What are advantages of offsite backups?

Offsite backups refer to copying and storing important computer files and data in a location that is physically separate from the original source. This serves as a safety net in case catastrophe strikes the primary location, causing data loss or equipment damage. Offsite backup provides numerous advantages that make it an essential part of any robust data protection strategy.

Protection Against Local Disasters

One of the biggest benefits of offsite backups is protection against localized disasters and calamities. If important data is only stored on computers and servers at a main office or data center, localized threats like fires, floods, electrical surges, theft, vandalism or any type of equipment failure could lead to irrecoverable data loss. By keeping an additional copy at a geographically distant location, essential files remain safe and accessible even if disaster strikes the primary site.

Fires and floods represent some of the most common and devastating natural disasters that businesses face. Even a small office fire that is quickly extinguished can produce smoke and heat damage rendering computer equipment unusable. Nearby sprinkler systems going off can also damage electronics. Floods from broken pipes, heavy rains or other plumbing failures can occur in any building and provide no warning. A disaster recovery plan that relies solely on equipment at a single site would lose access to critical data forever. Offsite backup ensures files remain intact and retrievable no matter what happens onsite.

Protection Against Malicious Threats

In addition to natural disasters, offsite backups also provide protection against malicious actions by people inside or outside the organization. This includes disgruntled employees, cyber criminals, hackers and thieves. Having an offsite copy thwarts unwanted encryption, deletion or corruption of important data and files. Some examples include:

  • Disgruntled or malicious insider who wants to harm the organization by destroying data.
  • Hacker who installs ransomware that encrypts data until a ransom is paid.
  • Cyber thief who gains access and steals sensitive customer information or intellectual property.
  • Spyware, viruses or malware which corrupts and deletes files.
  • Accidental file deletion or overwriting good data with bad data.

No matter the cause, the safest way to recover from situations like these is having an unaffected offsite copy of the data from before the incident occurred. This provides options to restore to a clean version not impacted by the attack or mishap. Without offsite backup, many businesses lack the ability to adequately recover from malicious data loss.

Protection Against Geographically Extensive Disasters

While local disasters impact a single office or facility, larger regional incidents can cause data loss across many sites in a geographic area. Having backups in the same city, county or even state retains vulnerability to widespread threats. Some examples include:

  • Severe weather like hurricanes, flooding and tornados that damage entire regions.
  • Extended power outages from blackouts, grid failures or cyber attacks on utilities.
  • Economic, political and civil instability leading to arson, riots, sabotage, strikes or acts of war.
  • Toxic chemical spills, dirty bombs, nuclear incidents and biological attacks.

When disaster affects regional infrastructure like power grids, flooding rivers, and transportation corridors, local backup provides little protection. Only offsite copies stored far outside the geographic impact zone can ensure data survives regional crises. While widespread disasters are less likely than local events, their catastrophic nature means companies ignore this vulnerability at their own peril.

Meeting Compliance Requirements

Various government regulations and industry standards either recommend or require that companies implement offsite backup procedures. Maintaining reliable data backups in a secondary location enables compliance with cybersecurity, privacy, financial, healthcare and other governance rules intending to protect consumers. Some examples include:

  • GLBA, HIPAA, SOX and PCI DSS for protection of sensitive client information.
  • Sarbanes-Oxley Act for preservation of accounting records and financial documents.
  • State privacy laws like CCPA and GDPR to avoid data breaches.
  • Industry standards such as ISO 27001 for information security management.

In many cases, the choice is either follow data protection regulations requiring offsite backup or face fines, penalties and damage to company reputation for non-compliance. This makes offsite data backup not just a wise precaution but a legal obligation.

Improving Recovery Point Objectives

Recovery point objective (RPO) is a measure of acceptable data loss in the event of a disruption. It defines the maximum tolerable amount of data that can be lost before major business impact. The lower an organization’s RPO, the better protected they are against data loss. Offsite backup directly supports lower RPOs in two key ways:

  • Frequent backups – Backing up to a remote facility makes regular backups practical because media does not need to be physically transported.
  • Operational reliability – Offsite facilities can be fully dedicated for backups and designed for higher availability versus a local server room or closet.

