We have often found that one element business leaders should concentrate on, but is usually overlooked, is business continuity. Data backup is a big part of it, obviously your growing business’s assets must be managed carefully if you want to keep your company safe, and the right data backup strategy is essential for all businesses, no matter the size.
But not all backups are created equal; you need the right solutions for your specific needs and processes. And even then, business continuity extends far beyond backups—you need a comprehensive plan for recovery.
Data management is an important aspect of business continuity and disaster recovery. Data includes all of the information gathered from research, clients, projects, contractors, and even stakeholders.
If not properly managed and maintained, your data will be at risk of being lost, stolen, or damaged. However, if you have the right backup systems in place, you can avoid losing all of that information and leaving your business exposed.
Following are some basics of data backups and other disaster recovery solutions your business needs for continued security.
When it comes to data backups, consistency and frequency are key. It’s important to regularly schedule and perform backups, so that risk of loss is minimized. There are several ways to do this:
The right data backup system for you will depend on your situation. As stated earlier, all backups are not created equal. For example - many businesses still rely on low-cost file/folder-only solutions - they're easy to setup and don't cost much. What those businesses may not realize is that when they need to restore large amounts of data, it will take days or even weeks to pull their data back down over the internet, or they may even have to pay extra to have the data physically shipped on a hard drive provider. And then, it's only the files and folders, the state of the server and all the services it was providing on the network are still down.
In addition to how you perform data backups, you must also determine the best place to store the copied data. There are several storage options:
Data is copied and saved to local devices like external hard drives, which are stored in the same building as the original. This means that the data is always available without an internet connection; however, if there is a localized disaster, the backups are likely to be damaged along with the original files.
Data is copied and saved to servers or hard drives in a separate location from the original computers. You will have access to the data through the Internet, and there is less chance that a problem with the original files will affect the backups because they are separated.
The cloud can be a great option for a remote workforce. Data is always stored off-site, making it easily accessible from anywhere in the world. However, this data still needs to be backed up as well, something that many businesses wrongly assume without verifying, which can lead to a unexpected and unpleasant results.
When considering the location of your backups, it’s also essential to recognize the specific risks of your area.
For example, it is a common assumption that datacenters should be as far apart as possible. However, that may not be the best for companies in the Midwest because disasters common to our area usually involve more localized events rather than a large-scale event like an earthquake or hurricane.
In fact, greater distance can actually become detrimental to recovery time, because recovery is now dependent on physically travelling to the backup site and back. Imagine having your data 1,000 miles away with the only way to access being an employee driving to the datacenter, perhaps needing to travel through still affected areas.
As demonstrated, when choosing your backup and business continuity solutions, you need to keep your specific needs and situation in mind. So to even begin planning and choosing solutions, you need to know the biggest risks your business faces, potential losses you may sustain, and more about your business’s unique circumstances.
Without such understanding, you’ll be ill-equipped to choose backups that suit your needs, or to effectively decide on any other aspect of your business continuity plan. These are some of the other business continuity tools your business will likely require to get started:
A business impact analysis will evaluate all aspects of your business to predict the potential damage a disaster could cause. It not only takes your technology and data into account, but also analyzes how your larger business processes and operating abilities will fare in the face of significant disruptions.
A business impact analysis helps you get the big picture and see which areas are most critical to your operations and need the most protection against damages.
As opposed to a business impact analysis, a threat and risk analysis does focus specifically on your IT security. It analyzes the most likely digital threats to your business, which include causes such as natural disasters, malware, or human error; and the risks such incidents entail, which are consequences such as financial loss, property damage, and legal penalties.
A threat and risk analysis will inform your decision on what types of backups will best protect your assets, as well as the most significant digital threats to guard against. It will also help you create a well-rounded business continuity plan that can account for potential threats like human error through employee security training.
When a disaster strikes and your systems go down, minimizing downtime becomes the number-one key to reducing financial losses. To this end, a Recovery Time Objective (RTO) and Recovery Point Objective (RPO) are used to calculate how long your business can survive after a disaster.
RTO measures the length of time you can remain functional without normal systems in place, while RPO calculates the maximum amount of data you can afford to lose.
Calculating and knowing these limits before a disaster is one of the most important things you can do for your disaster recovery. Armed with a knowledge of your RTO and RPO, you can set realistic expectations for recovery after a catastrophe and create a plan to get operations functional within that set time frame.
Data backups are crucial for business continuity and disaster recovery, but as discussed here, merely having backups isn’t enough.
In the event of a cyber-attack, natural disaster, or other loss, the right type of data backups can help get you back up and running quickly. But for maximum security, you also need to start with a business impact analysis, threat and risk analysis, and an evaluation of your maximum acceptable RTO and RPO. From there, you can evaluate the most effective types of backups for your business, as well as other business continuity solutions to add to your plan.