The IT Manager’s Best Friend: Data Backups
The technical assistance on the other end of the phone asks the dreaded question, “When was your last backup?” Your mind begins to race. Which backups? What data? Am I sure the backup was complete? What if I don’t have one? Then you breathe a sigh of relief because you had just read this blog and took the tips to heart on making sure you had a data backup plan. Today we will cover the top five things to consider in your data backup plan.
- Number 1 is Know Your Data. This may sound simple, but how many IT managers know exactly what data they have, where it is, the criticality of it to the business and how to restore it? If you don’t know these things going into making a backup plan, your plan will fail. Below are some questions to ask the organization to get to know the data. This list is not all inclusive and if you are in a highly regulated industry such as healthcare, banking, etc., you should get to know those data regulations.
- What kind of data is it? Database information, PST files, documents, etc.
- What is the sensitivity of the data?
- What is the criticality of the data to the business or organization?
- What contractual retention requirements do you have?
- What contractual protections requirements do you have?
- Is there any Personally Identifiable Information (PII) to protect?
- How is the data collected?
- How is it formatted?
- How often is the data created?
- How often is the data altered?
- How is the data restored?
- Number 2 is Backup Location. There are multiple options these days for location of your data backups. On premise, off site, cloud, and hybrid are all viable options. Some of the questions from number 1 as well as any regulatory requirements should help you with this answer. Below are some best practices in this area.
- Store it away from the main data source. Off prem or in the cloud is most preferred, but keep it off of the same server, disk, RAID array, etc. at a minimum.
- Keep it in a location that it is easily retrievable.
- Keep it in a location where security can be reasonable be assured.
- Number 3 is Backup Type and Frequency. How often you backup and to what level is almost as important as location. If you backup your critical data only once a week, then know that you will have to manually redo anything that is a week or less old. This may be ok if only a few transactions are done in a week. This would not be acceptable if your business conducts hundreds or thousands of transactions an hour. There are many different types and frequencies to choose from and many backup programs or software will allow you to choose the type and frequency. Below are some common types along with some suggested frequencies. Once again, the type and criticality of this data along with regulatory requirements may dictate this for you.
- Full Backup – This type of backup is going to capture everything. This backup is going to take the longest and take up the most space. Typically this kind of backup is done weekly or daily depending on the system.
- Differential Backup – This type of backup is going to backup everything that has changed since the last Full Back Up. Typically this kind is going to be done daily or at some interval shorter than the full backups
- Incremental Backup – This type of backup is going to backup everything that has changed since the last backup whether it be full, differential, or incremental. This type takes up the least space, but also may have to have multiple backups to fully restore. Typically this kind is going to be done hourly or daily.
- Number 4 is Backup Retention. How long do you need to keep those backups anyways? This can vary widely from a few months to decades. This could also vary on the type and frequency of your backups. Below are some questions to consider when developing a retention policy.
- What type of backups are being done and how often?
- Are there any regulatory requirements?
- How much storage is available?
- What is the turnover of transactions?
- What is the cost of storage vice the business cost if data cannot be restored?
- Where is the data being kept and do they have any requirements?
- Is there any previous experience in having to restore and how far back did it go?
- Number 5 is Backup Protection. Your data should be protected in some way. Whether it is fully encrypted, password protected, or just under lock and key, protection needs to be considered in any backup plan.
Backups are as mission critical to today’s operations as any other business tool. Your data is a useful commodity and ensuring that you can get to that data and restore it in a timely fashion is of the utmost importance to your disaster recovery and business continuity plans. Do your backups. You’ll be glad you did!
A proven leader, Jeremy Niedzwiecki has over 20 years in the IT industry. As the Director of Customer Support at ABS, Jeremy works to ensure that the ABS Customer Support team continuously provides the highest levels of support possible ABS clients.