One of the biggest risks you can take is not having a backup and disaster recovery strategy. Your data is important and irreplaceable. Sure, you may never experience a disk failure, but if you do it will be a disaster. Ask anyone who has suffered a data loss and they will tell you about the distress and panic when they realized that the data was gone forever. Data loss can devastate your operations and cripple your organization. But for a problem with such disastrous results, it has an easy fix.
Backing up data is relatively easy and economical on the front side and provides an easy recovery method in case of a disk loss or failure. Backup costs are a fraction of recovery costs and sometimes no amount of money or effort can recover data from a severely damaged disk.
Today’s technology provides many cost-effective ways to protect your data. For a business system, start with a strategy that uses the concept of redundancy to duplicate data, employs a serious backup method and includes disaster recovery. Your data backup strategy should be proportional to the value of your data. Don’t cut corners, be sure to include any data that is essential to your business or would be difficult to reconstruct.
So why doesn’t every business have a good backup and disaster recovery plan that works? Either it’s too expensive or too complicated. Backup doesn’t have to be expensive, but it has to be executed and verified on a regular schedule. If you manage and verify your backup daily then you can choose less expensive technology.
Backup doesn’t have to be complicated, but automated solutions cost more. If you want a solution that takes most of the guess-work out of backups and gives disaster recovery protection, they are available but will cost considerably more.
It is important to choose the technology and strategy that works for you. Always be diligent in performing and storing your backups. Below we discuss some of the most used concepts and technologies.
Disk Redundancy – Writing to two or more disks at the same time, provides data protection in case of a disk failure. A redundant array of inexpensive disks (RAID) will divide and replicate data so that a single or minority of disk failure does not cause data loss. RAID technology is mostly employed on servers and data storage devices. It can be hardware or software configured. Although RAID does give a level of protection against data loss, it does not replace backing up your data.
Primary Data Backup – The data storage or repository can be tape, disk-to-disk and/or virtual tape using an external drive (SAN, NAS or USB) used to store the backup. The backup scheme can be full, incremental, differential or continuous. Each scheme has individual requirements that may include software to create the storage archive.
Secondary Data Backup – This is usually an offsite disk-to-disk or online backup plan, but can be another method that gives a second copy of the repository. Online backup services are very affordable and keep a near real-time copy of files. A limitation of online backup is bandwidth. For large stores of data, the initial upload can take considerable time. Some services allow you to send a disk with the base files then only changes are uploaded.
Disaster Recovery – This allows you to build your system from the ground up. Often a disaster recovery plan includes an image (complete and exact copy of the disk(s) on your system) and a current backup. Images include the operating system, configuration, licenses, applications and data. Images are often called a “bare metal” restore because they allow you to overlay the image onto a new system without any prior installation of an operating system or software.
Protecting User Data – Users should save data to a shared network drive and be included in the backup. If there are files that are only on a laptop or desktop, they should be backed up individually. This can be done easily with an external drive or online file backup.
A common data backup and recovery configuration for a server:
- Data Redundancy as RAID 10 – Mirrored and striped sets in a 2 disk array.
- Primary Data Backup – Network Attached Storage (NAS) using Windows Server 2008 Backup.
- Secondary Data Backup – Online backup service backing up all critical files.
- Disaster Recovery – Full image stored offsite.
This is not an exhaustive list of available backup methods. Data backup has many parts, facets and options. For a good data backup strategy, start with an overview of your system and decide your level of involvement. From there, you can build a backup and disaster recovery plan so that in the event of a data loss, you are protected.
If you have comments or need help formulating a plan, contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.