How to enhance your backup strategy

No matter what stage your organisation’s backup strategy is at, there is always room to improve

It's easy to think of backup as simply storing copies of your data and files. Whilst this is a key factor, it's also important to consider what happens when this data needs to be restored and accessed in the future.

Due to their size and power, larger businesses and corporations usually have an efficient backup system that performs to their specific needs. However, smaller and even mid-sized companies can sometimes fall behind and struggle to find the time to implement an optimal backup strategy - especially with the continuously changing face of technology. 

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Here are a few tips to boost your backup, whatever stage your organisation's strategy is at.

Prioritise backup efficiency

Slow file restoration time is usually the tell-tale sign of backup inefficiency. Often, the issue lies with having implemented a solution that doesn't cater to the exact needs of the business or having a plan that lacks the detail and granularity required for optimum efficiency.

Therefore, it's important to switch to a recovery process that isn't simply based around just getting everything up and running regardless of system intricacies. Instead, it's best to draw up a more detailed and sophisticated plan around specific systems, applications and data - which will then help get the business back up and running quickly and efficiently.

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A backup product that integrates directly into these existing systems will aid the process greatly, as every integration point helps improve efficiency, organisation and, ultimately, productivity.

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Be predictable

Using consistent backup processes and testing frequently using a standard testing procedure will give reassurance that backups have been run and tested properly. This will mean far fewer issues should a recovery situation arise.

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Having documented processes that can be repeated easily across your business will reduce your response time, lower your support costs, and ultimately minimise downtime.

Following the 3-2-1 backup rule is a good approach: keep at least three copies of a data set, store backup copies on at least two different media and keep one of the backup copies off-site.

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Think of backup as a daily practice

In a Solarwinds MSP survey, 32% of respondents admitted to not carrying out daily backups. Yet in the event of a serious crash, days or weeks of data could be lost.

Backup is not just extra copies of data. The real goal is disaster recovery. If backups are performed regularly, it will dramatically cut down on recovery times in the event of an incident, as it will be easier to locate exactly which backup will address the data loss incident.

The underlying theme is about changing the way your business approaches backup. By using simple and structured service offerings, running repeatable and consistent backup jobs and using integrated solutions, you can make significant improvements to your organisation's backup processes.

Don't assume you're covered

Organisations are increasingly utilising SaaS productivity suites such as Office 355 and Google Drive to manage their workflows. While these applications offer a range of benefits from collaboration to efficiency gains, they harbour a secret: they don’t backup your data, going against the common assumption that they’ve got you covered.

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Cloud providers are able to protect data to an extent. Issues occurring on their side, such as disk failures or natural disasters, are covered, but they are unable to help with issues on the customers' side. Ransomware attacks or deletions by employees (either accidentally or maliciously) aren’t accounted for, meaning data-restoration would be very difficult.

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As platforms, productivity suites are generally secure. But even still it’s worth looking into additional backup, as their backup specifications are often found to be lacking compared to the requirements of most organisations. For instance, Office 365 only operates a 14-day retention period, with Microsoft SharePoint Online only backed-up every 12 hours, creating a gaping window for potential loss.

It’s definitely worth your time to take backup into your own hands, at least to some extent. Backing up second copies of cloud data locally would permit efficient restoration in the occurrence of an incident on your side. It would also help align the business with compliance regulations, and internalise control in an increasingly unpredictable digital landscape.

Keep up to date with changes in backup technology

Backup isn't a new idea, but the danger of it being a familiar process is that it's easy to take things for granted. But even technologies as familiar as backup continue moving forward, and ways of doing it get better, easier, faster and less expensive. One example is cloud-first backup solutions, which are becoming a cost-effective way to store copies of data offsite and reduce local storage requirements.

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Determine what needs saving

In an ideal world, a backup strategy would cover everything from large swathes of data to bytes hidden underneath software; though, for many organisations this is unrealistic.

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Creating and maintaining second copies of everything can come at an exorbitant and unnecessary cost. For instance, hard drives are typically filled mostly by the operating system and program files, neither of which need to be backed up as they can be re-installed from other sources. If an organisation's backup strategy was not tailored to exclude such data types, the volume of data backed up would shoot through the roof, bringing with it a higher price tag.

To enhance a backup strategy, data, folders and files should be sifted through, as organisations decide what they can afford to risk losing. As a starting point, database and accounting files are typically the most critical business assets, and it is good practice to backup these files before and after any significant use. Other core files such as folders saved in 'Documents' and email data should also be backed up weekly. However, beyond this, the lengths of a backup strategy should be determined on a case-by-case basis.

When deciding what is essential to business operations, it is worth keeping in mind that a lesser volume of second copies would also improve the speed of recovery and restoration.

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