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Volume 32, Issue 2

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Wednesday, 03 April 2019 19:49

World Backup Day – How to Plan for Disasters

Bidle TrevorBy TREVOR BIDLE, information security and compliance officer, US Signal

World Backup Day purposely falls the day before April Fool’s Day. The founders of the initiative, which takes place March 31, want to impress upon the public that the loss of data resulting from a failure to back up is no joke.

It’s surprising to find that nearly 30 percent of us have never backed up our data. Even more shocking are studies stating that only four in ten companies have a fully documented disaster recovery (DR) plan in place. Of those companies that have a plan, only 40 percent test it at least once a year.

Data has become an integral component of our personal and professional lives, from mission-critical business information to personal photos and videos. DR plans don’t have to be overly complicated. They just need to exist and be regularly tested to ensure they work as planned.

Ahead of World Backup Day, here are some of the key components to consider in a DR plan.

The Basics of Backup

A backup creates data copies at regular intervals that are saved to a hard drive, tape, disk or virtual tape library and stored offsite. If you lose your original data, you can retrieve copies of it. This is particularly useful if your data became corrupted at some point. You simply “roll back” to a copy of the data before it was corrupted.

Other than storage media costs, backup is relatively inexpensive. It may take time for your IT staff to retrieve and recover the data, however, so backup is usually reserved for data you can do without for 24 hours or more.  It doesn’t do much for ensuring continued operations.

Application performance can also be affected each time a backup is done. However, backup is a cost-effectives means of meeting certain compliance requirements and for granular recovery, such as recovering a single user’s emails from three years ago. It serves as a “safety net” for your data and has a distinct place in your DR plan.

You can opt for a third-party vendor to handle your backups. For maximum efficiency and security, companies that offer cloud-based backups many be preferable. Some allow you to backup data from any physical or virtual infrastructure, or Windows workstation, to their cloud service. You can then access your data any time, from anywhere. Some also offer backups as a managed service, handling everything from remediation of backup failures to system/file restores to source.

Stay Up-To-Date with Data Replication

Like backup, data replication copies and moves data to another location. The difference is that replication copies data in real- or near-real time, so you have a more up-to-date copy.

Replication is usually performed outside your operating system, in the cloud. Because a copy of all your mission-critical data is there, you can “failover” and migrate production seamlessly. There’s no need for wait for backup tapes to be pulled.

Replication costs more than backup, so it’s often reserved for mission-critical applications that must be up and running for operations to continue during any business interruption. That makes it a key component of a DR plan.

Keep in mind is that replication copies every change, even if the change resulted from an error or a virus. To access data before a change, the replication process must be combined with continuous data protection or another type of technology to create recovery points to roll back to if required. That’s one of the benefits of a Disaster Recovery as a Service (DRaaS) solution.

Planning for Disasters

DRaaS solutions offer benefits that make them an attractive option for integrating into a DR plan. By employing true continuous data protection, a DRaaS solution can offer a recovery point objective (RPO) of a few seconds. Applications can be recovered instantly and automatically — in some cases with a service level agreement (SLA) based RTO of minutes.

DRaaS solutions also use scalable infrastructure, allowing virtual access of assets with little or no hardware and software expenditures. This saves on software licenses and hardware. Because DRaaS solutions are managed by third parties, your internal IT resources are freed up for other initiatives. DRaaS platforms vary, so research your options to find the one that best meets your needs.

A DR plan is basically a data protection strategy, one that contains numerous components to help ensure the data your business needs is there when it is needed — even if a manmade or natural disaster strikes.

Trevor Bidle is information security and compliance officer for US Signal, the leading end-to-end solutions provider, since October 2015. Previously, Bidle was the vice president of engineering at US Signal. Bidle is a certified information systems auditor and is completing his Masters in Cybersecurity Policy and Compliance at The George Washington University.