The Importance of backups
A reliable backup system costs money but is cheap compared to the cost of losing business data. People lose data is for all sorts of reasons. The big four are hardware failure, theft of equipment, fire and flood. Everyone knows that hard disks can fail, but often dismiss the other three as unlikely.
Computer equipment theft is not as common as it used to be, but if it happens to your business, then data loss is going to be the result if you don’t have proper backups.
Flood is rare but is not just limited water rising from heavy rain, consider the risk of a leaky roof or the office above yours having a burst pipe. Faulty air conditioning can leak and damage the equipment it is there to protect.
Fire is thankfully the least likely event but is the ultimate test of backup systems. More common than hardware failure is user deletion of data, either by accident or maliciously. There are various ways of backing up vital data.
The best option for small businesses is online backups. These involve backing up data over the Internet to a cloud backup service. There are several advantages to this type of backup. The data is off-site, so whatever happens to the server, the information is safe. They are automatic, so no one needs to change tapes. They even work on bank holidays when a tape-based system might fail due to no one replacing the tape. The downside of online backups is the limited speed due to the bandwidth available from Internet connections.
USB Drive backups
Many businesses choose to use external USB disk drives for backup. These are better than nothing but have some significant drawbacks. Any disaster that befalls the server is likely to affect the external drive. Fire, flood or theft will also affect the external drive resulting in data loss. The only real protection these devices offer is against hardware failure of the server and manual deletion of data.
Another consideration is that portable USB drives are vulnerable to theft. Portable USB drives used for backups a rarely encrypted and when stolen are easy to recover data from. Data theft will usually result in GDPR problems.
Tape backup systems are the traditional type and offer excellent protection if managed correctly. Tapes are still appropriate where substantial amounts of data need backup or where company policy forbids online backup. Storing tapes off-site or in fire-resistant safes gives a high level of security. As long as the backup system uses enough tapes, then multiple copies of vital data will be available. Many tapes are especially useful if data loss goes undetected for some time, which is sometimes the case if a single file or folder goes missing.
Unfortunately, tape backup systems are expensive as quality tape drives are not cheap. Tapes are relatively inexpensive, but the cost mounts up as a least ten are required to give adequate protection. As well as the tape drive, the server needs a suitable interface and data cable which will add to the cost. Good quality back software is essential. Windows servers do include simple backup software, but this does not include quality reporting tools so problems might go undetected.
Having the right hardware and software does not guarantee good backups. Network administrators must configure backups correctly to ensure effective and continuous protection. As data structures change the backups need ongoing reconfiguration and testing to ensure continued protection. Ongoing monitoring and daily reporting give confidence to successful backups.
The 3-2-1 backup rule is an easy-to-remember acronym for a common approach to keeping your data safe in almost any failure scenario. The rule is to keep at least three copies of your data on at least two different storage media types, with one of them located offsite.
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