Data backup, Disaster Recovery and Business Continuity

Everyone knows the importance of the data on their computer. Some know this better than others! The people who know it the best are the ones who have been affected by data loss. As the saying goes, once bitten, twice shy. There seems to be so many offerings when it comes to backing up data. Just when you think you have all the right systems and procedures in place to protect yourself from data loss, something bigger and better comes along. Suddenly, you’re left wondering if you are doing enough.

There are a few things to consider when looking at your backups. Obviously, consideration for how the backup is being conducted, who is doing it and how often. Less obviously we need to think about not just the files we use every day in our work but also the systems these files live on. For examples your servers hold not only the files you use, but also control computer logins (usernames and passwords and the security based around that). Sometimes the servers hold email databases or websites or other databases which cannot simply be transferred to another computer when restored. Also we need to consider backup verification and testing. How many times have you heard of companies who need to recover data only to find out that the system hasn’t worked for months! That’s the real disaster, one that can be easily avoided if the right systems are in place.

Here we start moving away from file recovery type backup to more comprehensive Disaster Recovery (DR) backup sets. This has been taken one step further recently with Business Continuity (BC) backups. 

Lets look at the differences:

File Recovery

These simple backups, made to multiple magnetic tapes or possibly even external hard drives are what most people think of when discussing backups. Ensuring  these were working was a very manual process. Validating backups on a regular basis was a near impossible task. Restoring individual files or folders was quite simple albeit time consuming. Restoring an entire server that had crashed was a nightmare often requiring days (with a group of technicians working around the clock) to get a business back up and running. This is of course assuming the tapes were being rotated properly and (in the case of hardware failure) similar replacement hardware was available.

Disaster Recovery

DR systems, introduced 6 or so years ago changed backup and subsequent recovery in a big way. Image based continuous backups that could occur every 15 minutes on multiple servers to one central location. DR systems can still recover individual files or folders –quickly and easily. With the added bonus of being able to go back to any of these backup points spaning back as much as 12 months. Centralised management meant that checking on these backups was easier and more precise. When a server crashed, it only took a few hours to recover it fully – you didn’t even need similar hardware to restore to! Uploading the images to the cloud automatically meant that data was safe even if something happened to that businesses office.

Business Continuity

The next evolution started just a couple of years ago. BC systems have all the benefits of File Recovery backups and DR backups. The big enhancement was that the images of servers uploaded to the cloud could be turned on at any time, almost instantly. This means that if something happened to your office and all systems were lost, with just a few clicks of a button your servers could be booted in the cloud and access via a secure internet connection. Verification of a successful backup was also enhanced by the system actually emailing you a screenshot of the server having been booted in the cloud every day to show you it was working.

Business Continuity is important because it, as the name suggests, allows your business to continue to operate despite a potential total office loss (think fire, flood or theft). Your employees can keep doing their job while you start the process of recovery in other more physical aspects.

National IT strive to protect all of its clients with the best systems available. BC is a big focus of ours – as it should be for all businesses.