Last week, we talked about how to develop a backup plan that will protect your data in the event of a major problem -- a hardware failure, malware infection, natural disaster, or something else.
This week, we’ll look at different kinds of backup solutions, and how to choose the ones that make the most sense for your needs and budget. In many cases, you’ll need more than one product to meet all of your needs -- and that’s fine. A comprehensive, robust backup solution can be a multi-layered system, and designing it requires understanding the strengths and weaknesses of the various parts.
What To Back Up
The first thing to think about when designing a backup solution is what you'll need to back up. In the olden days (or just a few years ago), most backups revolved around copies of files, with perhaps an Exchange mailstore or SQL database thrown in. Nowadays, your critical data could exist in any number of places, both on-prem and in the cloud. Your backup solution will need to make sure that all of this data is protected, no matter where it’s located.
Many cloud services have archiving capabilities, which will help you to make sure the data is stored in a safe location in the event of a serious outage. Products like Veeam can help you to manage these backup operations from a single console.
How to Back Up
Once you’ve decided what data you’re protecting, you’ll need to decide how to store the backed-up data. This is the place to consider the “risks and threats” portion of your backup plan, because what you’re protecting against will influence how you store and protect your backups.
There are several kinds of backups that you can create:
Online or near-line backups are stored in a way that makes them accessible quickly and easily from your network. This could include hourly, daily or weekly snapshots of file systems or OSes, which could be used to quickly roll back a system in the event of corruption, or restore a file if it was accidentally deleted. While these kinds of backups are good to have, the problem is that if you can access them quickly and easily, so can a hacker, virus, fire, or flood -- online backups are no good for recovering from a serious disaster like this.
Offline backups are stored in a way that separates them from your live network. This could be on magnetic tape, or removable hard drives that are rotated regularly. While these backups take longer to create and involve some manual work, they provide protection against problems that may have taken out your online backups. Though you won’t be using these backups every day, if you do need them, you’ll want to make sure they’re reliable and easily restored in the event of a major failure.
Archival backups are offline backups intended to be stored for a long time, perhaps years. This could be for regulatory compliance purposes, or other business reasons. These have the same pros and cons as offline backups, with the added requirement that they still be readable after sitting on the shelf for a long time. Magnetic tape (when stored properly) continues to be the most reliable archival format.
Where to Back Up
Additionally, backups of any type can be stored on-site or offsite. Backups stored on-site have the advantage of being readily accessible to you or your staff. But if something were to happen to the physical building, like a fire or flood, it could render your backups unusable. So many companies choose to also store backups offsite, either by storing physical drives or tapes in another location, or by using a cloud backup provider. But, keep in mind that cloud providers mostly provide online or near-line backups, which runs the risk of infiltration by hackers or malware.
Putting It Together
Once you’ve decided on the requirements for your backup solution, you can identify backup methods that will meet your needs. As mentioned, to fully protect your data, you may need to use two or three backup methods in tandem. For instance, a twice-daily snapshot of your file server will protect against accidental file deletion and perhaps some malware; a daily tape backup provides offline storage in the event of a major failure or cyberattack; and a weekly set of tapes is shipped offsite to a secure location in the event of a catastrophe.
Finally, you’ll need to have a plan to use these backups in case disaster strikes. Next week, we’ll cover how to create a disaster recovery plan that will help you to get up and running again quickly.
E-N Computers provides managed IT services to businesses in Virginia, Washington, D.C., and Maryland. Contact us today to find out how a comprehensive backup and disaster recovery solution can protect your business and give you peace-of-mind.