Posted on September 15, 2022.

“Expect the best and prepare for the worst,” isn’t just a cliché. It’s a great way to describe the state of data backup and recovery today.

Users expect the best. With the always-on availability of the cloud, we’ve been trained to expect very little downtime and zero data loss in the systems that we work in, even in the case of large scale disasters.

As a result, it’s important for information teams to prepare for the worst. By implementing a robust and well documented data backup strategy, an organization can be prepared for just about anything that comes its way. Then, with a similar process documented for data recovery, the organization will be prepared to maintain business continuity through any type of hardware failure, natural disaster or user error.

With that in mind, we’d like to share a few best practices to help you keep systems running and business flowing.

Data backup best practices

Disasters happen, but you can limit the severity and scale with a comprehensive backup strategy that includes these best practices.

1. Back up your data frequently

More than a third of global corporations reported being the target of a ransomware attack in 2021, according to the IDC’s 2021 Ransomware Study.

This underscores the importance of frequently backing up your business data. If you have clean backup data when ransomware strikes and you’re able to prevent the ransomware from reaching and encrypting the backup data, you have a safe and easy way to recover data without paying the ransom.

Just how frequently you should back up data depends on the nature of the service that is producing your data. It’s advisable to back up mission-critical and data-intensive services multiple times per day, while daily backups are better for less important services.

2. Follow the 3-2-1 backup rule

The 3-2-1 backup rule is a best practice that says you should have three copies of your data, stored on two different types of media, with one copy off-site.

This rule helps to protect data against loss from hardware failures, media degradation, ransomware attacks and data corruption. It also helps to ensure that there is always a copy of the data available in the event that one of the other copies is unavailable.

3. Use differential and incremental backups

Backup jobs can be resource heavy. Differential and incremental backups are two ways to reduce the amount of data that needs to be backed up. With differential backups, only changed data is backed up, while with incremental backups, only new data is backed up.

Using either of these methods can help to reduce backup times and save on storage costs. Differential backups are typically used when data is backed up to tape, while incremental backups are more commonly used when data is being backed up to disk.

4. Use cloud backups intelligently

Cloud backups have become increasingly popular in recent years, but they are not a silver bullet. Cloud backup services should be used as part of a comprehensive data backup strategy that also includes on-premises backups.

When using cloud backups, it’s important to consider data security, data residency and privacy concerns. Make sure that data is encrypted before it is sent to the cloud and that only authorized users have access to the data. As well, regulations like the GDPR place specific restrictions on where certain data can be stored and how it can be used. When storing your data in the cloud, be certain you know where it’s being stored and sent.

It’s also important to consider cost. While cloud data storage typically offers lower upfront costs, remember that backup storage is essentially just idle storage. In other words, an organization paying a monthly fee for 50 terabytes of cloud storage might eventually find it more cost effective to own that hardware as physical storage.

5. Don’t use your backups for data retention

Data backups should not be used for retention. Data that needs to be retained for compliance or other reasons should be stored in a separate system.

Backups are designed to protect data against loss, but they are not necessarily well suited for long-term data storage. Backups are typically overwritten on a regular basis, which means that data that needs to be retained for a long period of time could be lost if it is stored in the backup system.

Disaster recovery best practices

When the worst happens, these best practices can help you recover data more quickly.

1.  Define a disaster recovery policy and a disaster recovery plan ahead of time

A disaster recovery policy is a broad document that defines how an organization will respond to and recover from a disruptive event. A disaster recovery plan is a more detailed document that outlines the steps that need to be taken to execute the disaster recovery policy.

Creating these documents ahead of time can help to ensure that data is recovered more quickly in the event of an outage or data loss.

2. Keep an open line of communication with your stakeholders

Communication is key in disaster recovery scenarios. Understand and document your stakeholders ahead of time.  These are the people who need to be kept up-to-date on the status of data recovery efforts.

Your stakeholders will likely include management, customers, partners and employees. In a data loss or outage scenario, inform them of the incident, keep them apprised of your progress and be sure to get their input as you work to recover data.

3. Test your disaster recovery plan regularly

Disaster recovery plans should be tested on a regular basis. Testing helps to ensure that the plan is effective and that all stakeholders are familiar with their roles in the event of an outage or data loss.

Testing also helps to identify any weaknesses in the plan so that they can be addressed before an actual disaster occurs.

This typically takes the form of tabletop exercises.  In these exercises, stakeholders get together and walk through the steps that would need to be taken in a data loss or outage scenario. Need help? Sanity Solutions can help with crafting and implementing your data backup and recovery strategies. Our team of experts can help you choose the right tools, automate processes and ensure that your data is always protected. Contact us today to learn more.