A modern IT backup strategy for fast & accurate restore
Backup systems have evolved from the days when they involved copying data onto disks or tapes – possibly on a schedule but often just whenever someone remembered to do it. Scheduled, automated backups have greatly improved the consistency and reliability of corporate data when a business has to recover from an outage.
However, setting up automated backups does not by itself constitute a modern backup strategy — or guarantee that your business will recover quickly if systems fail or data is lost. An outage could mean that your production lines aren’t running, your CFO can’t access crucial financial documents, or there is no way to track new customer orders. Recovering quickly — restoring files and getting systems running again — is important, and any delay will cost the business money.
Common backup pitfalls
Even when a backup system is running regularly, there are many reasons you could discover after an outage that important data is missing.
If no one is checking to be sure the backups are done correctly, it’s possible that they may not be working – a new database server may not have been added to the backups, for example – and no one will realize it until they need to restore a system.
If retention policies have not been carefully thought through, backup files may not be kept for as long as they should be.
And a lack of structure and employee instruction could mean, for example, that a new employee starts saving crucial documents in a location that isn’t included in the backup system.
Defining your goals that impact your IT backup strategy
When a server goes down and data is lost, having a backup strategy in place will help you recover. How quickly data can be restored will depend on the volume of data and the speed of the connection to the backup.
When you’re creating a backup strategy, it’s crucial to think through two issues: How much data can you afford to lose, and how quickly do you need it to be restored?
- Recovery time objective. Data backup systems have evolved so they no longer need to involve people going to an off-site location, retrieving tapes, and then slowly restoring entire systems – a process that could take days. Still, transferring data from a backup to the system that is being restored takes time. A faster backup is always preferable to a slower one, of course. But knowing just how long your business could function without a particular system running – the RTO - is key to designing the right backup system.
- Recovery point objective. The RPO measures how much data you could afford to lose, and it determines how often you need information backed up. For some systems, it may be acceptable to risk losing, for example, one day’s worth of data. But for a customer order system that is adding orders every minute, losing even one day of data would be a huge setback. New technology allows the RPO to be measured in seconds or minutes, rather than hours or days.
Elements of a modern backup strategy
Once you have determined your business requirements, you can develop a backup retention policy and a comprehensive IT backup strategy. This strategy should encompass both on-premise and off-premise backups.
Recent developments in backup technology offer impressive options for getting your team back to work quickly, even after a complete outage.
- Synthetic backups. Synthetic backups start with a full backup of a system, then add frequent incremental backups. The result is frequent recent backups, with less frequent older ones – backups may be saved daily for a week and then weekly beyond that, for example. This system helps conserve disk space.
- Trickle restore. When a system fails and has to be restored from a backup, it can take hours – time when the system is unavailable and workers aren’t productive. Using a trickle restore process can put people back to work faster by restoring the most important files first, then working on the others once the system is functioning again.
The goal of having a modern backup strategy is to recover from a complete outage and get back to full operation as quickly as possible. Having a backup system that works more efficiently will also make it more likely that you will back up your data frequently.
Technology like synthetic backups, trickle restore and backups in a data center offers the possibility of very short RPO and RTO times that can change the face of IT in small and medium-size businesses. With these new, sophisticated backup systems, quick recoveries from outages – with no data loss – will become the norm. Learn how to build a comprehensive , robust IT system and increase your company's productivity by reading our eBook titled "Seven Key Factors for IT System Success."
If you are reviewing your backup strategy, please review our backup as a service solution.