Having the option for frequent, reliable offsite backups provides insurance for a low RPO. This translates to less potential data loss and faster restore times to limit business disruption when unplanned downtime occurs.

Enabling Faster RTO

While RPO defines data loss, recovery time objective (RTO) measures how fast systems can be restored. The lower the RTO, the faster a business regains operational capacity after a failure. Offsite backup assists with rapid recovery times in two ways:

  • Cold standby – Backups can be immediately activated as a cold standby site if the primary location stays down for an extended time.
  • WAN bandwidth – Offsite data centers typically have larger network bandwidth to ship backup tapes/drives back faster if needed for recovery.

For short outages, having offsite backup prevents the need for restoring from tapes and speeds up data recovery. For severe incidents, offsite facilities keep the business running until local systems can be repaired or replaced. This allows companies to maintain customer service with minimal disruption.

Reducing Human Error Risks

According to various studies, human error accounts for anywhere between 25% to 33% of data loss incidents. This includes accidental file deletion, incorrect data entry, applying bad configurations and even simple negligence. Having accessible offsite backups acts as a safety net to quickly recover from these common human mistakes. Some typical examples include:

  • IT staff member accidentally deletes or formats the wrong drive
  • Employee unexpectedly empties the recycle bin or clears browser cache
  • Server admin enters incorrect firewall rules blocking access to a production database
  • Developer uploads buggy code that corrupts application data

When backups reside offsite, there is assurance that clean copies of data remain untouched by daily mistakes made by staff. This tremendously reduces the risk and impact of unintended user errors on critical company data.

Meeting Customer Contractual Commitments

Many organizations promise specific data protection provisions in contracts negotiated with customers and partners. This includes retention periods, backup frequency, geographic diversity and recovery time objectives. Violating contract clauses related to proper backup can expose the business to legal liability claims. Some examples where offsite backup may be required include:

  • Hosting or colocation services promising resilience against failures
  • Application vendors providing uptime SLAs within service contracts
  • Companies holding sensitive client data protected under agreements
  • Partnerships requiring retention of historical records and correspondence

By incorporating offsite backup into service delivery processes, liability risk is reduced and contractual data obligations are fulfilled. The business practices what it promises to avoid breaches of data protection responsibility.

Long-term Historical Archiving

While continuous offsite backup provides recovery from recent data loss, historical archiving preserves older files no longer used in daily operations but still holding business value. This is cost beneficial over keeping decades of aging data on primary storage. Offsite archival also protects against bit rot, corruption and media failure affecting outdated media. Reasons companies archive old data offsite include:

  • Tax records that must be kept for 5-10 years based on statutory requirements
  • Medical records that hospitals retain for patient’s lifetimes
  • Scientific data that researchers collect over many years
  • Significant historical business events and press releases for posterity
  • Legal contracts, intellectual property and patents needed indefinitely

The scalability and geographic diversity of offsite data centers enables cost-efficient long-term archiving while keeping content safe and available for future retrieval if needed.

More Robust Ransomware Protection

Ransomware is one of the top cybersecurity threats facing companies where attackers encrypt critical data until ransom demands are paid. While anti-virus software and user awareness helps prevent infections, offsite backup stops ransomware in its tracks. With copies beyond the reach of encryption attempts, organizations can simply restore rather than pay ransoms or lose data. Offsite backup complements other measures to provide layered protection against growing ransomware threats.

Independence from Cloud Providers

While public clouds can serve as an offsite backup target, depending solely on them creates new risks of data lock-in and reliance on a single provider. Having backups in a physical offsite location under full control guards against public cloud-specific risks such as:

  • Cloud provider going out of business or discontinuing a service
  • Internet outage preventing cloud access during an emergency
  • Cloud service outage from technical failure or cyber attack
  • Cloud provider insider security breach or negligence
  • Sudden price increases making cloud too expensive to access data

For sensitive data subject to regulatory controls, utilizing offsite physical backups may also provide greater visibility, security and freedom than public cloud services.

