Regardless of the size of your organization, data backup and recovery must be a crucial part of your IT operations and IT planning. Without proper backup and recovery techniques in place, you are dooming your business to failure. Yet so few business operators truly understand the complexities of backup, and many more fail to even grasp the basic concepts that surround the ideologies of backup and recovery.
Today, there are many technologies that encompass the backup realm, which can range from basic tape backup systems to complex multi-server SAN environments, to cloud-enabled platforms. However, the core concepts and best practices of data backup and recovery still apply to every computing environment.
First off, a backup and recovery plan should not be thought of as an equivalent or replacement for a disaster recovery plan. In reality, a backup and recovery plan is only the first step in the long process of creating business continuity and disaster recovery plans. Simply put, a backup and recovery plan defines a business’s data backup and recovery needs and specifies the workflow that meets those needs.
The Fundamentals of Backup and Recovery
Typically, the first step toward meeting the basic needs of data backup and recovery comes from creating a plan. However, before creating that plan, businesses may also take into consideration budgeting, specifically how much funding is available and how that funding will be sourced to implement data protection. For some businesses, that funding is wrapped up within IT budgets or operational expenses. Simply put, knowing what budget is available will dictate the level of protection afforded. Once the funding issue is put to bed, a plan can be developed.
A backup plan is actually two plans, one for data backup and another for recovery. Of course, the more complex the business, the more complex the plans. Some plans may be just a simple set of instructions that describe how to backup and restore data in one location and from one or two applications, or they might include multiple sets of conditional instructions for backing up specific data in certain locations, from certain applications.
Developing a data-protection strategy that encompasses backup and recovery will depend a great deal on the applications in use, how the data is stored, and what hardware is used to execute those applications. What’s more, other factors, such as archival needs, compliance regulations, and multiple site support requirements may have to be considered as well.
The Backup Plan
In its most basic form, a backup plan needs to include a mechanism for ensuring that each backup will be initiated and completed. What’s more, the plan should include a process for confirming that backups are capable of being restored. All plans should include a process for backing up new systems so that they can be quickly restored to a baseline configuration. The entire backup plan should be available as a complete set of instructions that provides the hands-on guide to your backup process. One of the most important elements of a backup plan is making sure someone is assigned to either performing backups, or at the very least, verifying that backups have been accomplished.
The Recovery Plan
A recovery plan tends to be more complex than a backup plan. For example, recovery plans need to describe common recovery chores, such as how to restore a single file, how to restore a directory, how to restore an entire computer, how to restore to a different target, and so on. The more complex the environment, the more complex the recovery plan, meaning that those putting together recovery plans may have to consider elements such as system dependencies and the order in which systems are to be restored, otherwise problems will arise. Other considerations include who should be able to perform restorations, and what permissions are needed to accomplish a restoration.
As with any other technological process, data backup and recovery tasks are framed by industry accepted best practices, which in turn can ease the burden of backup and improve the overall backup capabilities, some of those best practices are:
- Leverage Automation: Backup services and products that are highly automated and wizard-driven prove to be a boon for those seeking the quickest and easiest way to back up critical data. Automated backup validation and error notification should be an essential part of the solution to ease backup worries and keep administrators in the loop.
- Look to the Cloud: An important element of backup includes the best practice of keeping backups off site in case of a loss of facility. The cloud makes an excellent target for backup data, simply because it is definitely off site and reachable from alternate sites as well.
- Be Time Sensitive: Backup speed is an important consideration, especially with businesses turning more and more into 24/7 operations. That means backup windows can be relatively small, requiring backups to happen quickly. Implement the tools to expedite backups, which may mean backing up to solid state drives and then replicating that data out on the cloud.
- Test: It is important to test backups and restores. Not so long ago, businesses were plagued by failed restores, simply because of a hardware or software failure. With today’s technologies, those failures may be rare, but validating that your restoration plan works as expected is still critical to success.
Data backup and restoration is far too important of a process to be ignored by businesses today, especially with the rise of malware and ransomware. The ability to return your systems to a date before an attack took hold could be a critical option to get back up and running if an attack occurs.