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Three Critical Questions to Ask About Your Data Backups

Three Critical Questions to Ask About Your Data Backups

07/21/2016

Back UpWe’ve said it before and we’ll say it again. There are two types of companies in this world when it comes to backups: those that do backups and those that wish they did.

Cyber criminals continue to target businesses of all sizes. Falling victim to an attack is becoming a matter of when – not if. With the ever increasing prevalence of the ransomware viruses that encrypt a user’s data and hold the encryption key ransom, the only reliable solution to this problem is a working backup. Backups are also the only thing that will save you in the event your equipment is lost or stolen or your office is hit by a natural disaster.

Failing to have back-ups could cost you your business. Research from the Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety shows that at least 25 percent of businesses that close following a disaster never reopen. Of course, loss of data isn’t the only factor preventing a company from re-opening, but it’s certainly a big part.

When it comes to backing up your data, there are three critical questions you need to ask to make sure you’re getting the best solution for your business:

 

What kind of back-ups should you use?

The standard in the industry today has become the image-based backup, though file-based backups haven’t gone away completely.

Image-based backups take a snapshot of the machine at a particular point in time. The snapshot includes the Operating System, installed programs and software updates, and files. So if something happens, you just need to restore from the last known good backup image and the company is back to the point in time that it was before the problem arose.

Compare that to a file-level backup: Recovering from a file-level backup requires manually reinstalling the operating system, drivers, updates, software, recreating any shares, reconfiguring previous settings. Only then can you restore the files back to their location.

File-level backups can be cheaper in some cases – but you get what you pay for. The difference in recovery time between these solutions is huge. Image-based backups can get you working again pretty quickly, while file-level backups will take much, much longer. Of course, if your choice is between file-level backup and no backups, please go with file-level. But otherwise, using image-based backups is going to be the better option.

Another big question for backup types is “Should we use Cloud based backups or physical backups?” There is no right answer for this. We tend to prefer the convenience of cloud storage and back-ups. But it’s not necessarily the best solution for every company, especially if you have an unreliable internet connection or have to meet regulations that require physical backups. Work with your IT company to figure out what will be right for you.

 

Where should you store your backups?

An often overlooked aspect of backups is the actual storage location. Where is your system being backed up to? Is it on the same network as your working files? Or is it going to an off-site location (whether this is through the Cloud or taking a physical backup to an off-site location like a safety deposit box)?

Having backups on your network or on a hard drive in your office is fine for situations like a file accidently being deleted. But if disaster strikes, the only way to ensure you can get up and running again is to have back-ups in an off-site location.

For example, if your office is broken into and all of your equipment is stolen, how are you going to start working again? Or what if someone connected to your network accidently gets ransomware and your whole network gets encrypted?

With an off-site backup solution, simply notify your backup vendor of the problem and they will send you a drive with your latest backups stored on it so that once the hardware that was stolen or encrypted is replaced, you can simply restore the backup and get back to work.

You’ll also need to consider the security of backup locations (both local and off-site). If someone is able to steal your back-ups, can they actually access the information? Consider encrypted backups to add an extra layer of security.

 

How often should you back everything up?

Getting a good backup system in place is only the first step. Backing up your system doesn’t do you much good if you aren’t doing it regularly. “Regularly” means different things to different companies, though. Ideally, the more frequently you back your system the better. This applies for both local and off-site backups.

Realistically, to determine how often you should be backing up your network, think about how much information you could afford to lose in the event of a disaster. A week? A day? An hour? That’s how often you should be backing up your network at a minimum.

If you lost the last weeks’ worth of information for your entire company right now, how big of a problem is that? If the answer is “very big,” you need to be backing up more often than that. If the answer is “It would be a little annoying but we could recover it fairly easily,” once a week may work for you.

You can also use a combination of full back-ups and incremental back-ups. With this, you can back up your entire system at certain intervals, like once a week (usually on a weekend), with incremental back-ups at night to catch and back up the information changed that day.

The importance of a reliable backup is not to be underestimated in today's’ world especially when it comes to security. Don’t misunderstand – firewalls, anti-malware and antivirus programs and other preventative solutions are essential to any data security plan. But the reality is, even the best solutions won’t catch everything. And as nice as it would be, a firewall isn’t going to stop a natural disaster from destroying your office.

Planning accordingly and putting the right measures in place – like backups – will save you time and money and get you back and up running quickly. 

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