Cost Effectiveness Over Tape

Traditional offsite backups involve rotating tapes to an outside facility, which can get quite expensive. Offsite disk backup is much more cost effective than tape:

Tape Backups Disk Backups
Slow recovery times shipping tapes back Rapid data restores from disk
Time consuming to manage tape rotations Automated disk backups require little management
Risk of data loss from tape failure, destruction More reliable with redundant disk arrays
Storage costs plus transportation fees Predictable storage costs with faster connections

While tape holds a lot of data, the overhead makes it expensive for routine offsite backup/recovery workflows. Purpose-built offsite disk solutions offer better speed, reliability and costs.

Extra Protection for Virtual Machines

Backing up virtual machine (VM) data locally leaves it vulnerable, since local hypervisor failures or configuration errors can instantly delete or corrupt all virtual disks and machines. Having an additional offsite copy secures VM data from host-level disasters. Offsite VM backup:

  • Protects against accidental/malicious VM or hypervisor deletion
  • Recovers from host hardware failures
  • Allows VM restoration to alternate environment after site disaster
  • Secures VM data separately from its infrastructure

While robust hypervisors include high availability (HA) capabilities to reduce downtime, HA only works for temporary glitches not permanent site failures. Offsite VM backup provides the last line of protection if onsite systems are unrecoverable.

Supplementing Limited Mobile Device Storage

Company data stored exclusively on mobile devices faces risks from physical loss/theft, water damage, hardware failures and limited internal storage capacity. Offsite backup helps organizations store and protect important mobile content generated in the field such as:

  • Photos/videos captured by field personnel
  • Survey data gathered on tablets
  • Client information entered into CRM apps
  • Inspection reports drafted on smartphones
  • GPS data identifying remote sensor locations

Securely backing up mobile data to centralized offsite systems extends storage capacity while keeping content safe if devices are compromised. This bridges the gap between office servers and vulnerable mobile endpoints.

Granular Restore Options

Unlike file sync tools that provide access to entire sets of folders, offsite backup lets administrators pick and choose the exact files or application data to restore. This allows precision recovery of only what is needed versus bulk recovery of everything. Examples of granular restores include:

  • Recovering one corrupt database from a backup versus all databases
  • Restoring individual documents instead of full folders
  • Retrieving only new and changed files since last backup
  • Accessing previous file versions to rollback unwanted changes

Advanced offsite backup solutions provide flexible restore options to match the specific data recovery needs of each failure incident.

Centralized Dashboards for Monitoring

Monitoring backup status across many servers and sites can become complex without centralized tools. Offsite backup solutions consolidate alerts, analytics and reporting into a single dashboard for visibility into:

  • Backup scheduling and historical success rates
  • Detailed records of files successfully backed up
  • Failures requiring investigation or re-run
  • Available recovery points for each protected asset
  • Space used versus allocated storage quotas

This helps backup administrators ensure completeness, compliance and efficiency for the entire data protection environment via unified consoles. Oversight into global operations is simplified.

Reliable Support Services

Maintaining in-house expertise on offsite backup best practices across continually evolving storage platforms, networks and security threats can prove challenging. Managed service providers specializing in secure offsite backup deliver experience and technical skills that are hard to cultivate internally including:

  • Assistance selecting optimal offsite data center locations
  • Ongoing product updates and feature enhancements
  • Monitoring and troubleshooting to maximize uptime
  • Technical support engineers to minimize administrator burden
  • Testing and validation of recovery procedures
  • Assistance meeting compliance requirements

The support of specialized service providers reduces in-house labor while providing flexibility and economies of scale difficult for a single company to achieve alone.


Offsite backup provides reliable protection and rapid recovery when the unexpected occurs. By keeping an additional copy of data away from primary infrastructure, businesses gain an insurance policy against both localized disasters and extensive outages. While no single method can guarantee 100% uptime, offsite backup comes the closest by providing redundancy across geographic zones. When implemented correctly, companies can experience seamless continuity across isolated or widespread disruptive events.