Because data is the lifeblood of your business, you need to ensure it is always protected against loss. This short guide will take you through the essentials of planning your data protection strategy and explores the options for cloud-based backup and disaster recovery solutions.
Backup and disaster recovery (DR) are similar – but different – concepts, designed to protect your data against loss. Although the terms are sometimes used interchangeably (even by technology vendors), you must know the difference to ensure you choose the right systems for you.
Do I need backup?
Backup technologies are designed to create an exact copy of your data so that you can always restore it in the event of a major problem. If your file server is infected by ransomware, backup allows you to recover affected files quickly and efficiently. This technology is particularly well suited to lower-priority data sets and systems.
Do I need Disaster Recovery?
Disaster recovery technologies are typically focused on helping your business resume operations as quickly as possible after a significant outage. Data from your mission-critical systems will be continuously replicated to the cloud (or similar off-site facility), allowing you to bring operations back online quickly.
Backup and disaster recovery (DR) are similar – but different – concepts. Although the terms are sometimes used interchangeably (even by technology vendors), you must know the difference to ensure you choose the right systems for you. You will probably need a combination of both – backup for low-priority systems, DR for the most important.
Building a workable plan
A successful plan relies on knowing what data you have and how important it is to your operations. Prioritising data will help you decide how it should be backed up and recovered.
Recovery Time Objective (RTO) describes the amount of time between your systems going down and you bringing them back online again. For mission-critical systems, your RTO targets must be as low as possible – perhaps just minutes – so you can restart operations quickly.
Systems with a high RTO are best suited to cloud-based disaster recovery solutions that offer near-instant fail-over capabilities.
Recovery Point Objective measures how much data is lost when your systems go offline. Some of your line-of-business applications will be updating constantly; any updates during a period of downtime may be lost entirely. Other systems update far less frequently – a few hours of downtime would not cause any data loss.
Systems with a low RPO are best suited to DR technologies that offer instant replication to ensure every detail is captured and protected. Higher RPO data can be used with lower-cost traditional backup mechanisms.
Replaceability and interdependence
As you assess your data estate, you need to answer two questions:
- How easily can we replace lost data?
- How does each application relate to the others?
Some data is more important to operations than others. Your financial data is essential – the CFO’s financial modelling spreadsheet for the financial year 1998/99 not so much. Plan your backups so that critical data is prioritised and protected accordingly.
Second, don’t forget to assess the interdependence between systems. Sometimes rarely-used systems underpin your mission-critical apps. If the ‘unimportant’ system is not backed up correctly, it’s more important sibling will be unusable. Both systems need similar levels of protection to avoid these problems.
A good backup plan has three key elements:
- Retain at least three copies of your data
- Data is stored on two different media
- At least one of your backup copies is stored offsite
Cloud backup solutions make this process incredibly simple, with many services offering multiple versions for restore. And because the data is stored offsite, it takes care of media and geography concerns.
Implementing disaster recovery
Disaster recovery is all about restoring operations as quickly as possible. In most cases, this will be in the form of a co-located data centre or cloud-based platform.
When choosing a partner, consider:
- Are their replication capabilities sufficient to prevent data loss?
- Do they offer tools and support to manage the post-failover and fail-back processes?
- Do they offer a pricing model that aligns with your budgets?
Again, cloud technologies offer a good level of protection, flexibility and scalability that is more suitable for most businesses than a traditional co-location setup.
Testing your provisions
Replicating and backing up data is relatively easy – but can you recover it when needed? The final stage of any backup and disaster recovery plan is to test that your fail-over and recovery systems work.
Essentially, you need to be sure that your RTO and RPO goals can be met. This will mean testing backup mechanisms to ensure data can be properly restored within the specified timeframes. Similarly, you will need to trigger a live failover event periodically to confirm DR resources kick in as expected and any disruption falls within acceptable boundaries.
Through testing, you will identify weaknesses and opportunities for improvement before encountering a show-stopping outage.
Get in touch
For more help and advice about Cloud-based Backup and Disaster Recovery technologies that help protect your business against disruption and data loss, please get in get in touch.