implementation
- Which options are included
- How long implementation is expected to take
- The vendor’s reputation
Asking for references is a smart idea. Call, and ask them about every aspect of their experience. Make sure to ask about service and support during the process. Then, once you have gathered the information you need, you can award the contract to the vendor you choose.
Step 6: Create a Timetable
The vendor you choose may provide you with an estimated timeframe for implementation. You should still create a timetable of your own. It can help you plan for implementation. A timeline is essential. Having one will allow you to prepare to support the new backup protocol.
Here are some things to consider as you create your timetable.
- What things do you need to do before the vendor can begin work? Examples might be creating a master backup of existing data or designating a team to oversee the process.
- Do you need to get budget approval before you begin? If so, how long will it take?
- What timeline has the vendor provided for completion of the system? You may want to build a bit of extra time into your schedule. That way, a delay on the vendor’s end will not throw you off.
- Will the installation of your system interrupt business? Can you schedule hardware installation on a night or weekend to avoid it?
- How will the project affect your clients, if at all? What can you do to shield them from delays?
Taking these things into consideration, create your timetable. Adding a bit of cushioning is smart. It allows you to make room for the unexpected. There are always things you cannot control. Building some extra time into your schedule can help you prepare for them.
Step 7: Create a Step-by-Step Recovery Plan
As your plan is constructed, put together detailed instructions on how to use it. Ideally, this should include an easy to follow a security incident response checklist.
Keep in mind that the people in charge of backups may refine your procedures. That is a natural part of doing business.
At the minimum, your recovery process should include:
- The type of recovery to necessary
- The data set to be recovered
- Dependencies that affect the recovery
- Any post-restoration steps to be taken
You may need input from your vendors or service providers. As much as possible, the people who will be responsible for backups should be involved.
Step 8: Test Your New Backup System
The final step is to test your backups. Testing should be an ongoing task. Ideally, you would do it after every backup. Since that is not practical, you will need to choose a schedule that works.
Let us start by talking about what to test.
You will want to check to make sure that:
- Your backup was successful, and the data you to secure is there
- Your restoration process is smooth and goes without a hitch
- Employees know what to do and when to do it
- There are no glitches or problems with the backup
That is a lot to test. Let us start with the data, since for most companies that is the most important thing. Data testing may involve:
- File recovery. Can you retrieve an individual file from the backup? This is the most straightforward test, but a necessary one. Users may accidentally delete or damage files. You need to be able to get them back.
- VM recovery. Virtual machines only apply to virtual environments. If that applies to you, you will want to make sure you can restore the VM from your backups. You will also want to check your application licensing for conflicts.
- Physical server recovery can vary depending on your hardware configuration. Some back up from SAN, while others use a local disk. Make sure you know what the process is and how to do it.
- Data recovery may also vary. However, if you are backing up a database at the app level, you may want to check that you can restore it.
- Application recovery can be complicated. You will need to understand the relationships between your apps and servers. It may be best to conduct this test in an isolated environment.
Once you have confirmed the backups work, you will want to create a testing schedule. There are several options:
- Set up a time-based schedule. For example, you might do a complete test of your backup once a week, or once a month. The frequency should be decided by your needs.
- Schedule additional tests after changes in your data. For example, if you add a new app or upgrade an old one, testing is a good idea.
- If you have an influx of data, schedule a test to make sure it is secure. The data may come with a new application. Alternatively, it may be the result of a merger with another company. Either way, you will want to be sure that the backup is capturing the new data.
With a schedule in place, you will be sure that your backups will be there if you need them.
Don’t Overlook Backup Strategies For Your Business
No company should be without a comprehensive backup system.
It is the only way to prevent data loss. Every business has some risk. Whether your primary concern is a natural disaster, cybercrime, or employee carelessness, having a secure backup system can give you the peace of mind you need.