Everything You Need to Know About Data Backup
You know the phrase, “Don’t put all of your eggs in one basket?”
The idiom comes from the novel Don Quixote, and is used as a lesson to not put all of your efforts and success on a single thing. For computing, we say it like this:
“Don’t put all of your data in only one place… or else.”
Data backup is seriously important. I feel like this isn’t new to any of our readers. You know you need to keep your data safe. The costs of losing your company data are so high that a major data loss event is considered catastrophic.
There are a lot of ways to back up your data, but many of them are flawed and not considered to be compliant with a true business continuity plan (that’s where you are prepared to face a disaster and come out swinging).
Let’s talk about some wrong ways that we’ve seen organizations handle backup, and what they are missing, and how to stick the landing when it comes to your data backup. But first, let’s define what makes a good backup:
- Your data is on multiple devices.
- Your data is in multiple physical locations.
- Your data is in multiple geographic locations.
- User error or forgetfulness can’t hinder the backup process.
- Your backed-up data can’t be stolen.
- Your backed-up data needs to be complete and recent.
- Your backed-up data needs to be easy to access and quick to restore.
- Your backed-up data can be tested.
- In a worst-case scenario, you can survive off just your backup.
USB Flash Drives/Thumb Sticks
Okay, to be honest, I haven’t seen anyone try to pull this off in a long time, but who knows. If you are doing this, I’m sorry if this comes off as rude, but please, PLEASE, get it together!
USB Flash Drives are cheap little devices you plug into a computer. They pop up as an external hard drive and you can drop files onto them as such. They are great for carrying that PowerPoint presentation from your hotel room to the convention center where the Wi-Fi is crappy, or for transferring photos of your last vacation to show your in-laws during the holidays.
These devices aren’t guaranteed to work forever. They offer little to no protection for your data, and they can easily be lost or stolen. That, and you shouldn’t wager the survival of your business on something that they hand out at trade shows for free.
External Hard Drives and Consumer-based Backup
Typically ranging from $50-to-$200, you can purchase high-capacity external hard drives that connect to your computer and, just like a thumb drive, show up as an extra hard drive on the device. Some of these come with software that lets you schedule backups, some of them are now wireless, and some even come with a trial subscription to store your data online in the cloud.
These are great for home users who need a low-cost, simple solution to redundantly store their data. If your kid hops on the family computer and infects it with a virus, at least everything is backed up on this other device (provided that the virus doesn't infect files on the backup).
Unfortunately, this solution has the same flaws as thumb drives. They aren’t hard to steal, and they typically don’t offer any kind of protection to your data if they are stolen.
The automated backup capabilities are nice, and the cloud hosting is nice, but if your data isn’t getting encrypted when being sent to the cloud, your sensitive data is being broadcast for anyone to intercept.
Plus, these devices are small and fragile. They aren’t designed to last forever.
This isn’t exactly a backup solution, but we’ve talked to business owners who were assured that having a RAID setup in their server was going to keep their data safe.
Technically, depending on the RAID type, your data IS replicated on a separate hard drive. Unfortunately, that’s about it.
You SHOULD definitely have RAID configured within your server. It offers better performance and continuity if a hard drive were to fail (again, depending on the type of RAID that is configured). Unfortunately, RAID isn’t your backup solution.
This is considered the old-school solution for backup. Tape used to be a relatively cheap way to archive large amounts of data. The problem with tape, however, is that it is very slow. It takes a lot of time to run the backup, and an incredibly long amount of time to restore from a backup.
Restoring all the data from a tape can require dozens of hours of labor, not to mention the time it takes simply to let the transfer happen. What stings even more is that it’s incredibly difficult to simply restore a single file or directory from tape without having to restore the whole thing.
The plus side is that the tapes are portable, so you could technically keep a tape off site so if your business were to burn down, you’d have all of your data still. That is, of course, if the restore process worked. Tapes can be finicky and degrade over time, which is definitely something to worry about when relying on them for the survival of your business.
Network Attached Storage (NAS)
Now we’re getting closer. NAS devices are essentially a device that sits on your network and is designated for storage. Most NAS devices have multiple drive bays so you can expand the storage capabilities.
NAS devices can serve a lot of different roles, from being a centralized location to store large amounts of data to being a streaming server for your home media library. Some NAS devices have pretty decent backup capabilities, and some can push backed up data to the cloud. Depending on the device, they may offer some level of encryption to keep your data secure during transfer and storage, and some of them support various RAID configurations so if a drive fails you aren’t totally out of luck.
