Modern businesses depend on data and can be devastated by its loss. Thankfully, data can be backed up securely and reliably, provided you use the proper strategies and tools. With a comprehensive backup plan, you can control whether a loss of data leads to organizational collapse or a painless recovery.
In this article, we’ll provide insight into the concept of backup storage, and show you different types of backup storage methods, including external hard drives, Network Attached Storage (NAS) and cloud backup storage. Read on to find out how to develop a backup strategy, considering factors such as budget and how to choose a vendor.
In this article:
What Is Backup Storage?
Backup storage refers to devices or locations where copies of data, software or entire configurations are stored for recovery in the event of data loss or hardware failure. Backup storage generally encompasses both the hardware on which the data exists and the software responsible for managing copies and recovery.
Types of Backup Storage
Backup storage includes anything from a simple thumb drive to a hybrid system of local physical storage and remote cloud storage. For businesses, the complexity of the systems in operation and the amount of data to be handled reduces the number of viable options. The following are some of the important forms of backup storage.
External hard drives
External hard drives local backup and recovery on a limited scale. They are portable, relatively cheap, can be easily used by IT as well as users and can only be accessed when connected, increasing data security. These drives are useful for smaller amounts of data that need to be available in offline environments but are subject to physical damage or theft. However, external hard drives are not ideal solutions for backing up anything other than individual files or small databases.
Network Attached Storage (NAS)
NAS is the addition of a storage device to your server network that can be accessed through a LAN. Multiple devices can be set up to provide both on and off-site backup and these devices can be synced online. NAS systems are primarily used for unstructured data like video, websites and individual files, not configurations or applications.
NAS devices are available as desktop configurations, meant for small businesses and individuals, midmarket solutions for businesses requiring 100s of TB of storage, and enterprise solutions for large organizations that require significant storage space.
Cloud backup storage
Cloud storage can refer to remote public clouds, private clouds, or a hybrid solution that uses both public and private or on-premise resources. This backup method is suitable for any type of storage and is scalable to need, making it useful regardless of business size.
Increasingly, public clouds are preferred over private solutions as their remote nature eliminates the risk of local outages or disasters and allows recovery of data from any location with a network connection. Public clouds transfer the often higher costs of purchasing or maintaining equipment to lower subscription rates for storage volume, bandwidth consumption, and the number of users.
Although cloud services include built-in security and customer support, their networked nature can mean a larger risk of security breaches and lack of internet connection makes data inaccessible.
Developing a Backup Strategy for Your Business
The impact of data loss can be felt by your business and its customers through the loss of trade secrets or project progress, lost operation time and its associated revenues, and reduction of customer trust. It can be costly to recover data from damaged or corrupted devices and what can’t be recovered is lost permanently. Developing a proactive backup strategy allows you to resume operations faster, more easily and more cheaply than is possible otherwise.
Assess backup needs
Your backup needs will inform the rest of your storage and data security strategies. You must determine what sort of data your backups will contain and the priority of each type. For example, a payment database might require a higher level of encryption or more frequent backups than OS configurations. Priority level also refers to the impact that loss of data will have on your organization. Applications used on a daily basis will have a greater impact on productivity and must be restored more quickly than HR records from 5 years ago.
Previous losses, number of employees or clients accessing data, and risk of natural disaster all play a role. Length of storage time, determined by regulatory requirements or project timelines, affects the amount of storage space needed and cost.
Evaluate backup options
After considering what data you need to store and for how long, you can narrow down which options best match your needs. Two key points in this determination are Recovery Point Objective (RPO), the frequency of backup, and Recovery Time Objective (RTO), the speed of restoration. You may have multiple RPOs or RTOs depending on how your data is prioritized or segmented.
RPO is dictated by how frequently or drastically your data is being modified as well as the cost of each increment of loss. If your RPO calls for copying large amounts of data on an hourly basis, an external hard drive that you have to manually copy files to is probably not the best solution.
RTO relies on the cost of downtime to your organization in the case of loss. If your RTO dictates that specific data be available for immediate recovery at all times, a solution based exclusively on a public cloud will not meet your needs.
When determining a budget for your backup strategy it is important to balance investment in solutions with cost of loss. If you’re a small startup with minimal liabilities, it doesn’t make sense to purchase expensive servers that you’ll have to pay to house or hire staff to maintain and operate. Likewise, if you’re a large corporation with valuable R&D projects, relying on a small IT staff with a few external hard drives is negligent.
Your budget should include costs of backup administration, maintenance, and recovery and reflect both short and long term costs. For example, third-party solutions have smaller upfront costs but long term recurring ones. Including your strategy budget in Data Loss Protection (DLP) plan can help emphasize the importance of effective solutions and reduce liabilities created through underspending.
Choose a vendor
After you’ve determined the type of solution you need and your budget, you can start evaluating vendors. Options should be narrowed based on fit of service, presence of lock-in, and ability to integrate services you’re currently using. Once you’ve selected viable options, compare vendor reputation, cost and length of implementation, services included, such as extended support or employee training, and contract specifics.
You should demo the products, if possible, or seek insight from current or past users, if not. Before selecting a vendor or implementing your plan, review your analysis and determinations. If you have already started and discovered a miscalculation, it is more cost- and time-effective to alter your plan when the issue is discovered than to wait until the problem causes damage.
Test your backup solution
Your strategy must include follow-up to be effective. Create a policy defining a schedule and responsible parties to ensure accountability. Backups should be reviewed on a regular basis for fidelity and restorability.
To minimize the risks, you should implement additional checks when you adopt new applications or devices or upgrade current ones. You should also execute more tests after events with large influxes of data or significant data modification. Testing your solution consistently and uniformly ensures that your backups are available when you need them and provides feedback to increase efficiency and effectiveness.
Data Management with Cloudian
Regardless of which solution you choose you are likely to have data that is less frequently, if ever, accessed, consuming valuable space. Cloudian allows you to store this less used but no less valuable data at a reduced price on appliances that are scalable and integrate with existing NAS and cloud services.
Cloudian solutions are transparent to users and don’t affect user ability to access data. If migrated data is required, it is returned to the desired location automatically, eliminating loss of productivity caused by manual transfer or wait time. Your data is secured with integrated data protection either on-site or across sites managed from a central location, facilitating offline and disaster recovery.
Cloudian is not an all-inclusive solution, it is meant to complement your strategy and ensure you are fully protected as cost-efficiently as possible.