Data is your most important digital asset and to avoid losing your data, you must back them up. Backup is a process of producing additional copies of data, file or other item made in case the original is lost or damaged.
Tech experts said creating regular data backups is necessary to protect essential data from both natural disasters and human destruction.
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If backups aren’t placed in a safe and secure — yet easily accessible — location, their value is greatly diminished, said Bob Duhainy, a core faculty member in the Doctor of Information Technology program at Walden University in Minnesota.
“As cybercriminals and hackers get smarter about stealing digital data … off-site backup of physical backup media, as an add-on or alternative to cloud backup, makes more sense’’, he said.
The safest place for backup media storage, Duhainy suggested, is a secure, physically remote data storage facility dedicated primarily to data backup and recovery services.
“Some attributes of a good off-site storage location include climate-controlled units, 24-hour physical and non-physical security, and flexible leasing options,” he said.
Tech experts said there are so many software that you can use to back up your files in the cloud. They include Google Drive, BOX, DropBox, SkyDrive, iCloud, Crashplan and Mega just to name a few.
But for most organizations, storing data for the long term on physical media means taking a step back in time to the pre-cloud era.
“Although this method might seem archaic, the safest way to physically back up data is on a piece of physical media,” said Darren Deslatte, cybersecurity expert and vulnerability operations leader at IT provider Entrust Solutions based in New Orleans.
Data backup options
There are many ways to back up your file. Choosing the right option can help ensure that you are creating the best data backup plan for your needs. Below are six of the most common techniques or technologies:
- Removable media
A simple option is to backup files on removable media such as CDs, DVDs, newer Blu-Ray disks, or USB flash drives. This can be practical for smaller environments, but for larger data volumes, you’ll need to back up to multiple disks, which can complicate recovery. Also, you need to make sure you store your backups in a separate location, otherwise they may also be lost in a disaster. Tape backups also fall into this category.
You can set up an additional hard drive that is a replica of a sensitive system’s drive at a specific point in time, or an entire redundant system. For example, another email server that is on standby, backing up your main email server. Redundancy is a powerful technique but is complex to manage. It requires frequent replication between cloned systems, and it’s only useful against the failure of a specific system unless the redundant systems are in a remote site.
- External hard drive
You can deploy a high-volume external hard drive in your network, and use archive software to save changes to local files to that hard drive. Archive software allows you to restore files from the external hardware with an RPO of only a few minutes. However, as your data volumes grow, one external drive will not be enough, or the RPO will substantially grow. Using an external drive necessitates having it deployed on the local network, which is risky.
- Hardware appliances
Many vendors provide complete backup appliances, typically deployed as a 19” rack-mounted device. Backup appliances come with large storage capacity and pre-integrated backup software. You install backup agents on the systems you need to back up, define your backup schedule and policy, and the data starts streaming to the backup device. As with other options, try to place the backup device isolated from the local network and if possible, in a remote site.
- Backup software
Software-based backup solutions are more complex to deploy and configure than hardware appliances, but offer greater flexibility. They allow you to define which systems and data you’d like to back up, allocate backups to the storage device of your choice, and automatically manage the backup process.
- Cloud backup services
Many vendors and cloud providers offer Backup as a Service (BaaS) solutions, where you can push local data to a public or private cloud and in case of disaster, recover data back from the cloud. BaaS solutions are easy to use and have the strong advantage that data is saved in a remote location. However, if using a public cloud, you need to ensure compliance with relevant regulations and standards, and consider that over time, data storage costs in the cloud will be much higher than the cost of deploying similar storage on-premises.
3-2-1 backup strategy
A 3-2-1 backup strategy is a method for ensuring that your data is adequately duplicated and reliably recoverable. In this strategy, three copies of your data are created on at least two different storage media and at least one copy is stored remotely:
Three copies of data—your three copies include your original data and two duplicates. This ensures that a lost backup or corrupted media do not affect recoverability.
Two different storage types—reduces the risk of failures related to a specific medium by using two different technologies. Common choices include internal and external hard drives, removable media, or cloud storage.
One copy off-site—eliminates the risk associated with a single point of failure. Offsite duplicates are needed for robust disaster and data backup recovery strategies and can allow for failover during local outages.
This strategy is considered a best practice by most information security experts and government authorities. It protects against both accidents and malicious threats, such as ransomware, and ensures reliable data backup and restoration.
Server backup: Backing up critical business systems
The easiest way to back up a server is with a server backup solution. These solutions can come in the form of software or appliances, experts said.
Server backup solutions are typically designed to help you backup server data to another local server, a cloud server, or a hybrid system. In particular, backup to hybrid systems is becoming more popular. This is because hybrid systems enable you to optimize resources, support easy multi-region duplication, and can enable faster recovery and failover.
In general, server backup solutions should include the following features:
Support for diverse file types—should not include any file types. In particular, solutions should support documents, spreadsheets, media, and configuration files.
Backup location—you should be able to specify backup locations. The solution should support backup to a variety of locations and media, including on and off-site resources.
Scheduling and automation—in addition to enabling manual backups, solutions should support backup automation through scheduling. This helps ensure that you always have a recent backup and that backups are created in a consistent manner.
Backup management—you should be able to manage the lifecycle of backups, including number stored and length of time kept. Ideally, solutions also enable easy export of backups for transfer to external resources or for use in migration.
Partition selection—partitions are isolated segments of a storage resource and are often used to separate data within a system. Solutions should enable you to independently backup data and restore partitions.
Data compression—to minimize the storage needed for numerous backups, solutions should compress backup data. This compression needs to be lossless and maintain the integrity of all data.
Backup type selection—you should be able to create a variety of backup types, including full, differential, and incremental backups. Differential backups create a backup of changes since the last full backup while incremental records the changes since the last incremental backup. These types can help you reduce the size of your backups and speed backup time.
Scaling—backup abilities should not be limited by the volume of data on your servers. Solutions should scale as your data does and support backups of any size.