The Truth about Backups & Recovery that Every Organisation Should Know

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Organisations depend on data. In fact, any disruption in your data access systems can bring your organisation’s set-up to a complete stand still. Data can be considered to be the building block that makes up the foundation of any organisation. Imagine for instance, a disaster that makes important data archives inaccessible, and you lose out on hours of precious productivity.

In a nutshell, when your data backup and recovery systems aren’t competent:

  • You stand the risk of missing out on creating backups of important data and therefore not having backups to fall back on.
  • The lack of a tracking system means that when recovery is the main concern, you waste a lot of time looking for the data so that you can recover it.
  • And finally, as is always the case when data is not properly organised, the chances of sensitive data getting misplaced and leading to a security breach increases considerably.

To cope with such unforeseen situations, most organisations take their data protection and recovery plans quite seriously. This procedure can be broken up into two parts; keeping reliable backups, and working out an effective recovery program:

Types of data backup

 The two types of data backup most commonly used today are:

  • Tape: Refers to a physical medium which stores your data electronically. While the much newer concept of cloud storage is gaining ground fast, tape still continues to be a popular alternative for the following reasons:
  • They are cost effective.
  • The chances of errors occurring during writing onto the tape are low.
  • Increasing capacity of your tape archives is as simple as buying more tape drives and storing them as archives.
  • Since it is a standardised medium, investing in a good brand allows you to get highly reliable storage and backup device options.

However, there is a downside to tape. Firstly, keeping tape archives on the same premises as the original data does not serve its purpose. And secondly they are not immune to the elements. Solutions exist, in the form of tape solution providers who you can outsource to – they will not only help you to store the tapes at a protected and secure offsite location, but they will also assist you in creating the backups.

  • Cloud storage: is a newer data backup medium. By cloud storage, most people understand a virtual location, usually accessible through the internet, where data is stored. When recovery is needed, this data need only be retrieved from the server. Advantages include:
  • You can retrieve the data anytime you want.
  • Your data is not stored onsite; therefore it is a safer form of backup
  • While you may think that the data exists at an obscure virtual location, and worry about the reliability of the system, it should put your mind to rest knowing that most cloud storage service providers keep two-fold physical backups of your data at separate locations.

However, cloud storage, in spite of all its advantages, is still less popular than tape. And this is because certain questions have been raised about its efficiency:

  • Firstly, speed of backup and recovery depends on the bandwidth that the service provider has access to. This means that recovery speeds will fluctuate according to your connectivity.
  • Another problem that the service providers face is that they can offer recovery services to a certain number of clients at the same time, but when a large number of companies emerging out of a widespread disaster try to recover their data simultaneously, they would inevitably face bottle necks leading to massive delays.
  • And finally, cloud storage is still on the internet level, and you cannot always be certain about the reliability and compliancy measures taken by not-so-well-known cloud storage providers.

Considerations of a proper recovery program

If you want your backups to save you when you are in the lurch, here are a few points you need to keep in mind:

  • You should first set down a comprehensive data recovery policy with a list of instructions that is in compliance with your data recovery and organisation continuity needs.
  • Your policy must be a dynamic one – regularly tested and evolving to meet any new needs that emerge. This is also essential if you want to stay secure and compliant.
  • Supervision is important.
  • Statutory guidelines should be followed at all times.
  • You should use reliable and appropriate backup media depending on your data type.
  • While you may not completely outsource, it is always advisable to consult a firm who specialise in such services.

Ideal features of any data recovery program

Now for the recovery program; this can be further broken down into planning and execution. At the planning stage:

  • Accountability of each and every person involved in the backup and recovery process is of the utmost importance. Define everyone’s roles very clearly at the start and ensure that they do their bit.
  • While you are in the process of backup creation, ensure there are no lapses in your policy. Also, this is a good time to try out few tests to check if there are any problems with the process.
  • It is important to figure out a plan of action. Work out what data or data systems are absolutely essential for your organisation to function. These are your first priority.
  • The rest of the data should also be classified along these lines:
  • Vital
  • Sensitive
  • Non-critical.

When this plan is clear in your head, and the data backed-up and audited accordingly, the recovery process becomes simple. And you also know what order the recovery procedure needs to follow.

  • Risk assessment is also required in this stage. You need to figure out what sort of disaster you are trying to stay prepared for; disruption in data, corruption of systems, or something as critical as a Black Saturday. The frequency of such outages, and the duration of them will also help to plan your policy.
  • Finally, it is essential that you keep tally of the costs. Budget is often one of your main limitations for many organisations, and if not properly and continually assessed, the downtime costs can actually exceed the costs of outsourcing. While at that time, you will somehow be able to recover the data, the heavy financial loss will hit your organisation’s productivity and processes.

But once the disaster has passed, recovery needs to be systematic and structured, along these lines:

  • Time is of the essence – follow the plan and recover the backups as efficiently and systematically as possible.
  • Get yourself a recovery partner who helps you execute the task faster.
  • Follow the most efficient data-recovery practices to minimise delay.
  • Whatever you do, never sacrifice security and compliance; doing so will get you into more trouble.

Data recovery: DIY or outsource?

Proper and stringent data management is a relatively new concept in the organisation arena and as such, most employees, especially in small organisations, do not have the required skills, acumen or experience.
Therefore, outsourcing right at the start, seems like a good way to go. When you outsource, for the sake of a proper recovery program, pick a partner that is competent. Here’s what you should look for:

  • A organisation that offers you the right management tools.
  • Reputation is another indicator of their competency.
  • Proper auditing and record-keeping facilities.
  • Offsite vault and cloud storage facilities that have all the security measures in place.
  • Proper transportation, that you can keep track of at all times.
  • Support and efficient services after disaster has struck.
  • Secure destruction of media as and when required.
  • Attention being paid to environmental concerns.

Basically, what you are looking for is an organisation that will create the most reliable backups, keep them safe and secure, and help you to efficiently recover all the data as and when it is required. As long as you choose a reliable partner to outsource to, you can be rest assured that you have mitigated risk in the event of a disaster.