The implementation and management of data backup is probably one of the most important tasks that any IT provider has to undertake as it forms the assurance for the users of any IT system that everything on the system is not only backed up and safe but also can be restored as quickly as possible in the event of a disaster.
There are really two components to any effective backup strategy and each of those components in turn comes with lots of other requirements in order for it to be an effective means of business continuity.
The first component is the data backup itself. An effective backup strategy should identify all of the important components within the IT system and the data that each of those components contains. That data can then be backed up in the most efficient and comprehensive way possible in order to ensure its safety and the ability to have it restored in the event of a disaster – whether that be a failure of systems or simply down to user error such as the accidental deletion of files.
There are many different ways in which the data can be backed up but the end goal is always the same and some of the most important aspects that need to be considered include how the data is backed up to ensure its integrity, where the data is backed up to – for example it is important to have on site backups as they tend to come with the fastest restore times, but it is also important to have off site backups because they protect against more serious disasters such as on site fires and floods. Backup systems can be configured to transfer backups from your location to a data center or cloud storage provider.
The retention period for backups is also an important consideration – depending on the importance of the data, the frequency with which it is changed and the room for errors to arise will all dictate how long the backups need to be kept for. The longer the retention period the more expensive storage will become but also the further back the restore points will go which gives greater abilities in terms of recovering from disasters and also errors in the data.
Data Recovery and Business Continuity
The second aspect of an effective backup plan is in the planning of recovery scenarios – it is all well and good having your data backed up regularly but this is not sufficient without also having tried and tested restore procedures in place as well as regular checks on the integrity of the backups.
A solid data protection plan will include precise restore times for every type of disaster scenario that has been considered and these restore times will form part of a business continuity plan – in other words, in the event of a disaster how quickly can the IT system be restored to working order thus allowing business to continue as normal. This is extremely important because down time for any business costs money and so the shorter the downtime following on from a disaster, the better.
This downtime can be mitigated by an effective backup and recovery plan that includes on site backups for shorter recovery times and also off site backups for recovery from all different types of disaster scenarios no matter how severe.
For businesses that require up time at all costs additions can be made to ensure business continuity including virtualisation of backups so that entire IT systems can be restored not only to different hardware but also can be restored to virtual environments that are accessible remotely in the event of a disaster. When required these virtualised replicas of the production environment can be updated on a daily or even hourly basis and can provide a fully working system that is ready to operate almost immediately following on from even the most severe of disasters.