Data Backup & Recovery: The Essential Guide for Businesses

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Data Backup and Recovery: The Essential Guide for Businesses

 

Businesses and organisations realise three things quickly during their daily operations: any computer system can crash; anyone can make errors; and disasters seem to happen when you least expect it or are least prepared for it. Hence, data backup and recovery are essential parts of running a successful business.

 

It’s important for businesses to plan ahead and put data backup systems into place in case the worst happens, well before it happens. Successful data backup systems are accomplished by using an offsite server or separate drives to store your massive amounts of information. Without putting these systems in place, data recovery becomes difficult, resulting in loss of information when the worst happens.

 

What is Data Backup and Recovery?

 

Data backup and recovery is the process of backing up your data in the event of a loss and setting up secure systems that allow you to recover your data as a result. Data backup requires the copying and archiving of computer data to make it accessible in case of data corruption or deletion. You can only recover data from an earlier time if you have backed it up.

 

Data backup is one form of disaster recovery, and is an essential part of any sensible disaster recovery plan.

 

Backing up data cannot always restore all of your system’s data and settings. For instance, computer clusters, database servers, or active directory servers may need additional types of disaster recovery since a backup and recovery may not reconstitute them fully.

 

Today, you can back up a great deal of data using cloud storage; therefore, archiving your data on a local system’s hard drive or external storage is not necessary. What’s more, you can set up your mobile devices using cloud technologies to allow automatic data recovery.

 

Offsite Servers vs. Independent Drives

 

Offsite servers are suitable for data recovery since they provide massive amounts of data storage at nominal prices, especially when you compare this expenditure to the hassle it saves in the event of an information disaster. Having a safe and secure place to store information off of your main business server is important in the long run.

 

Data recovery is usually painless. Moreover, in the rare case where offsite servers crash, they (offsite servers) have backed up the data further onto their own drives. This makes using an offsite server for your backup and recovery an effective method of keeping your information safe.

 

Another effective method of backing up your business data is to invest in independent drives. Today, terabyte drives are relatively inexpensive if you purchase them from discount stores or high-volume stores. Since these drives are basically plug and play, data storage and recovery becomes easy. Also, there are multiple storage volumes available on the market.

 

Depending on the kinds of data you need to keep your business running, you may choose to back up your data on a daily, weekly or even monthly basis, though most business opt for either of the first two. However, for financial data, a daily backup is almost a certainty. External drives become invaluable in the process of protecting your business data.

 

As you can see, both external drive storage and offsite storage options are potential necessities. Which one is better for you is entirely dependent on your type of business. Since data backup and recovery works basically the same way, the real consideration you must make is whether you need a short-term or long-term solution and whether the short-term option costs more than the long-term one.

 

Offsite storage provides more storage but at a recurring cost (payments) while external drive storage is often a one-time charge (purchase cost) unless the drive crashes.

 

Cloud Backup and Recovery

 

Cloud backup, or online backup, refers to a data backup strategy that involves sending a copy of your primary data over a public or proprietary network to an off-site server. The server is typically hosted by a third-party service provider (CSP) that charges you a fee based on bandwidth, capacity or number of users.

 

Implementing cloud data backup may help you bolster your organisation’s data protection strategy without adding more workload for your IT staff.

 

The cloud backup process copies data and then stores it on different media or a separate storage system that allows easy access in case of a recovery situation. Some options include:

  • Backing up your data directly to the public cloud. This entails writing the data directly to a cloud infrastructure provider.

  • Backing up your data to a service provider. Here, you write data to a CSP offering backup services in its managed data centre.

  • Cloud-to-cloud backup option is for data that lives in the cloud in SaaS (software as a service) applications. This method copies your data to another cloud.

     

When you begin using cloud backup services, the initial backup can take days to finish uploading over the network because of the volume of data. Thus, a technique called cloud seeding is used, which allows a cloud backup vendor to send you a storage device, such as a tape cartridge or disk drive, on which to back up your data locally before sending the device back to the CSP. Once the initial seeding is completed, the provider only backs up your data over the network.

 

Online data backup systems are often built around client software applications that run on a schedule determined by the level of service purchased. If, for instance, you have contracted a CSP for daily backups, the application will collect, compress, encrypt and transfer your data to the CSP’s server every 24 hours. To reduce the time taken to complete transfers as well as the bandwidth used, the CSP may only provide you with incremental backups after your first full backup.

