Every business, no matter its size or location, manages its operations using IT and data communication systems. These systems store highly sensitive data, including financial information, sales and transactions records, and customer profiles. However, the systems themselves, regardless of how well built and secure they are, could potentially fail at one point or another.
Failure could be the result of accidental or malicious deletion, corruption, or ransomware attacks, among other more unusual types of data loss, and hardware is also at risk. Laptops, desktop computers, servers, and other equipment are even more sensitive to interruptions associated with power fluctuations and tend to get corrupted by external virus attacks or breakdown for other reasons.
These kinds of IT disasters can’t be avoided, unfortunately. But businesses can strongly fortify their IT and communications systems in order to greatly mitigate damage and downtime. In this article, we’ll go over the difference between backup and recovery, and why you need both at your company.
BACKUP VS. DISASTER RECOVERY
There is an important distinction between IT backup and disaster recovery, but it’s one that many business owners overlook, assuming that these two are effectively the same thing. While both include defined policies, protocols, and tools that are designed to get your IT up-and-running again, understanding the differences will help you implement each at your company.
The term “backup” refers to the process of copying a business’s data and saving it as a secondary form, i.e. an archive, in a separate location outside of the core IT systems. By saving backup copies elsewhere, a business owner is insured that even if the core IT systems internal to the company “go down”, not all will be lost. If such a crisis occurs, the company can access the most recent backup, which can be used to restore the original data to the system.
When speaking of “backups”, critical aspects of the disaster procedures and protocols are simply not addressed. In other words, just because a business owner has a system of backing up their data to an external location, doesn’t give that business owner any foresight as to how an actual disaster will impact their operations or how long it will take to get the “down system” up-and-running again.
If a company has an excellent, fail-proof backup system that creates a data copy every hour, for example, but that company doesn’t have a disaster recovery system in place, there could be very serious consequences to the business in the event that it takes hours, days, or even weeks to get functional again. When it comes to revenue, if a business’s system stops earning income for even a day, that could translate to thousands or possibly millions of dollars lost.
For this reason, it’s imperative that business owners do not assume that their backup system is automatically a disaster recovery system. To confuse the two would be a dangerous mistake.
Disaster recovery, as a term, addresses the detailed procedures that are triggered the moment an IT disaster strikes. These procedures handle recovering data while at the same time keeping the business operations running as much as possible so that there is minimal lost revenue in the interim of correcting the system(s) failure.
RECOVERY TIME OBJECTIVE VS. RECOVERY POINT OBJECTIVE
Though backup and disaster recovery are two distinct terms that every business owner should be familiar with for the sake of implementing safety protocols against potential security breaches or unexpected IT disasters, they are interdependent and not fully independent. This matters when it comes to the relationship between backup and disaster recovery. Mainly, the disaster recovery system can only get its data from the business’s backup system, which means that setting certain “rules” within the backup system will be very important.
The most important “rule” to set when implementing your backup system is how often does the business want to copy its IT system(s) data by making a backup? This question is not to be taken lightly especially if you own a retail business with ecommerce, for instance. If your backup system makes an archivable copy once a day, then you run the risk of losing a full 24 hours-worth of data in the event that your disaster recovery system can’t get a failed system up-and-running very quickly. A lot can happen in 24 hours at a busy retailer, and the negative impact of being out of operation for a day could mean a massive loss of revenue.
On the other hand, if a company’s system was backed up every hour, then the potential loss to both data and revenue could be significantly less. What we’re discussing when we talk about mitigating these possible damages are Recovery Time Objective and Recovery Point Objective. Every business owner needs to consider these aspects, also abbreviated as RTO and RPO, and set the thresholds within their backup system that make the most sense for their operations.
The RTO refers to the recovery instructions you set that your disaster recovery system will obey after the “crash” to minimize the consequences to your business. Because RTO has to do with “time”, you can think of it as the acceptable duration of time. For example, if you backup once a day at 3AM, you have to ask yourself, will it be acceptable if there is a system-wide failure at 2AM and your company loses 23 hours-worth of data. If that great of a loss is unacceptable, then your RTO hasn’t been set correctly. Consider what is acceptable in terms of the risk of lost data and then set your backup automation accordingly.
If RTO has to do with “time duration”, then RPO has to do with “quantity of materials lost”. The Recovery Point Objective measures the maximum acceptable amount of lost data, and it takes into consideration the time and effort it will take to re-enter critical data back into the IT system following the failure, downtime, and disaster. As a business owner, you can define the RPO as part of your disaster recovery risk assessment. Ask yourself, how far back in time will you have to go to retrieve the most recent data in order to recover from a system interruption, failure, or disaster.
It won’t matter how great your disaster recovery system is if the backup solution(s) you’re relying on are faulty. Remember, disaster recovery takes its orders and data from the backup system, so if the backup system isn’t ironclad, then an unexpected disaster could quickly turn into one that your business never recovers from.
Business continuity and continuing to operate non-stop has never been more critical to business success than it is today, and that’s true for small, medium, and enterprise-sized companies. Your data must be stored off-site.
