Backups: the key to keeping your data safe

Data is the most valuable piece of any server or computer. It can be lost through water damage, human actions (like data breaches), or more commonly, through hard drive or other storage device failure. While components may be upgraded and equipment replaced, the data contained on a server or computer is virtually irreplaceable. It is for this reason that two-thirds of IT leaders expect security to be the number one area they invest in 2016, according to TEKsystems.

But what does a comprehensive data security strategy look like?

We at KINETIC have clients constantly coming to us with this question. Our advice to them? You can properly back up your files and applications in many ways with many different products. Regardless of the products used, we advise everyone follow the three pillars of back-up: Live. Local. Remote.

When it comes to security and restoration, having a backup of the backup is key. As long as you have these three copies of your data stored on 2 different media with at least one copy stored off-site, you will have a solution regardless of what happens to your organization.

But first thing’s first. Decide what needs to be backed up. Software, databases, and passwords might quickly come to mind. But think beyond just your office and its computers: is there data on staff members’ home computers? Mobile devices? Is your website backed up? Your email? Determine the most critical data for your organization’s operations in order to prioritize what should be backed up and how frequently.

Next, storing and protecting your backups. This is where those three pillars come in. We’ve described each one below and how the three would fit into your organization’s security measures:

LIVE

There are a number of products that provide real-time/live backup. These continuously save your working files in the background and keep several older versions of each file for restoration. Live backup provides simple, reliable protection without the loss of valuable time.

LOCAL

Having a local back-up gives you the ability to restore files and applications quickly by pulling the local file backup. This could be done through the use of a NAS (network attached storage device) or an external hard drive. Most devices and products offer a “set-it-and-forget-it” method to ensure data is backed up automatically after the initial setup is complete in order to avoid worrying about human error. Both live and local backups are stored on the server or on external drives, while the third pillar – remote online backup – is stored off premises.

REMOTE

A remote backup allows the server and/or computer to automatically send your data to a remote location based on the specified frequency. Each software application will want to know the data you want to back up and the schedule for the backups. The software then takes care of backing up the data for you.

There may be a couple challenges to backing up remotely. First, it requires Internet access. If your connection goes down (internet provider has an outage, office loses power, etc.), you wouldn’t be able to restore from your backups until your connection is restored. Second, as you entrust your critical data to a third party, make sure you choose a provider that is reliable, safe, and secure. For this reason, you should consider using a service that encrypts data before it leaves your premise and provides additional security once data is stored on their servers as well.

Although there are challenges, we always recommend getting your data offsite due to the many advantages of a remote backup. First, you avoid the expense of purchasing backup equipment, making this strategy ideal for small nonprofits that need to back up critical information but lack equipment, expertise, or inclination to set up dedicated local storage. Second, you benefit from automation. Software doesn’t forget to make copies of a critical folder, whereas an employee might. Finally, if something happens at your office that destroys both the live and local backup, you can be 100% confident that your data is still safe and secure.

Once you have these steps in place, be sure to test your backups before you need them (or if you are outsourcing your IT, ensure your provider does so). Running through your recovery plan and restoring your files to a different computer at a different location will give you confidence that you have enough bandwidth, that back-ups are happening with appropriate frequency, and that your overall bases are covered if (heaven forbid!) something happens.