A Guide to Data Backup and Recovery

IT consulting in Los Angeles

A Comprehensive Guide to Data Backup and Recovery Strategy

A Comprehensive Guide to Data Backup and Recovery Strategy

Imagine one day you wake up to discover all of your company files have disappeared. You have no customer logs, inventory records, tax documents, employee handbook, employee files, price lists, nothing. How will your company recover, and how will you keep running in the meantime?

If you don’t have an answer to that question, you need to make a data backup and recovery plan. Read on to learn about why this is so important and how you can set one up for your business.

Why Data Backup Is Important

Before we get into all the specifics of establishing a data backup plan, let’s talk some about why it’s important. These days, nearly every aspect of our lives, both personal and professional, are online. This means that most or all of your company records, files, data, reports, and communications are stored digitally.

The problem is that, just like physical files, digital files can be susceptible to loss or theft. Whether your servers crash or a ransomware hacker locks down your files, losing access to this data could mean total destruction for your business. Having a backup can save you from disaster and help you keep your company running without a hitch.

Conduct a Risk Assessment

The first step to creating a data backup plan is conducting a risk assessment for your company. In essence, this assessment takes a look at what sorts of potential problems could keep your business from running smoothly. In this case, you’ll want to focus on the digital threats that could shut your business down if not handled properly.

During your risk assessment, it’s a good idea to look at how likely your company is to become the victim of a cyberattack, including ransomware attacks. You may also want to consider whether you’re likely to lose data through other means, including system failures or employee theft. Once you know the risks, you’ll be better prepared to create a strategy to deal with them.

Conduct a Business Analysis

Once your risk assessment is done, you’ll need to turn your attention to a business analysis. This is a general look at your business, how it operates, and how various factors will impact its ability to operate. Like the risk assessment, you’ll want to focus specifically on the impact of data loss for this analysis.

Take a look at the role your digital files play in your day-to-day operations and set up scenarios for what would happen if those files were to become inaccessible. Remember, this shouldn’t include plans for how you’ll recover from such a loss yet. At this point, you need to know the impact a loss would have on your business, including specifics of your operation limitations.

Decide What Data Needs Backup

At this point, you should have a pretty good idea of what certain data losses would mean for your business and what your company needs to function. This means it’s time to start deciding how to protect that data and prepare for those scenarios. The first step is to decide which data needs to be backed up.

Not every piece of company data will be essential to back up, especially regularly. However, some data will be more critical to your company’s operation and need to be regularly backed up. Prioritize your data based on how critical it is to your business operation and how frequently it needs to be backed up.

Determine Backup Frequency

Once you’ve established your data backup priorities, it will be time to turn your attention to backup frequency. At first, you might be tempted to back up your data every night just to be safe. But the truth of the matter is that nightly backups can be incredibly time-consuming, not to mention expensive and largely unnecessary.

Your backup frequency will depend on your risk level and which files are most critical to your business’s operation. If you have essential files to your operation and that change often, you might need to back those up every night. But if you can operate on week-old data without much hassle, a once-weekly backup might be plenty.

Full vs. Incremental Backups

Of course, you don’t have to commit to one timeline for backing up all of your company data. You can conduct either full or incremental backups on different schedules, depending on your company’s needs.

A full backup stores all your company data and will take a significant amount of time to complete. It’s a good idea to do a full backup about twice a month to ensure your files are never too out of date.

An incremental backup stores only information that’s most time-sensitive and critical to your company’s operation. It may be a good idea to do these three to five times a week, depending on how often that information changes.

Hardware vs. Software vs. Cloud

With your backup timeline in place, you’ll need to decide how you want to manage your data backups. You have three basic options: use a piece of hardware designed to store backups, use a piece of software that can conduct backups, or use cloud storage for your backups.

In most cases, backup hardware is a disk-based machine with a data center where your information is stored. This hardware can include external hard drives, external servers, and so on.

Backup software is a program that allows you to create and store copies of your data. Typically, these programs will store these files on a piece of backup hardware or in the cloud.

Cloud storage allows you to use off-site servers that are accessible from anywhere through an internet connection. You don’t have to worry about maintaining these servers, and you can be certain that your data is secure.

