Backup is loosely defined as a copy of data, software, or hardware that can replace any lost data, software, or hardware. When understanding backup, we must consider how something can become “lost,” the method of backup, and how the copy is restored. Here we will explore everything you need to know about backup to help make decisions about protecting your information.
How Data, Software, or Hardware is Lost
Lost, deleted, forgotten, watered, burned, dropped, smashed, stolen, hijacked, crypto-locked; these are all different words to describe data, software, or hardware that vanishes from our IT systems. There are four causes for any of the above: human failure, malicious intent, hardware or software failure, or a disaster.
Humans make mistakes. They delete stuff by accident, they forget to save, they drop breakable things, and they forget their laptop at the pay phone in Heathrow Airport. Yeah, I have done each of these.
Humans are evil. They hack, they smash, they steal; sometimes for fun, sometimes to exhort, sometimes for revenge.
Sometimes software applications “crap-out” (technical term), but usually, a software failure is combined with human error. The most common ware failure is a hard drive going belly up (another technical term). Computers get old and quit working unexpectedly. Not unexpectedly to your IT services provider, just to the owner who doesn’t listen to their advice.
Disaster includes fire, flood, and planes crashing into buildings. A disaster is also any human failure, malicious intent, ware failure, or a combination that causes a large percentage of work to be affected. For example, all company data becomes inaccessible for an undetermined amount of time for whatever reason(s).
It should be noted at this point that in the case of significant data loss, many small businesses never recover from such an event unless mitigated quickly. Downtime costs money.
Methods of Backup
The most basic backup is to simply have a copy of the files, emails, and databases that we use to operate our businesses. There are a number of ways to accomplish this, but we must take care to make sure that the backup isn’t susceptible to the same risks as the production files. For example: if the building burns to the ground, and the server and backup drives are in the same building, you have a disaster that you can’t recover from.
A better backup is to have copies of entire computers. This is called bare-metal backup or virtual machine backup. These types of backup include everything except the hardware to resume work after restoration. This backup isn’t always practical for laptops and desktops but is ideal for servers.
The other backup to consider is hardware redundancy. In hardware redundancy, we assume hardware will fail and employ certain hardware copies to prevent downtime. Certain copies can be hard drives, power supplies, entire computers, or other devices. As stated earlier, we assume hard drives will fail, so we keep server data across two or more drives to prevent loss when one drive fails.
We also need to consider the physicality of our backup. There are reasons to keep your copy in the building, and there are reasons not to. Increasingly, cloud services mean there is less need for additional hardware. It is becoming more and more popular as costs are going down. This is all fine and dandy until you need to restore a terabyte of data over the internet. That being said, if your neighborhood has been flooded, restoring over the internet isn’t such a bad idea.
Restoration and Disaster Recovery
All backups are not created equal, and therefore neither are the restorations. In the case of redundancy, most users don’t even know that something is amiss. Your IT professional gets an alert that some piece of hardware needs to be replaced; they replace it, and we carry on in our state of blissful ignorance.
Having a file backup works great when we delete the wrong file. But it's not as great when a hacker, oceans away, is holding our files, along with 50 other team members’, for ransom.
For most businesses, it is practical and affordable to have a multi-pronged backup with multiple options to restore. When every minute of downtime costs money, we should be able to restore a file, a whole computer, or a piece of hardware. In the most elite of backups, we can actually restore a computer in a different city if, for example, a hurricane should hit. We’d prefer to carry on with business rather than start from scratch.
The best axiom for backup comes from Benjamin Franklin, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” At every level of loss, backup, and recovery, this axiom applies. Surely, we could be more careful about what we delete or forget. We could do better at teaching people about the risks of opening links from unknown sources. When in doubt about how and when to back up, managed IT services are one of the most trusted and reliable options to get the information protection you need from hurricanes, hackers, and that phone booth at Heathrow Airport.
If you need help with your backup or disaster recovery plan, make sure to contact the experts at VC3. A small business depends on the right technology, at the right time, in the right place, and at VC3, we have the requisite knowledge and purpose to help you and your small business with your technology. Contact us for more information.