Backups are not an exciting topic for many people and are even a secondary consideration for many businesses, but the reality is that they are a critical part of your IT infrastructure and should be designed with that in mind. They should not be an afterthought but should be carefully designed around the needs of the business, ensuring that when the time comes, they don’t let you down.
We find many businesses have a dated approach to backups. Often the retention isn’t long enough, they’re not backing up frequently enough, or they’re just backing up data and not critical system files needed to recover entire systems. When things go wrong, you need to know that you can rely on your backup solution.
Key Backup Questions
There are several key questions you need to answer in order to find the best backup solution. The approach should be to start with requirement and find a solution, not find a solution and make it fit the requirement. Key questions for the business should include:
- How often do you need to Backup? - Once every weekday used to be the norm for many businesses but you can now do much more. If your data is changing rapidly then perhaps you should be backing up several times a day? Modern backup solutions can cater for frequent backups without affecting the performance of production systems.
- How long do you need to keep the backups? – Do you need to retain copies of data for weeks, months or years? Your industry may have regulatory requirements to keep data for several years. If you have just 5 daily backup tapes, what happens when someone realises a few weeks or months down the line that they deleted something? It’s too late to recover it now.
- What are you backing up? – We find many businesses have backup solutions which they’ve outgrown so they’re backing up just data every night and then attempting full system backups at the weekend. It’s important to make sure ALL of your data and systems are backed up frequently and not just occasionally at the weekend when it works.
Most of the businesses we come across have an inaccurate view of their backup process. As long as a tape gets changed each day, the feeling is that an entire successful and useful backup is taking place. This is very often not the case. Tapes perish so data doesn’t get written to them correctly. Networks grow and new areas aren’t always added to the backup routine. If you’re just backing up the data, it can take days to recover it onto new hardware unless provisions are made.
What can modern backup solutions offer?
Modern backup solutions can offer far more than the traditional ‘one tape a night backup’ which many businesses have relied on for decades. Our data is more complex than ever and our backup solution needs to be capable of providing the level of protection the business needs. Modern backup solutions can offer so many features that were once only available to large enterprises, but the technology is now available to small and medium sized businesses today.
- Recover failed servers in minutes - this may sound like science fiction to some but the reality is that you can have entire servers online in minutes, running directly from your backup solution. Allowing you get the business back on its feet very quickly.
- Quick item level recovery - recovering small items such as a missing email, file or database can take hours or even days on poorly designed backup solutions, but they can be achieved in minutes if you have the right solution in place. This allows your end user and your IT staff to recover data quickly so they can carry on with their job without delay.
- Long Term Retention - Previously this could only have achieved by having tapes in safe location. With an efficient backup solution, you can have multiple generations of data at your fingertips for instant recovery without the need for waiting for physical tapes to be delivered.
- Advanced Verification - Typically after a backup is completed a verification will run to ensure that the data written to a tape or disk is valid. This is the first step in backup verification. With modern backup solutions you can actually start up the server you’ve just backed up in a separate environment and check that it’s a good clean backup. This gives you the confidence to perform regular test restores so you’ll know that your backups will actually work when you need them and that you won’t just have a tape full of randomly placed data which you can’t recover.
- Fast Backups - If your servers are virtualised then they can usually be backed up in minutes rather than hours. Data changes in most business are around 5-15% so reading 100% of the data in at each backup window is inefficient. Modern backup technology allows for full backups to be created by only copying changed data and merging it with the unchanged data from the previous backup. This reduction in backup window means you can backup more quickly and more often than just once a night.
We work with all of the major backup software providers and can work with you to identify the best backup strategy for your business and recommend the right solution to achieve this. We feel that backups should not be an afterthought and should be regularly reviewed to ensure they are aligned to the needs of the business.
If you want to know more, please contact us.