Given that 60% of small businesses that lose data shut down within six months, you need a Disaster Recovery plan in place to protect your business. If you’re not clear on exactly what Disaster Recovery means, what the difference between backup and replication of data and systems is, or how it could protect your business, here’s a simple overview.
What is backup?
Simply put, backups will cover an event that you hope will only happen once. That could be something like the deletion of a single, critical file, or the failure of an entire area of data. All data and changes within a set area are copied to another location at a set time interval. This interval is usually once a day and takes place overnight. But that interval can mean potential data loss.
What about replication?
Replication allows for a failure in infrastructure, and fault-tolerant systems mean work can still continue on further infrastructure. Essentially, it means you can continue working without time delays in restoration. Then the original infrastructure can be fixed or replaced. However, replications are just a single snapshot of the data at a given time. Because they are not normally kept after the next replication cycle, you only have a single, recent snapshot to move back to. What you need for a robust service, where critical data and systems aren’t going to be unavailable, is the chance to return to archived backup snapshots, whether that is a daily, weekly, monthly or yearly snapshot.
So, what should you back up or replicate?
Company data is growing all the time. Additionally, the number of devices where data might be stored by an individual has also increased and could include desktops, laptops, mobile devices or company platforms like Microsoft 365. The importance here is having a hold on what your key data is and where this key data resides. For example, Company Policies are key data, so this is backed up, but the working copies of these documents might not be so critical and so are kept elsewhere and only moved to the key area once ratified.
These days, some of the key areas for backing up might include financial data, emails, calendars, client contacts or company contacts, key sales or proposal documents and so on. Knowing the locations of these files, whether that’s within databases, online platforms, internal servers or on a director’s desktop is absolutely vital.
Replicated data might consist of applications that are being run internally, key internal company servers that allow people to log on, and any data where it might be business critical to have very fast access to, should infrastructure fail.
You might consider replication as an option to quickly restore systems and data with the least possible downtime to the business. That being said, replication does tend to be more expensive. One solution to reduce the cost is not to include large archives of data.
When should you back up and replicate your data?
Once you’re clear on what your data is and where it is, it is standard to put policies in place to cover Disaster Recovery.
Generally, it’s recommended to back up every day any data that has been changed from the previous day. Alongside this, a full backup should be completed once a week on a monthly cycle and once a month on a minimum 3-month cycle. This gives you continuity of data if files get deleted but it then becomes clear they could actually be required now or in the future.
So, what do you need to consider?
- A full Disaster Recovery plan, consisting of backups and replication can be expensive. The more times you backup or replicate data, the more data you create, and the more storage space you need for this locally and in the cloud. The more storage space you have, of course, the more you are going to pay. It’s worth getting expert advice to help you decide what the best solution is for your business.
- Time to restore. In other words, how quickly you can get back to normal. This point cannot be emphasised enough because so often it’s something that businesses don’t consider. Having local backups or replication is the quickest and cheapest way to get things back up and running in a serious event. But it doesn’t cover you if there’s a disaster in the local environment. Cloud backups cover you in these circumstances, but if the data size is large it can take hours, or sometimes days, to get critical data back. Replication can reduce downtime, but there’s a higher cost associated with it. So, you need to consider the investment in Disaster Recovery versus the potential financial impact of downtime, particularly for business-critical systems. Call on someone with the right knowledge to help you consider your options.
- How often are my backups or replication checked? Who is responsible for this and how is it tested? Restoring the same file each time is not a robust check that the whole backup is being completed. Choosing a random restored file is crucial here. Although a third party might be doing your backups and replications, knowing when these occur, when have they been unsuccessful and the restore schedule is important. You need evidence and maybe screen shares too as reassurance. If you’re not feeling reassured, then that concern should prompt a rethink over your Disaster Recovery setup.
- Remember, although you might have a trusted third party involved with the safe storage and Disaster Recovery of your data, you still need to check that everything is happening as it should and that it meets your requirements. That’s why it is also important to have someone within your organisation to take on the responsibility of reporting on the state of your backups, replications and restores of data.