One can never emphasize enough on the importance of backing up your computer data. Many of us out there never truly grasp its importance until they have experienced an unrecoverable disaster first hand. In the case of backups it is best to learn from other people’s mistakes.backup usb connection

-        An IT saying you should always follow:  "Don't go forward unless you've backed up." 

A disaster that you can’t recover from can have a catastrophic effect with devastating costs in man hours and potentially years of lost client/customer information which is easily preventable with a proper backup regimen.

There are many scenarios that would demand the need for disaster recovery. Hard drives “will” crash, accidental deletion of data, ransomware is always a lingering threat that can render your data inaccessible, natural disasters like fire, flood or lightning, hackers, viruses, lost or stolen laptops, even disgruntled employees all threaten your data.  You need peace of mind to know that your important data is safe, secure and recoverable when the need arises. 

The impact of losing data:

-        Lost partnerships

-        Reputation damage

-        Legal Consequences

-        Fines and noncompliance penalties for laws like HIPAA

What data should I backup?

Its recommend you protect everything you can’t re-create, including making electronic copies of your physical media as it too can be lost in a disaster (floor/fire/lightning). Examples:

-        Legal documents

-        Accounting data

-        Employee records

-        Customer data

-        Business contracts

When it comes to backing up your data we have something known as the “Rule of Three”.

The Backup Rule of 3:

The Rule of Three is: keep at least three copies of your data. The original data, a backup of the original data, and a backup of the backup.

-        The original data - is the data you initially created, access or use frequently.

-        The backup of the original data – is a saved copy of the original data usually stored on a different media but ideally kept locally on premises for quick recovery or restores.

-        The backup of the backup – is a saved copy of the backed up data which should be kept off-site to ensure it is safe from any disaster that may have affected the first two copies.

This is a practiced minimum, in the case of some it is ok to have additional copies of your data stored in multiple locations. (Example would be big data keeping annual backups archived in secure locations.)

 How does one backup their data?

          There are several options and methods for backing up your data which we will discuss below.

The Grandfather, father, son concept

Grandfather-father-son backu (GFS) concept is a common rotation scheme for backup media, in which there are three or more backup cycles, such as Monthly, Weekly and daily.

Grandfather – Being the oldest of the set, usually a full backup performed on a monthly basis generally set to the first or last day of the every month.

-        A Full Backup is a complete backup of all files configured to be backed up.

Father – Next in line we have another full backup that is set to run weekly again usually on the first or last day of the week.  Sometime a differential back up will be performed instead of a full.

-             A differential backup saves all changes from the last full backup.

Son – lastly we have the incremental or differential, the backup that is run daily to back up all the changes to have occurred since the previous day.
-        An Incremental Backup is a backup of all changed files since the last full or Incremental backup.

With incremental backups, you need the latest full backup and all the intermediary backup data to restore a file to its original state, whereas with differential, you just need the last set of differential backup data and the first full one.

Data-only vs full

When using the term “data” we general refer to all your files that you use and create while using the system. This includes (but not limited to) folders, documents, pictures, music, etc. 

A full backup is simply copying the entire hard drive, including system files as well as the above mentioned.

Cloud vs local

Now that we covered some of the basics for backups, let’s go a bit further on some available solutions.

          Disk-based backup solutions- Disk-based backup solutions is taking the physical data and transferring that information to an alternate storage device. This is a good option for people with sensitive information and who may struggle with handing over important data to the others (IE. the cloud).

Disk-based solutions include external hard drives or network attached storage (NAS) devices. With sensitive information it is suggested to encrypt the data, as these options are usually small and easy to steal or lose.

          Cloud-based backup solutions- Cloud-based backup solutions work by backing up the data over the internet copying it to a secure off-site server, hosted by a third-party provider. For small businesses, cloud-based backup solutions can be practical as they do not require the purchase of extra hardware and are already being stored offsite. Macrium Site manager is a good tool as it stores data in this manner.

 Cloud storage/file syncing- like Box, Dropbox, Google Drive, OneDrive, should not be confused with “Cloud-based backup solutions”. These “sync” files to the cloud, but they aren't designed to work in disaster recovery of system. Generally they sync just one folder with all its subfolders to the cloud and can’t perform restore for a full system. This option can be useful for “data” opposed to “Full” (See above).

          Hybrid-Cloud Backup -Hybrid-cloud solutions back up data to a locally to an onsite system and is then replicated to an offsite data storage location. A good solution for those who need several copies of their data. One synced offsite and one stored locally for media rotation. Macrium Site Manager is a known good solution that we at allora have adopted.

It allows the complete backup of a server plus additional PC systems. It creates a full system backup do a local external disk that is onsite for easy access and is then syncs the backup files to an offsite storage location.

Disk Imaging

various backup mediaGoing a step further than doing just a full backup is disk imaging.  This contains the entirety of the disk drive, think of it as taking a picture of the disk and it enables you to recreate a system after a hard drive failure.

Cloning drives (via RAID1 rebuilding)

RAID (Redundant Array of Independent Disks): Is a technology that allows the use of multiple disks to be used for the purpose of data redundancy.

RAID 1 array is built from two disk drives, data is written identically to two or more drives, thereby producing a "mirrored set" of drives. (The same data is stored on each disk drive). RAID 1 does not increase performance. However, if one drive fails, the second drive is used and the failed drive can manually be replaced. Once the failed drive is replaced, the new drive is rebuilt and the data is once again mirrored to the new disk quickly restoring redundancy. 

Rapid restore of the OS

Another advantage of RAID 1 disk mirroring when combined with offsite storage is, if a disaster occurs, it can provides immediate recovery for data and applications. If both drives (primary and mirrored) in the array are unable to operate, a mirrored copy stored offsite can quickly become operational because the operating system and application software are replicated to the mirror along with the data used by the applications.

What about tape?

I’ve touched on a few of popular methods for backing up data, but what one I didn’t mention was Tape Backup. Tape backup is a data protection which entails storing digital data on tape cartridges or cassettes. These days tape backups would most viably be used for offsite long-term storage of critical data which doesn’t need to be accessed on a regular basis. (Such as annual backups of archival data).  Back in the 90s tape was a usable solution as it was a cost effective solution. These days however, with the cost of hard disks reaching as low as $16 per TB. It is easy to look past the need for tape and stick with easy and accessible hard disk drives and Solid state drives for you medium.

With the Cost of storage getting lower all the time, there is no reason you should not beable to put in a minimum necessary for getting your data backed up and safe. Either storing your business work data on a company server with a backup solution established or setting up a cloud sync to help keep your data safe. A low cost external storage set up with a free to use backup software such as Macrium Reflect configured with a scheduled backup should help you to feel confident and have peace of mind that your data is safe from disaster and recoverable.

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