 

Cloud services mostly include the hardware and software you will need to protect your data. Many cloud subscriptions run on a yearly or monthly basis. Also, cloud backup services are now popularly used by SMBs (small and medium-sized businesses) as well as large enterprises. For large companies and organisations, cloud data backup services are used as a supplementary option.

 

Learn more about Cloud Backup.

 

Backup vs. Recovery

 

In a nutshell, the primary difference between backup and recovery is that the former is a copy of original data that can be used in case of a database failure while recovery refers to the process of restoring your database to its correct (original) state when a failure occurs.

 

As stated earlier, backup refers to a representative copy of data and includes essential elements of a database such as data files and control files. Since unexpected database failures are inevitable, a backup of the entire database is required. There are two major backup types:

  1. Physical Backup: This is a copy of physical database files such as data, control files, log files and archived redo logs. It is a copy of the files that store database information in another location and forms the foundation of the database recovery mechanism.

  2. Logical Backup: This contains the logical data that is extracted from a database, and consists of tables, procedures, views, functions, etc. However, keeping a logical backup alone is not recommended or useful since it only provides structural information.

     

Recovery, on the other hand, helps you to restore your database to its correct state in the event that a failure occurs. It improves the reliability of your database since it allows the database to recover to a consistent state after sudden failure.

 

It is entirely possible to recover your database using log-based recovery. A log is a record sequence containing transaction records. The log of all your transactions when stored in stable storage helps you to recover your database after failure. It contains information about transactions to execute, transaction states, and modified values. These pieces of information are all stored in their order of execution.

 

Types of Data Backup

 

While the idea of data backup may be simple, implementing an effective and efficient strategy can be difficult. Backup software applications are developed to reduce the complexity associated with performing backup and recovery operations.

 

Remember that backup is not the goal. It is merely a means to accomplish your goal, which is protecting your data. The most common backup types used are as follows:

  1. Full Backup: This is a basic and complete backup operation that makes a copy of all your data to another media set such as a disk, tape or CD. A complete copy of all your data is thus made available on a single media set. It takes longer to perform and requires a lot of storage space, so it is typically used in combination with either a differential or incremental backup.

  2. Incremental Backup: This operation results in the copying of only that data that has changed since your last backup operation. A backup application will record and keep track of the time and date on which all backup operations occur. This operation is faster and requires less storage media.

  3. Differential Backup: Similar to the incremental type, this backup will copy all changed data from a previous episode but every time it runs, it continues to copy all the data changed since the stated previous full backup.

     

Importance of Data Backup and Recovery

 

A backup’s purpose is to create copies of data that you can recover when your primary data fails. Primary data failures can result from several issues including software or hardware failure, a human-caused event, data corruption, malicious attacks and accidental deletion of data. Backup copies allow you to restore your data from an earlier point in time to help your business recover quickly from an unplanned event.

 

Storing a copy of your data on a separate medium is necessary to prevent corruption or loss. The additional medium could be as simple as a USB stick or external drive, or more substantial, like a tape drive, disk storage medium or cloud storage container. You could either put the alternate medium in the same location as your primary data or store it remotely. If you are situated in an area with a high possibility of weather-related events, using a remote location is justified.

 

For best results, make your backup copies on a regular and consistent basis to minimise the amount of data lost between backups. This means that the more time that passes between your backup copies, the more potential for data loss you face when recovering from a failure. So do not wait months to make your backup copies. Also, retaining multiple copies of your data provides you with the flexibility and insurance to restore your systems to a point in time that was not affected by malicious attacks or data corruption.

 

What is Disaster Recovery Backup?

 

In IT, disaster recovery (DR) is part of security planning, and it is developed together with a business continuity plan. It refers to policies and procedures that focus on protecting an organisation or business from any significant effects in the event of a negative incident, which may include device or building failures, cyberattacks or natural disasters. 

 

Disaster recovery is essential in designing strategies that can help your business to quickly restore its hardware, applications and data for business continuity. It is sometimes considered a subset of business continuity. Designing a proper disaster recovery plan requires the preparation of an in-depth business impact and risk assessment analysis. These steps aid in the identification of the specific IT services that can support the crucial business activities of your organisation. They also help to set out the recovery time objectives and recovery point objectives.

 

Disaster recovery measures can fall into three classifications as follows:

  • Preventive Measures: Aim at preventing the occurrence of an event.

  • Corrective Measures: Are put in place to correct a system in the event of a disaster or negative event.

  • Detective Measures: These focus on discovering and detecting negative events.

