Having a solid backup and recovery strategy is a critical component of any organization’s disaster recovery plan. Without proper backups, a company risks permanent data loss and prolonged downtime in the event of a disaster. There are several key reasons why backup is so important for disaster recovery:
Prevents Data Loss
The primary purpose of backups is to prevent data loss. Whether due to human error, hardware failure, natural disasters, or cyber attacks, there are countless ways critical data can be lost. Configuring automated backups to regularly copy important files and databases provides an essential safeguard.
If the primary data center experiences failure, the organization can restore recent backups rather than attempt to recover corrupted or deleted information. Backups capture data at regular intervals, so even if the live data is impacted, the organization only loses changes since the last backup.
Backups provide the baseline data needed to recover systems after an outage or disaster. The recovered data is used to rebuild servers, reconfigure settings, and restore information to return to normal operations.
Without backups, recovery may be impossible or require extensive manual re-entry of lost data. With reliable backups, systems can be restored to a last known good state relatively quickly. Backups consequently minimize downtime and accelerate recovery time objectives.
In addition to recovery after a disaster, backups also improve availability in the case of localized failures and outages. If a server unexpectedly goes down, the organization can fail over to a backup server with minimal downtime.
Backups make it faster and simpler to restore service availability. Instead of diagnosing hardware issues or rebuilding failed servers from scratch, backed up data can be made available on a redundant server in the interim.
It is essential to regularly test backups to verify that files can be successfully restored when needed. Testing helps confirm that the backup process is working properly and data is recoverable.
Without functioning backups, an organization may falsely believe critical systems can be restored, only to find backups are corrupted or flawed when disaster strikes. Backup testing is an imperative part of disaster readiness.
Most industry and regulatory compliance standards include backup requirements. HIPAA, PCI DSS, SOX, GDPR, and other policies recognize backup’s role in avoiding data loss, maintaining availability, and enabling recovery.
Adhering to backup policies required for compliance also strengthens the organization’s overall data protection and disaster recovery posture. Backup facilitates compliance as well as recovery.
The availability of recent backups is one of the best ways to minimize downtime from disruptive events. Quick data and system restores accelerate recovery timelines and enable IT teams to bring services back online faster.
Lengthy downtime can severely impact business operations and revenue. Backups are crucial for limiting system unavailability that results from disasters as well as everyday problems.
Protects Against Malware
Along with hardware failures and natural disasters, cyber attacks pose another threat that can lead to data loss and outages. Ransomware and other malware can corrupt or encrypt data, restricting access until a ransom is paid.
Having uninfected backups makes it possible to restore data without paying the ransom. Strong backup practices are a key safeguard against malware.
While backup technology requires an upfront investment, it reduces costs in the long run by accelerating recovery times and minimizing downtime after disruptions. The expense of downtime from inadequate backups is far higher than the expense of a robust backup solution.
Backups save money overall by getting systems back online faster and preventing lengthy outages that affect productivity and revenue generation.
Modern backup solutions help streamline and simplify administration through centralized management, reporting, monitoring and alerting capabilities. Backup systems provide insights into protection levels across all environments while reducing the workload required for management.
With simplified management overhead, administrators can focus more strategic initiatives rather than just backup maintenance. Automated backup processes further reduce administrative overhead.
Backups are not just useful immediately after a disaster, but continue to provide value over extended periods of time. Backup systems support setting different retention policies to meet business needs and compliance mandates.
Long-term onsite or offsite backup retention gives organizations access to historical data when needed. Backups can assist with everything from legal holds to historical analysis.
Backup replication automatically copies backups across sites for enhanced redundancy and faster disaster recovery. Replicating backups offsite protects against site failures and provides an extra layer of protection.
With backup replication, restoration can begin using copies stored at an alternate site. This facilitates faster RTO while providing access to backups even if one site is inaccessible after a disaster.
Modern disk-based backups provide greater portability than traditional tape-based backups. Disk backups can be easily replicated across sites. Backups can also be moved from one system to another to improve recoverability.
The portability of disk backups provides more options for offsite rotation and establishment of isolated air-gapped copies to guard against malware. Portability also aids in migrating from old to new storage.
Table: Key Benefits of Backup
|Prevents permanent data loss||Protects against data destruction from disaster, human error, malware, etc.|
|Enables system recovery||Provides baseline to roll back and restore systems after failure|
|Improves availability||Allows fast failover to restore service during localized outages|
|Supports testing||Verifies recoverability and validates backup integrity|
|Facilitates regulatory compliance||Backup meets requirements of industry and government regulations|
|Reduces downtime||Quick restores minimize disruption and accelerated RTO|
|Limits impact of ransomware||Uninfected backups avoid paying ransom to regain access|
|Lowers costs||Avoids high expense of prolonged downtime|
|Simplifies administration||Automation and central management optimize backup workloads|
|Enables retention||Keeps backup copies onsite or offsite according to policies|
|Allows replication||Copies backups to alternate sites for redundancy|
|Improves portability||Easy to migrate disk backups across storage and locations|
Types of Backups
There are different types of backup processes, each with their own benefits:
A full backup copies all specified data. This provides a complete snapshot that can fully recover systems, but takes more time and storage to perform. Full backups are a key starting point for a recovery scenario.
Incremental backups capture all changes since the last full or incremental backup. This makes them faster with smaller storage needs. However, recovery requires chaining multiple incremental backups together.
Differential backups save all changes since the last full backup. They require less chaining than incrementals but more storage than incrementals. Differential backups provide an efficient recovery point.
Synthetic Full Backups
A synthetic full backup combines a previous full backup with subsequent incremental backups to recreate the state of a full backup. Synthetic fulls avoid the long process of a real full backup.
Incremental-forever backup schemes capture incremental backups indefinitely. Recovery requires chaining all increments since the last full backup. Storage needs continue growing over time.
Reverse Incremental Backups
Reverse incremental backups use incremental backups but prioritize the most recent changes first for faster recovery. This avoids chaining through old increments.
Mirror backups continuously replicate changes to a secondary location in real-time. This provides a continuously updated alternative site that can quickly take over in a failover.
Version-based backups capture images at specified intervals. This allows restoring previous versions or generations of data.
Continuous Data Protection (CDP)
CDP backups continuously capture every change with tight intervals. This enables restoring to any point in time. CDP has high demands for storage and bandwidth.
Storage Targets for Backups
Backups can be written to various storage targets:
Disk provides quick, reliable access for backups. Disk scales easily and satisfies recovery time objectives. Drawbacks include cost and physical damage susceptibility.
Tape is inexpensive and removable media that is offline for cyber attack protection. However, tape has slow retrieval times and lacks flexibility.
Public cloud storage offers scalability and geographic diversity for durability. But cloud backups incur egress charges and data sovereignty risks.
Ideal Backup Strategy
An effective backup strategy combines different backup types, frequencies, and storage targets to balance business needs. Some best practices include:
- Use full and incremental backups for efficient protection and recovery
- Backup to disk for speed then replicate to the cloud or tape for retention
- Test backups regularly to validate recoverability
- Automate backups instead of relying on manual processes
- Encrypt backups to secure sensitive data
Organizations should conduct risk assessments, business impact analysis, and develop recovery time objectives and recovery point objectives. These help determine the ideal backup strategy, technologies and locations.
Reliable backup is fundamental to mitigating downtime and data loss from any disruptive event, making it an essential element of disaster recovery planning. Backup provides access to clean copies of data and reduces the risk of prolonged outages. Organizations should design a backup solution tailored to their unique needs while following industry best practices.