Backup Vendor or Platform

Once you’ve decided what combination of hardware, software, and cloud storage options you want to use, you’ll need to settle on a backup vendor or platform. There are dozens of different options available, and many offer different levels of service. These providers offer cloud-based and software-based services, as well as other data storage options.

Some vendors also offer cybersecurity services in addition to data backup programs. Some will automatically run backups for you, while others offer a self-service platform and access to data storage. When you’re deciding on a vendor, make sure to consider both your budget needs and what level of service you want.

Make a Specific Plan

By this time, you should have all the basics of your data backup plan in place, and it’s time to start getting down to the specifics. This will be the nuts and bolts of how you’ll implement your backup plan daily. Setting up specific procedures for this will help you ensure that your data gets backed up on schedule.

Decide what days will be best to run your full system and incremental backups and arrange a schedule for those. You also need to designate a specific member of your team responsible for either running or checking on backups. Add your backup vendor to the billing schedule, and arrange to check on your backups from time to time to make sure they’re going through smoothly.

Decide on a Recovery Method

Once you have your data backup plan established and implemented, it will be time to start planning for the worst. While none of us like to think about it, having a plan for what you’ll do in the event of data loss is critical. This can help you recover quickly and with as little disruption to your business as possible.

First, you need to figure out exactly how you’ll retrieve your backed-up data in the event of a loss. Talk to your backup service provider about how they usually manage restoring lost files. Will you need to download your files, or will they send them to you through a secure channel?

Establish Your Minimum Function Requirements

You’ll next need to turn your attention to what steps you need to take immediately after a data loss. The unfortunate truth is that it’s not practical for you to recover all of your files right away. Those downloads will take some time, and every moment your company spends waiting on critical files, you lose money.

Determine which files you absolutely must have to be able to function at all. Prioritize those to be recovered first, and then figure out which documents will help you get back to a full-service footing. Continue organizing documents into tiers this way so that you can recover them in order of importance if you suffer a loss.

Set Your Recovery Timeline

You also need to set up a recovery timeline that you can follow in the event of a data loss. These will be the specific steps you follow once a data loss has been discovered. Having a solid timeline will help you react quickly and calmly to get your business back online as soon as possible.

Determine who will be called in the event of a data loss and what steps they’ll take. Figure out how long it should take to recover your essential files and what information will need to be distributed to your employees. Also, set out a timeline for bringing more and more of your company back online as you recover more data.

Incorporate Backup into Your DR Plan

In addition to your data recovery plan, you should have an overall company disaster recovery plan. This is your plan for what you’ll do if a natural disaster, such as a hurricane or tornado hits your business or if it’s destroyed by fire. Data recovery should be an important part of your overall disaster recovery plan, too.

Once you have your data recovery plan in place, fold it into your existing disaster recovery plan. Determine where those files should be sent if your normal offices are destroyed or inaccessible and how your company will securely handle those documents from a remote footing. Having these plans incorporated can help you to come out of a disaster stronger than ever.

Test and Revise

Of course, once your data backup and recovery strategy is in place, your work still isn’t over. You may have a solid plan, but the only way to make sure it works is to test it on the ground. Hopefully, you’ll never have to exercise your recovery plan, but testing it is smart, so you don’t discover some huge flaw in it at a moment of crisis.

Evaluate your data backup plan every so often and make sure it’s working both for your team and for your recovery plan. It’s also smart to periodically review your data recovery plan. Make sure your essential documents are still the same and that your protocols are up to date with your current company operations.

Make a Plan for Data Backup and Recovery

These days, data is every bit as valuable an asset as your physical inventory. Making sure you have a solid plan for data backup, and recovery can help protect you from ransomware attacks, server crashes, and much more. Set up a detailed plan, and make sure to review it and update it as needed from time to time.

If you’d like to learn more about protecting your company’s digital assets, check out the rest of our site at Be Structured Technology Group. We’re an award-winning Los Angeles IT support firm that provides responsive IT service, IT consulting, and managed IT services. Schedule a consultation with us today, and let us show you how great IT support in Los Angeles can be.

About Chad Lauterbach

CEO at Be Structured Technology Group, Inc. a Los Angeles based provider of Managed IT Services for small business. I desire to help small businesses better utilize technology by assisting in high level planning to make sure that new systems will benefit them both operationally and financially. I am careful to implement and support systems using industry best practices.