There are strictly four options for off-site backup storage. Those are on a tape, a disk, a secondary computer, and in the “cloud”. Which solution or solutions you use will depend on your specific business requirements. A one-person start-up might only need a spare server for data replication but also backup to the cloud. A national bank, on the other hand, will require massive, comprehensive solutions that could involve all four options. A business can even implement a direct backup system in the cloud, and then back up that backup to a secondary “cloud”. So long as the two locations are separate and interdependent in a way that preserves the integrity of each backup, the method will be reliable.
Perhaps the most important aspect of implementing a reliable backup system is to make sure that though the company’s primary system is “down”, there is a “secondary mirrored system” that kicks in, which the employees can use to keep working. Where does this bring us? If you guessed, frequency of backup, then you’re correct. If your system backs up every hour, then it will be very painful for employees to lose an hour’s worth of work, but not impossible. If they lost a whole day’s worth of work, that could negatively impact company-wide morale, which is even worse for business.
STRONG DATA BACKUP & DISASTER RECOVERY PLANS
According to statistics retrieved by the University of Texas, 94% of businesses that experience a catastrophic data loss do not survive in the following ways–43% never reopen and 51% close for good within two years.
Data can be at risk in any number of ways, and if you’re a business owner, don’t assume your IT systems are structurally sound and safe from disasters and attacks unless you have the proper backup and recovery system in place. Between ransomware, hardware failure, fires and floods, and even human error, the threats are real and ever-present. So, what should you look for in a data backup and disaster recovery system? Which solutions should you invest in? Let’s take a look at the key features every business owner needs in their backup and recovery system.
Types of Data Backup:
Traditional tape or disk backup is the oldest form of data backup, but because it provides maximum capacity for minimal costs, it’s still commonly used today by large-system backups, archiving, and even long-term cloud storage that need off-site data backup. Disk backup emerged after tape and was favored due to the faster backup and recovery times it offered. Users of disk backup can quickly retrieve individual files without having to first restore an entire system, which makes it a more convenient choice in certain mishaps and failures. With these traditional methods of tape and disk, a full recovery from a disaster could take hours or days, which is never ideal for any business.
Cloud-based backup systems include direct-to-cloud backup, cloud-to-cloud backup, and SaaS backup, the latter of which refers exclusively to backing up applications created in SaaS. The major upside to choosing a cloud-based backup system is that doing so eliminates the need for storage on a local device, and this is true, however the more diverse your backup system(s), the safer the recovery will be.
Types of Data Recovery:
There are many data recovery methods and each is meant to cater-to and restore the data during specific scenarios. In order to cover your bases, you’ll want to choose a solution that offers the widest range of recovery methods while reducing the amount of actual steps that need to be performed in order to achieve a functioning IT system again. Here are the top data recovery methods to consider:
- File Restore–this is the process of replacing a lost or corrupt file by selecting it out of the backup system and opening it in its primary location. This method is ideal for retrieving a small number of files.
- Volume Restore–this method protects the permissions of the original files so that upon retrieval and restoration, as much data as those originals contained are intact. This method is best for restoring large numbers of files, but only if a “bare metal restore” is not necessary.
- Bare Metal Restore–this method must be used when the entire IT system needs to be restored by pulling the off-site backup and putting it into a new, physical server. The entire system is comprised of data, applications, settings, and operating systems. You would only use bare metal restore when you have no choice but to initiate a new system’s unused and unconfigured hardware. This shouldn’t happen unless your primary server completely fails.
- Local Virtualization–this method is a feature of BCDR, or business continuity data recovery, solutions and it’s ideal for business operations that require a fast recovery. Local virtualization boots a “virtual server” that uses the most recent off-site backup. With this recovery method, a company can continue normal business operations with minimal or zero interruption when the primary server is down and being restored. This method is ideal for businesses that cannot afford to be “down” for even a minute.
- Cloud Virtualization–Cloud virtualization implements the structure of local virtualization, but the temporary work-mode is located in the cloud rather than on a local backup device. This method is a failsafe in the event that a business might otherwise be rendered fully inoperable due to fire, flood, and other hardware disasters. By triggering a shift to switch operations to the cloud, a company can continue to run as normal albeit fully virtually. FASTRAX MSP SERVICES Are you prepared in the event that your company’s server fails or your hard drive crashes? What would happen to all of your critical financial and customer data? If you’ve made it this far reading this article, then you’re probably thinking about the measures you’ll need to take in order to protect the vitality and longevity of your business. FasTrax Solutions MSP services can help protect your mission-critical infrastructure, including servers and workstations, giving you maximum uptime. Our BDR Solutions keeps an ever-vigilant eye on your IT, monitoring the pulse of your business. If your computer gets a virus or hard drive is about to crash, our software alerts us before you ever know a problem exists.FasTrax’s Backup and Disaster Recovery solution takes snapshots of your server every 15 minutes and sends them to off-site centers on both sides of the country. We can virtualize an inoperable server within 30 minutes of system failure.Our Network Failover solution will insure your business that internet connection issues will never limit your ability to keep operating to generate revenue as if a disaster has not occured. We provide the Verizon failover modem attached to your company location’s local router. During a network outage, Verizon Wireless’ 4G LTE Connection allows you to access your network and continue doing business as usual. FasTrax Solutions come with Lifeline technical support services so that you never have to feel in the dark during a disastrous power outage. If you’re ready to get started, Contact Us to speak with a Data Backup & Recovery Specialist today.