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Data Backup Strategy and Plan

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Effective data backup and recovery doesn’t just happen, it takes using the best backup software and a sound plan. For sure, some companies have an ad hoc approach to this critical area of IT operations, but that is not a best practice. It’s wise to develop a thorough data backup strategy and plan. After that, the plan should be tested regularly to ensure that it works. There are too many advantages of data backup and recovery to not have a sound strategy and plan.

Data backup strategies and plans are evolving, however. Traditional backup strategies like tape-based data back up to an offsite secondary location have transformed over the last couple of decades with cloud and mobility solutions. Older data backup strategies are often inadequate to protect your data. You need to adopt modern data backup strategies. Also, backup implementation, such as using incremental vs differential backup, should be planned.

New data backup trends include Cloud-to-Cloud data backup, where data from one cloud is backed up to another cloud. Other options include cloud storage of onsite backup data along with appliance-based backup, which can automate the data backup process. There are also hyper-converged backup products and virtual backup appliances that run on a hypervisor and enable faster deployment and easier configuration. However you do it, the data backup strategy and plan should take recovery time objectives (RTOs) and recovery point objectives (RPOs) into consideration.

Best Practices for Backup and Recovery

Backup and recovery processes must balance effort, expense and risks. With that in mind, some important best practices for backup and recovery include the following:

  • Have an offsite backup. The onsite or primary backup could be compromised, so it’s a good idea to have a second, offsite backup as a contingency (e.g. cloud).
  • Treat critical data as a high priority. Sensitive files like financial, personally identifiable information (PII), business contracts, and other crucial information should be prioritized and backed up in ways that are compliant with regulations. Any other data that may have a high business impact in case of a data loss will also fall into this category.
  • Know how you can access critical data. If you suffer data loss, you need to ensure you know how you can access critical data and in how much time it will be available. This sets the right expectations to plan for minimal impact on your operations.
  • Test your backups. Make certain that the regular backups are done successfully by enabling full backup verification. You must also train your IT staff on access and restoration of backups. Periodically conduct tests of data restore processes.
  • Have a communication plan. Your plan has to provide for communications between team members and other business stakeholders even if there is a major system outage. If the outage is due to a disaster, it’s essential to plan for emergency communications, e.g., everyone’s cell phone numbers need to be available on paper lists, etc.

Data Backup Plan and Procedures

The implementation of a backup plan involves procedures and processes. The good news is that many modern backup systems have high levels of automation. Once programmed in, the procedures more or less run themselves. The challenge is to prepare them properly. One path to success in this regard is to create an automated network backup plan. A network backup transmits data from selected devices over a network to the backup server, wherever that is.

Key Questions

  • What is being backed up? Is the data sensitive?
  • Where is your backup being stored? Cloud, on-site, offsite, etc.
  • What is the frequency of back-ups? Hourly, daily, weekly, etc.?
  • Who is responsible for handling the actual work of back-ups? IT manager, Datacenter manager, etc.
  • Who is testing the success of backups? QA resource, IT manager, etc.

First Steps In Planning

  1. Put together a backup plan budget. Once you have decided on your backup strategy, you can allocate a budget accordingly. Cloud-based solutions will be cost-effective and economical. Buying hardware and maintaining it will be expensive, while Backup-as-a-Service with monthly rental options may turn out to be more affordable.
  2. Choose a platform. There are a wide variety of backup platform options. What works for you will depend on your size, the scope and complexity of your backup needs and the compliance burden your organization faces, if any. You can also choose a cloud-based service provider for data backup. If you do not want to put sensitive data on the cloud or government regulations are prohibiting it for any reason, you may have offsite backup storage.
  3. Select a data backup vendor. Evaluate different vendors, some of which may provide a complete solution comprising hardware, software, and cloud backup solution. Others offer discrete components of a full backup solution, and you have to put it all together yourself. We’ve put together the best backup software, and here are reviews on the top three that provide comprehensive solutions - Veeam Backup and Replication reviews, Commvault reviews, and Zerto Replication reviews.

Keys to a Successful Implementation Plan

  1. Establish roles and responsibilities. Set firm procedures, with assigned personnel and accountability for all aspects and scenarios of data backup and restoration. If you work with a service provider, its team should produce a customized recovery plan.
  2. Set a backup schedule. Creating a backup schedule, including backup type and timing will be crucial to ensuring your data can be stored and restored in alignment with your business needs and resources.
  3. Test your backup system. Test your system once it has been fully implemented and set up a regular testing schedule. There are a variety of ways you can test your backup system - core data sets, application recovery, Virtual machine (VM) recovery, physical server recovery, and more. Validate that your backup works, regularly.
  4. Continue to optimize. Revisit your backup schedule and plan periodically, at least one per year. Integrate the review as a part of your IT project development. For example, as new applications and storage projects go into development, their project workflows should include backup and restoration planning.

Backup Plan Example

Digital Asset

Backup schedule

Primary backup type

Secondary type

Backup Owner

Validated by/Date

ERP system

Daily

Incremental – to cloud

Mirror site

John F.

1/1/21

PCs on-site

Weekly

Incremental – cloud

On-premises storage array

Joe D.

3/1/21

PCs – remote

Weekly

Incremental – to cloud

On-premises storage array

Joe D.

4/1/21

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