Q&A With Aaron: “My Data is Backed Up, so I Can Recover it Fast, Right?”

by Aaron Zimmerman Aaron Zimmerman | Aug 6, 2021 11:35:37 AM

Wrong!

Here’s a big (and scary) misconception you might have about your data backups: backing up your data guarantees a fast recovery. It does NOT! In short, data backup is nothing more than copying files. There are a number of ways data can be backed up, both manually and automatically—and you don’t need to know all the technical ins and outs of them. But what you DO need to know is whether your current backup is set up in a way that would allow for the fastest possible recovery time in the event of a disaster or data-erasing event. You might be shocked to find out it’s not as fast and easy as you’d like to think.

Disaster Recovery vs. Data Backup

Let’s start by defining what “disaster recovery” is. Disaster recovery is the process by which you will RECOVER the functionality of your data, software programs, devices and business operations in the event of a “disaster.” A disaster can be as simple as a server crashing or a more catastrophic event such as a tornado. But here’s the real kicker: MOST data loss is not due to a natural disaster such as a flood, hurricane, tornado, etc. Most data is lost because of simple human error, such as employees accidentally deleting files, faulty hardware or even a virus or hacker attack that brings down your entire network. 

Because most businesses believe “that could never happen to me,” they are caught completely off guard when there’s a major outage or files get deleted or corrupted beyond recovery. They THINK because they have things “backed up” they can instantly get those files back and start working again. Not so.     

Here’s a perfect analogy: Let’s suppose you could back up all the personal items you have in your house—your clothes, furniture, valuables, etc., and somehow maintain a copy of everything in a warehouse 1,000 miles away from your current residence. Now let’s suppose (and God forbid) your house burns down, destroying everything with it. You’d be relieved that you had a copy of everything somewhere else, so it’s not a total loss (which, by the way, is why your backups need to be OFF-SITE, not just on devices in your office).     

But here’s the problem: If your house burned down, you might have a copy of everything you own, but you no longer have a place to put it. So, for starters, you have to rebuild the house. Next you have the project of getting everything out of that storage unit into your NEW house. Then you have to rearrange everything. This is exactly how most backup systems work UNLESS you are running “image” backups. An image will allow you to restore your server, PC, device, etc., FAST because you’re not backing up single items but, instead, the ENTIRE HOUSE. 

Some companies that I have visited to conduct security assessments on are still using tape backups. According to Enterprise Strategy Group, 21% of businesses were still using tape backups in 2019. If you are using tape backups in your business, we need to fix that. While tapes are great for archiving large data files, they are not great for disaster recovery. Tapes also have a failure rate of 100%. For these reasons, modern businesses need to have images of their data offsite and in the Cloud that can be quickly spun up on a remote server or workstation during an emergency incident.

Redundant Backups

Having redundant backups means having backups of your backups. A good example of this is having a local backup of your data and multiple offsite backups of your data. We automatically push a backup of our client’s data to an offsite data center, but in today’s ever evolving cyberthreat landscape, it is smart to have a second backup in the Cloud. This will be a key factor in recovery time during a data loss incident. It is also something cyber insurance companies love to see.

Another reason to have a copy of your backups in the Cloud is to protect yourself from having to pay a ransom in the event of a cyberattack. If an organization has multiple copies of their backups, including a copy in the Cloud, they can restore their data on new systems without having to pay the ransom, in most cases. The Cloud backups we store are unique in that they have data immutability, meaning that no external or internal operation can modify the data, including hackers.

You are Probably Just Getting a Server Backup

It’s important to note that even if you do have image-based backups with redundant copies, you most likely only have this for your server(s). Standard procedure is to backup the server(s) with the shared files. This is your company’s most valuable and critical data. HOWEVER, If you keep important files on your personal desktop, you need to be backing up your workstation as well. The same goes for your laptop. This can be done securely in the Cloud.

Think about the files you may be keeping on your desktop or laptop. Are they data that should be saved on the server, or are they data you want to be kept private? How much time and money would you lose if you lost these files forever?

Testing Backups

The biggest issue I see with companies who do have redundant backups is that they do not test them. The time to test your backups is not when you need them! You may think your backups are running every night, but are they really? You will not know unless you test them regularly.

What About Email?

Something to consider when reviewing your backup strategy is that it does not automatically include backups of your email inbox. Many business owners do not think about this, or assume that Office 365 or Gmail automatically stores a backup—they do not! However, there are products out there that do complete backups of you Microsoft 365 or G-Suite. If you rely on your email communications and documents sent back and forth with clients, then you should consider backing up your inbox as well. The tool we use to do these this type of backup can also be used to backup your OneDrive and SharePoint.

If you need help implementing any of these solutions, give us a call today.

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