The Importance of Data Backups
June 25, 2020
Backups are an essential, yet often overlooked and misunderstood, part of every organization. When the computer systems are running well, the topic gets shoved to the bottom of the meeting agenda and easily forgotten.
Backups aren’t needed…until they are
A company’s business is its data. Having current and accessible copies are critical in getting a business back in business. According to FEMA, 40 to 60 percent of small businesses never reopen after a disaster and another 25 percent, that do reopen, fail within a year. (FEMA.gov)
Those numbers alone should cause everyone to take notice. Data loss needn’t be a result of a major disaster, but as simple as accidentally deleting that report or email. In addition, backups allow tracking and backing out of software updates if issues are discovered. In such an event, data can be restored from an earlier point in time. With the right backup methodology, a major outage might be reduced to a minor inconvenience. This protects the business infrastructure from many types of unplanned events.
Data Loss Prevention
The most common reason for backups is data loss prevention. We often think backups are only needed during catastrophic events such as floods and fires. However, it might be a simple as getting back that email or document you accidentally deleted or was infected with a virus. An easily accessible backup gets you back to work quickly.
Taxes & Audits
Another reason for backups, many people do not think about, is for assistance with taxes and audits. With laws and regulations varying from location to location while constantly changing and evolving, it is important to be able to provide proof of integrity of certain files or data. This can end up saving your business valuable time and money.
Types of Backups:
It’s easy to see backups are important for a variety of reasons; but all backups are not created equal. What’s available? What’s right for me? There are different types and ways of creating backups that vary in complexity and cost.
A full backup copies all data with no discretion as to what it is copying. The benefit of this is it allows for a minimal restoration time for a business to be back up and running. The main disadvantage is that it requires the most storage and takes the longest to perform. To recover from a data loss, you simply restore the last full backup.
An incremental backup copies only the data that has changed since the previous backup. The benefit of this type of backup is that it requires less storage space and runs more quickly than a full backup. The downside is that this type takes the longest to recover from data loss. You need to restore the last full backup and every incremental backup taken since that full backup.
Differential backups are very similar to incremental backups in that they back up only the changed data, but differential backups copy all the changes since the last full backup. To recover from a data loss using differential backups, you need to restore the last full backup and only the most recent differential backup.
Mirror backups are similar to full backups but differ in that a mirror backup only keeps the most recent backup in the backup repository. This has the advantage of backing everything up but the disadvantage of having a smaller selection of backup restoration points.
Methods of Data Storage:
NAS – Otherwise called “Network Attached Storage”, NAS devices allow a (generally) large amount of storage space accessible through the network. The main downside to this type of storage is a large upfront cost. The upside to this backup method is that these devices generally have redundancy to prevent data loss if a hard drive fails.
External HDD – Also called “external hard drives” are small enclosures that connect to your PC via USB that contain a solid state or spinning hard disk. The benefits of these devices are easy accessibility, swappability, and generally requiring no configuration. However, hard drives do fail and without any redundancy you will likely lose data.
Cloud Storage – Cloud Storage is a process where all data is stored offsite through a 3rd party company usually at a data center. While this is easily the most expandable type of storage it does come with its own drawbacks. With the data being offsite it takes longer to access and restore data if a failure occurs. Secondly, is the expense; the storage space is rented or leased which means a recurring monthly or yearly cost.
Testing and validating backups must be done frequently. Too often it’s configured validated, then forgotten. The time to find out your data was not backed up is before you need it.
All backup types and technologies have their place. Do your research before choosing which fits your company’s use case. Ensure it’s working and check it often.