     

Any sensible disaster recovery plan helps you to achieve business continuity even in the worst-case scenarios. It is also prudent to put in place regular checks and exercises to ensure you have effective disaster recovery measures that are followed by all your individual departments as well as the  organisation as a whole.

 

The Importance of Disaster Recovery (DR)

 

Disaster recovery allows your organisation to quickly maintain or resume mission-critical functions following the occurrence of a disaster. Today’s businesses have become more reliant on and accustomed to high availability while the tolerance for downtime has significantly decreased. Ergo, a disaster can have devastating effects on your business, especially in today’s highly competitive markets. Since there is a high possibility for businesses to fail after experiencing significant data loss, disaster recovery has become an essential part of operations.

 

Recovery time objective (RTO) and recovery point objective (RPO) are two measurements used in DR and downtime.

  • RTO: Refers to the maximum amount of time after a disaster for your organisation to recover its files from backup storage and return to normal operations. In other words, RTO is the maximum downtime amount that your organisation can handle. If your organisation’s RTO is two hours, it cannot afford to be down for longer than that.

  • RPO: Refers to the maximum file age that your organisation must recover from its backup storage to resume normal operations after a disaster. RPO will determine your minimum backup frequency. For instance, if your organisation’s RPO is five hours, your system must back up data at least every five hours.

     

Therefore, RTO and RPO are instrumental in helping you to choose the optimal disaster recovery procedures, strategies and technologies for your organisation. Meeting tighter RTO windows will require you to position your secondary data in a manner that makes it easily accessible when needed. 

 

Recovery-in-place is one effective method of restoring data quickly. It involves using technology that can allow you to move your backup data files to a live state on your backup appliance, which eliminates the need to move the data across a network. This protects against server and storage system failure.

 

Preparation for a disaster requires you to take a comprehensive approach that encompasses software and hardware, power, networking equipment, connectivity and testing to ensure DR can be achieved within your RTO and RPO targets. Though implementing a thorough disaster recovery plan is no small task, its potential benefits are significant.

 

Why Do You Need a Data Backup and Disaster Recovery Plan?

 

Without a sound data backup and DR plan, your business risks suffering permanent data loss, unnecessary expenses and massive downtime. Here are five convincing reasons for a data backup and DR plan:

  1. All Data is a Target: Whether you are an attorney, a dentist, running a pet shop, or a Fortune 500 company, your data always remains vulnerable to threats. Accidents, viruses, malware and hackers are not picky. They will attack your business for any number of reasons such as fulfilling a vendetta, acquiring sensitive data or simply because they can.

  2. It is Easy to Lose Data: A lot of data loss occurs as a result of hardware malfunctions or human error as opposed to natural disasters. This means that your data is very easy to lose.

  3. Some Data is Invaluable: Some of your business data cannot be recovered once it is lost. 

  4. Downtime is Not Fun: Losing data results in downtime because without it, it becomes incredibly hard for your employees to work. It is difficult to handle clients without their account status and contact information, or to work without any of your mission-critical business applications. Without a sound recovery solution in place, your restoration efforts automatically become rebuilding efforts.

  5. Your Reputation is Essential: Downtime and losing your data will definitely affect how other stakeholders view your business as well as their relationship with you. A tarnished reputation can significantly hamper your business, especially when stakeholders cannot trust you with their data.

 

Backup and Recovery Software

 

Database Management System (DBMS) refers to a software package that helps you manage databases easily and effectively, which allows you to organise your data properly. DBMS has many advantages, for example, it allows you to store, manipulate and retrieve data from databases. It also enables you to perform transactions and provides protection to your data. You may also need a sound backup and recovery software such as Veritas NetBackup.

 

The Bottom Line

 

Disaster recovery and backup and recovery are not mutually exclusive. Actually, best practices will include both approaches. You need to put in place a regular and consistent data backup and recovery plan to protect your business and its data from unplanned loses. Remember that data backup is one form of a disaster recovery plan while the latter is part of an overall security plan. Preparing for worst-case scenarios allows you to ensure business continuity and quick recovery times for your critical business data.

 

Veritas customers include 98% of the Fortune 100, and NetBackup™ is the #1 choice for enterprises looking to back up large amounts of data.

 

Are you a small- or medium-sized business looking for backup across virtual, physical and multi-cloud environments? Try the award-winning Backup Exec.

 

For scalable SaaS application protection, try Veritas SaaS Backup.

 

 

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