The Importance of Backups
Making regular backups of information is extremely important. Losing data can have an impact on a business ranging from being merely annoying to catastrophic. Unfortunately setting up a good backup system is so often ignored and often not checked on a regular basis. It is important to remember that just doing a backup is not enough. It is vital that you are backing up the right data and that you make sure that the backup can be restored. It is a false sense of security to have a backup process running, which when disaster strikes, turns out to either contain only part of or worse, none of the vital data, or is damaged or in a format that cannot be recovered. Statistics show that the majority of businesses that suffer major data loss with no recovery options close down.
Why are Backups Necessary?
Data is stored on hardware storage devices. These will inevitably eventually fail or malfunction. Other reasons why you may lose data include ransomware, viruses and malware attacks, corruption due to system failures, power outages, theft, fire, flood and human error, to name just some of the main culprits. The software can normally be reinstalled, data cannot. A recent survey in the USA showed that 49% of CEO’s say becoming a victim of a cyberattack is a case of “when” and not “if”.
Guidelines to good backups
How often you backup data depends on how often the data is updated and how easy it would be to recapture lost data. For example, if you backup your Accounting/ERP data once a week, how easy will it be to recapture everything lost if you have to restore back to data created a week ago? Bear in mind this might not be just financial transactions but also customer, supplier and stock information changes as well. What will the impact on the business be, if this were to happen?
Location of Backup files
It is very important not to store all backup files on the same storage media as the actual live data. If the media fails or one of the other disasters, listed above occurs, then the data, as well as the backup files, may well be lost. A set of backups to an alternate storage media should always be made.
Backup files should always be created in some sort of rotation. If for example you have some sort of file corruption and you always back up over the last backup file, then it is very possible that you will end up overwriting your one good backup file with a backup of the corrupted data. Storage media is becoming more inexpensive all the time. So having a separate backup file for each day of the week, for example, will help mitigate this risk.
It is also a good policy to keep offsite backups. So this means using storage media that is kept at a different physical location. If for example, you are unfortunate enough to have a fire, then your backup files stored at a different physical location may prove a lifesaver.
So essentially you should aim to have backup files stored in more than one location. Enforce the 3-2-1- Rule and have at least three (3) copies of your data with at least two (2) stored on different media.
Types of Backup Storage Media
There are a number of different types available, some of these are:-
- External Hard Drives. These have the advantage of being able to be rotated and easily moved to alternate physical locations.
- USB Flash Drives. These are very portable, but can be easily lost and are not always reliable.
- Tape Drives. These are good for high-speed backup of large data files. The tapes can also be rotated and some kept offsite. A disadvantage is that often the same model of tape drive unit needs to be used to restore the tape backups and the units are often quite costly.
- DVD backups. These are less popular as they have a limited storage capacity and can be unreliable.
- Cloud storage. Backup files are uploaded over the Internet to storage on a remote server. Large backup files may take time to upload so internet bandwidth and speed must be considered. There is usually a monthly cost involved for storage over about 5GB.
- NAS (Network Attached Storage) Device. This is a device that consists of multiple storage drives, and provides a larger storage capacity. The device is connected to a LAN (Local Area Network) for access purposes. These devices can be expensive to set up, but if RAID drive configurations are used, they give fast data transfer rates as well as good protection against drive failure and data redundancy.
Test your Backups
It is important to test the validity of your backups regularly. Think of it like a fire drill. You have all the precautions in place but you need to check that it all works as expected. So have regular practice runs. Don’t restore your backups over your live data but rather to a different location.
This will test a few things:-
- The backup media is readable.
- The correct files are being backed up.
- The backup files can be restored to a different location.
Backups should be scheduled to run automatically. Relying on manually run backups is dangerous. People forget, are away on leave or ill. You never know when you will need your backup files. Backups can be set up using compression archiving tools and batch files and then be scheduled using a tool such as Task Scheduler. There are a variety of software packages that also handle automated backups to a variety of media. You need to evaluate the costs of the various solutions. You may need the advice of an IT Consultant to help you make the best decision. But always bear in mind what the cost of data loss to your business will be if you do not have adequate backups. Think of it as a type of insurance, if disaster strikes you will be thankful you have it.