In business, information is everything. Serving your customers would be close to impossible without your client database, financial records, documents, emails, or any of the other data that you use daily. Nearly all businesses need continuous access to that data to keep their doors open and their operations running smoothly.
Data backup is essential to any company's disaster recovery and business continuity plan. While there are many ways to back up vital company data, how you back it up, is almost as important as what you back up.
So how do you ensure that your data will be protected against fires, floods, earthquakes, viruses, and human error? It’s all about backup.
In this article, you’ll learn about:
Let's explore the different kinds of backups and how they work together.
What are My Backup Options?
The first step in protecting your data is to evaluate data backup and storage options.
A file-based backup is when you back up all the files in a particular area or system. File-based backups are an absolute must-have for business continuity and disaster recovery. However, this type of backup on its own does pose its own problem in that the recovery time could take a lot longer than other options.
File-based backups are exactly as they sound -- you're backing up the files themselves. This is a good first step in backing up your data, but problems can arise when you need to access the information after an incident. You have the files themselves, but not the software to open them.
For example, that accounting spreadsheet isn’t going to do you much good without having the software to open it. If a user’s computer had to be wiped clean due to a cyber attack, everything from the operating system to applications would need to be reinstalled and configured before that computer can be used again.
That leads us to the second option, image-based backups.
An image-based backup is a complete snapshot of your system in its current state. This option backs up your files, applications, operating systems, settings, IP addresses – everything you need to get back up and running as soon as possible.
From an image-based backup, you can restore your entire system once a new piece of hardware is available.
The benefit of image-based backups is that you won't have to relink files or reset permissions on software. The snapshot knows where each file belongs, what it’s integrated with, and what version of the software you have. You no longer need to wait for your IT professional to reinstall Windows Server, Office, Quickbooks, etc., and then relink your files.
With image-based backups, your servers and workstations will be back online in short order.
What Are the Main Types of Backups for Businesses?
With an on-site backup (also known as a local backup) your data is stored at the same location as the original data. This could be in the form of an external hard drive or a tape backup that stays in the office.
One advantage to using an on-site backup is that the data is readily available if you need to restore the system. While this method is better than nothing, there are downsides. If your office is damaged, burglarized, or destroyed by a disaster, your data will be lost too.
Off-site backups are when you save your data to a remote location away from your business. With your data off-site, your information is safe even if something happens to your physical location.
The disadvantage is that if you need to use that backup, you may be down for hours or days while you wait for the external hard drive with all of your data to arrive in the mail. Additionally, there is also a high risk of the hard drive being damaged or lost in transit.
Cloud Backup (Online, Off-Site)
With an online, off-site backup, the Internet is used to back up your data. These backups are kept on hosted servers or in the cloud. Like the off-site backup method, this ensures that your data is safe even in the case of physical damage at your office, and you also get the added benefit of not having to wait for your backup hard drive to arrive at your office.
The best part about this method is that you have access to your data as long as you have Internet access. However, if you have a lot of data, the backups will slow down your Internet due to the amount of bandwidth used. And if you need to recover your data, getting all of it back over the Internet can be an extremely slow process.
What’s the Ideal Backup Scenario?
The ideal backup scenario for small to mid-sized businesses is to have a combination of on-site, off-site, and cloud backups. Going this route covers all of your bases and provides multiple options for data restoration.
As for the type of backup, it's highly recommended that backups be image-based. Since image-based backups are essentially snapshots of your server, you can easily copy the snapshot onto another server, and you’ll be back in business much faster.
No matter how you back up your data, regular test restores need to be conducted to make sure your data is recoverable. After all, the worst time to find out your backup wasn’t working is after the data is gone.
Deciding on a backup solution essentially comes down to your budget and risk tolerance.
Take the Next Step Towards Protecting Your Data
Talk to your IT provider or in-house team about your data backup and storage options to ensure your critical business data will be available when you need it.
Still not sure where to start? We’re here to help! Contact us today, and one of our experts can work with you to help you choose the best data backup plan for your business.
Editor's Note: This article was originally published in April 2018. It has been revamped and updated with the latest information.