Backup Is No Joke



  • Today is World Backup Day and a reminder to everyone about how important it is to backup your data. Why today? What better day than before April Fools Day to remember to be prepared for anything. You don’t want to be the fool who didn’t have a solid backup plan.

    But what is a backup? Backing up business critical data is more complex than many people realize which may be why backup and disaster recovery plans fall apart in the hour of need. Let’s start with the basic definition: A backup is a second copy of your data you keep in case your primary data is lost or corrupted. Pretty simple. Unfortunately, that basic concept is not nearly enough to implement an effective backup strategy. You need some additional considerations.

    1. Location – Where is your backup data stored? Is it on the same physical machine as your primary data? Is it in the same building? The closer your backup is to the primary data, the more chance your backup will suffer the same fate as your primary data. The best option is to have your backup offsite, physically removed from localized events that might cause data loss.
    2. Recovery Point Objective – If you needed to recover from your backup, how much recent data would you lose? Was your last backup taken an hour ago, a day ago, or a week ago? How much potential revenue could be lost along with the data you can’t recover? Taking backups as frequently as possible is the best way to prevent data loss.
      Recovery Time Objective – How long will it take to recover your data? If you are taking backups every hour but it takes you several hours or longer to recover from a backup, was the hourly backup effective? Recovery time is as important as recovery point. Have a plan for rapid recovery.
    3. System Backup – For a long time, backups only captured user and application data. Recovery was painful because the OS and applications needed to be rebuilt before restoring the data. These days, entire servers are usually what is backed up, increasing recovery speed.
    4. Multiple Points in Time – Early on, many learned the hard way that keeping one backup is not enough. Multiple backups from different points in time were required for a number of reasons. Sometimes backups failed, sometimes data needed to be recovered from further back in time, and for some businesses, backups need to be kept for years for compliance. The more backups, the more points in time that data can be recovered from.
    5. Backup Storage – One of the greatest challenges to backup over the decades has been storage. Keeping multiple copies of your data quickly starts consuming multiples of storage space. It just isn’t economical to require 10x or more of the storage of your primary data for backup. Incremental backups, compression, and deduplication have helped but backups still take lots of space. Calculating the storage requirements for your backup needs is essential.

    Are snapshots backups? Sort of, but not really. Snapshots do provide recovery capabilities within a local system, but generally go down with the ship in any kind of real disaster. That being said, many backup solutions are designed around snapshots and use snapshots to create a real backup by copying the snapshot to an offsite location. These replicated snapshots are indeed backups that can be used for recovery just like any other form of backup.

    Over the decades, there have been a variety of hardware, software, and service-based solutions to tackle backup and recovery. Within the last decade, there has been an increasing movement to include backup and recovery capabilities within operating systems, virtualization solutions, and storage solutions. This movement of turning backup into a feature rather than a secondary solution has only been gaining momentum.

    With the hyperconvergence movement, where virtualization, servers, storage, and management are brought together into a single appliance-based solution, backup and disaster recovery are being included as well. Vendors like Scale Computing are providing all of the backup and disaster recovery capabilities you need. Scale Computing even offers their own cloud-based DRaaS as an option.

    As we recently had April Fools Day, let’s remember that backup is no joke. Businesses rely on data and it is our job as IT professionals to protect against the loss of that data with backup. Take some time to review your backup plans and find out if you need to be doing more to prevent the next data loss event lurking around the corner.



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