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What should businesses consider when implementing a reliable business backup strategy

(Image credit: Image source: Shutterstock/scyther5)

Today’s world is increasingly shaped by digitisation for both consumers and businesses alike. No matter the size, any organisation can be negatively affected by even the smallest amount of downtime. With customers demanding 24/7 service, poorly protected data can result in both financial and reputational costs to the business. Regardless of the long list of threats, from ransomware attacks to human error, businesses must deliver a consistent and continuous service at all times to stay competitive in their market.

So, how can businesses ensure that they have a comprehensive backup strategy? Responsible businesses ensure that regularly backing up data is a priority at the core of their strategy. Being prepared for the worst with a disaster recovery plan is the first step in reducing the cost of downtime. But when taking steps to start building an integrated strategy, it’s vital to first ask a few basic questions of the business to make sure that each essential component of a backup strategy is correctly implemented. Strategically investing time in setting up the perfect system at the outset can streamline the process further down the line.

What data do you need to back up and how much is there?

As well as being aware of the data that requires backing up, it’s equally important to assign a level of priority to each data set. Consider how losing each might affect the business operations in the event of unforeseen downtime. Having an understanding of what data needs backing up will, in turn, inform the business on which backup storage solution suits their needs the most, how much storage space they need, and what security measures should be in place to protect it.

With a clear understanding of these requirements, the planning process becomes much more straightforward as decision makers can have a broad visibility of the cost of the implementation – vital when planning such a project.

Where to store data backups?

When choosing where to store your data, businesses can choose onsite backups or offsite (hosted in the cloud). Although onsite may provide easier maintenance options and easier to monitor security, they are far more prone to complete destruction in the face of a physical disaster. Turning to cloud-based backups provides an option that minimises costs as well as removing the internal responsibility of managing the resources.

So, how accessible do the backups need to be in order to maintain a consistent business service to customers? With different options available, it’s important to choose the backup that supports these needs.

Different storage devices have different levels of protection, accessibility and recoverability. When choosing which device will provide the best support for your business, it’s important to calculate the maximum back-up downtime the business can afford to lose from the time between the last back-up taking place and when disaster hits (Recovery Point Objective).

The best option tends to be a combination of the two: running a hybrid backup system with a mixture of the two solutions – an onsite system to ensure an easy and quick recovery back up as well as a reliable off-site cloud backup that significantly reduces the risk of complete loss of vital business data. Without a single point of failure but whilst maintaining ease of use, this option ensures a healthy balance between the three pillars of an effective backup storage system: accessibility, security and cost-effectiveness.

What are common risks and threats your business faces?

Knowing the specific risks that a business is prone to ensures that a disaster recovery system can be tailored to the unique needs of the organisation. Be it human error, power outages of natural disasters, having an in-depth awareness of the specific threats to the organisation is a key step in building a resilient and long-term backup process that can be relied upon no matter what the business faces.

With an optimal system that automates the process and caters to each specific need of the business, organisations can have peace of mind that the business is ready to face any potential disaster, no matter when it strikes.

How much resource are you willing to allocate on backup strategy implementation?

Once you have a key understanding of the business’ RTO and RPO, this will inform the backup schedule that is needed to protect critical data sets. For lower priority data, a weekly or even monthly backup will often be enough – but this won’t work for every data set in the business. In today’s technological age, many businesses produce huge amounts of data and over the course of a week could lose data that is highly sensitive and vital to its day-to-day operations. In this case, daily or even hourly backups would be wiser. Comprehensive and successful backup strategies are tailor made and the resource for maintaining them varies from business to business.

More regular backups may result in more admin time which the businesses may not be able to resource. But ask the question: is the cost of some preparatory admin higher than the cost of losing a significant amount of business data in an unforeseen disaster? With the right solution and the relevant in-house expertise to maximise its effectiveness within the business, backup can be made easier than ever before. Today, much of the process can be automated to reduce any associated ongoing admin costs in maintaining the backup solution. Investing in the time and expertise during the implementation period can save time and money in the long run. For example, it is possible to automate and orchestrate disaster recovery processes ahead of time with an algorithm that can combine actions and conditions to be applied across a variety of potential scenarios - this way the business is always prepared.

How to choose a backup strategy

So, with all of these questions carefully considered, it’s time to make the vital decision of choosing the system. Time must be invested to verify the system and testing it to ensure it works as well in practice as it does on paper. Go through the potential scenarios that your business is most likely to face and see how the system will satisfy your needs. The last thing a business needs is an expensive system that doesn’t perform during actual crunch time. It may be prudent to get vendors to run a personal demo or experience a free trial.

With these options weighed up, and the solution’s price and support reputation considered and it’s time to make the decision that will protect your mission-critical data sets that the business can’t afford to leave vulnerable to destruction.

Winner of a "Best of VMworld 2018" and the Gold Award for Data Protection, NAKIVO is a US-based corporation dedicated to developing the ultimate VM backup and site recovery solution. With 20 consecutive quarters of double-digit growth, 5-star online community reviews, 97.3 per cent customer satisfaction with support, and more than 12,000 paid customers worldwide, NAKIVO delivers an unprecedented level of protection for physical, virtual, and cloud environments.

Veniamin Simonov, Director of Product Management, Nakivo