Network Attached Storage devices come in a HUGE variety of flavors with low-end models and high-end models. They are really great for home use if you want to take your data seriously, but they are definitely more expensive and require more time to set up than a basic consumer external drive. Be sure to do your research though, because like I said, there are a lot of options out there.
How are NAS devices for businesses, in regard to data backup and business continuity?
They CAN check a lot of the boxes:
- If you store your data on a centralized server and back it up to the NAS, then your data is on two hard drives. Check.
- Since the server and NAS device are two standalone devices, apart from one another, your data is in multiple locations. Check.
- Is your data in multiple geographic locations? No, but if your NAS device is able to encrypt your data and store it in a secure location offsite, it could be. This likely leads to additional costs for offsite data storage, and you’ll need to do some research to make sure you can easily access your data while it’s off site, while ensuring that it is stored securely.
- If the device can automatically schedule updates and doesn’t require files or inboxes to be closed to do so, then NAS devices can work without depending on a user.
- Your backed-up data can’t be stolen? This depends on whether or not it is being encrypted, and how it is being transferred, but it is possible with the right device and configuration.
- A NAS device can be configured to back up your data often. Check.
- Restoring files directly from the NAS device tends to be fairly painless and relatively fast. If a disaster were to destroy your NAS device, however, restoring from the cloud solution might be more complicated, depending on the options available. It might be a few days or weeks before you get to see that data again.
- Some NAS devices will allow you to connect to them like your server and test the consistency of your backup.
- Here’s the big one - can you survive off of a NAS device in a worst-case scenario? Maybe. For a typical NAS device, probably not. Once you have multiple users accessing data from the device directly, it’s going to start to struggle. Some more high-end solutions might be able to stagger along if you treat them gently, but they aren’t designed to replace your server.
We’re so close! I’d at least say if you have a properly configured Network Attached Storage device right now, and it is being regularly tested, monitored, and managed, AND it’s securely storing a copy of your data to the cloud, you are at least doing the bare minimum. If a disaster were to strike, your data recovery and continuity would be a struggle and put a strain on an already stressful situation, but you will likely be able to survive with all of your data.
That’s good, but you deserve better.
We Can Do Better - The BDR
When we put together our backup solution, we weren’t just thinking about backup. We were thinking about business continuity. How can a business not only recover their data, but do so quickly so they can survive virtually any disaster?
We looked at what massive corporations were doing. Then we looked at ways to make this affordable to smaller businesses. What we came up with was a solution that hits all of the points of a proper backup that is compliant with a business continuity strategy.
The BDR is like a NAS device in that it exists on your network, but we treat it more like a server with a very specific role - backup.
The BDR is designed to take backups throughout the day, sometimes as often as every 15 minutes, so even a sudden issue or mistake can be restored. We can restore individual files and directories from it too, so you don’t need to wait a long time if a user accidentally overwrote a single document.
The BDR encrypts the backed-up data so it is secure, and then sends it off to our secure data center, where it is stored safely in a monitored and managed facility. You always have access to the data that is stored off site.
If your server goes down, we can quickly push the data from the BDR back to the server. This is exponentially faster than tape, as it’s essentially just transferring files across your network.
In the event that your server is totally taken out of commission, the BDR can temporarily act as your server and still continue to back up your data. This means your users can still access everything while your server is being repaired or replaced.
When a new server is shipped and set up, typically one of the major costs is paying for technicians to migrate all of the data and settings over. The BDR eliminates a large portion of that, because it can actually package up all of the data and do what’s called a bare metal restore. This installs everything on the new server as it was before. Remember, it’s all about getting you back up and running FAST.
Finally, if the disaster was so bad that it destroyed your BDR, it’s all in the cloud. We can push all of your cloud data to a new BDR and ship it overnight so you can have it set up and not miss a beat. Even if your facility were to flood or burn to the ground, you could rent out a space and be back up and running in 24-to-48 hours. In some cases, we could even have you run partially simply from the data on the cloud.
You can easily test the backup on the BDR at any time by simulating a data loss event and having it take over for your server.
The BDR is the backup solution your business deserves. If you want to sleep really well at night and not worry about data loss, we can’t recommend it enough. Want to learn more? Give us a call at (360) 528-6017.