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Backup 101

Back in May we asked you to fill out a survey regarding Backup and Data Recovery. This was so we could get a better understanding of what you need to know regarding backup. The survey results made for some interesting reading. Only the top 10% of respondents were able to answer all of the questions. Knowing exactly what backup processes and policies were used in the business.

That means 90% of all respondents either don’t or are not aware of how their data is being backed up in the company. 

To stop this from happening we’ve created a few simple steps. These steps will help make sure your data is safe and backed up securely.

Strategy

Any good business is full of policies and procedures. This is for a whole range of work related tasks, including a backup policy. It is important for the users in a business to understand the data management policies in operation.
Users should be aware of three things when it comes to data backup. How often backups are taken, what data is backed up and how long backups are retained for. User awareness will dramatically reduce the loss of data due to not having an understanding of the policies.
It really is as easy as 1-2-3 or should we say 3-2-1. Any good backup strategy follows the 3-2-1 rule.

backup

So we have 3 copies of the data. The first copy is the data original, usually stored on a server accessed via a shared drive etc. The second copy is a backup that must be stored on a different storage medium. E.g. having a duplicate of a file stored on the same server is no use. It should be backed up to a separate and distinct medium, such as a NAS, tape drive or removable USB drive etc. The third copy needs to be held offsite. This allows for data retrieval in the event of a disaster or incident that renders the primary data location inaccessible.
With the 3-2-1 strategy the primary data and first backup are held onsite. This allows for speedy retrieval of lost / corrupted data locally without the need to acquire the offsite copy. Restoration of data should always be attempted locally from the first backup copy before resorting to retrieval from the offsite repository. Local restoration will nearly always be faster.

backup

Windows servers have the facility to employ Shadow Copies providing you have the necessary disk space available. Shadow copies allow for the near instant retrieval of documents from a file share. This is particularly useful should a user accidentally delete a file during the day, before the nightly backup has run! Depending on how you schedule the shadow copies we would generally recommend that you take 2 copies a day e.g. 11am and 3pm.

Terminology

In our recent survey it also became clear that respondents were confused about certain terms used to describe a comprehensive backup policy. Below is a brief explanation of some of the terms.

  • RPO – The Recovery Point Objective is defined as to how far back it is acceptable for the business to lose data in the event of an incident concerning the data. If the business defines that it is acceptable to lose no more than 4 hours’ worth of data, you must have a valid backup take place every 4 hours.

 

  • RTO – The Recovery Time Objective defines the period of time within which service must be restored. E.g. the company database server suffers a fault and the business analysis determines that the system should be operational within 8 hours. This is an objective and not a hard and fast requirement. However, the underlying backup strategy should be designed to enable the business to achieve this objective in the event of an outage within the time frame.

 

  • MTD– Maximum Tolerable Downtime is essentially how long the business believe that it can be inoperable before the survival of the business is at risk.

 

  • Retention – Retention is the period of time that valid backup data is kept. There can be differences in the length of time that the primary and secondary backup copies are retained. Typically most businesses will keep somewhere from 2-4 weeks’ worth of backup locally. With the advent of cloud based backup it is now possible to retain the offsite copy for up to 99 years with some providers if desired or mandated by regulation. The majority of long term offsite retention varies between 3 & 7 years.

 

  • Fiscal Impact – Not all businesses share the same risk of a negative fiscal impact in the event of a system outage or data loss. It is important that businesses invest proportionally in their IT environments. This ensures that the requisite backup technologies are in place to minimise any potential impact.

Verification

Nearly 90% of respondents to the survey do not regularly verify the integrity of their backup data. While great solace may be gained from the morning email signifying the success of last night’s backup routine, this needs to be underpinned with a regular integrity check. The easiest way to do this for most people is to perform a random file restoration at defined intervals. As part of the backup policy a log of these restores should be kept to help determine the long term success with the backup strategy.
Ensuring the success of your backup process provides the best platform for minimising any potential data loss. There is no point backing up that business critical database for years only to find out on the day you need to restore from a backup that the backup process has provided a copy that is inconsistent or corrupt.

How Typetec can help

We have many years of experience implementing backups for all of our customers and ourselves. With the extensive knowledge and expertise to implement any type of backup technology or product we can help you and your business build a strategy that aligns closely with your needs and budget.
In the next newsletter we will look at disaster recovery planning. If you have anything you would like to see covered or explained please email alanmcnamee@typetec.ie.