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Creating a Backup Plan? Ask These Questions First

by Bridget.Giacinto, on Jan 22, 2014 9:30:31 AM

Backup-Strategy-now-not-later-3193864399

When it comes to creating a backup plan, you need to remember that the things that are most important to you, both personally and professionally, should also be the things that are the most protected. With society’s increased reliance on technology and all things digital, it’s still all too common for important files to be lost due to a hardware failure, virus or computer theft.

A data backup plan should outline what data will be backed up, the software solution used to backup that data up, the timing and frequency of backups, the types of backups you will use, how you plan to store those backups, as well as the process by which the data from those backups can be accessed and restored.

Unfortunately, it often takes a bad experience and months of frustration before businesses and consumers take the idea of using backup software seriously. Now is the time to get started, because in reality later may be too late.

Part of developing a backup plan involves choosing the right software or program to help you protection your data. It is a matter of determining exactly what your needs are and asking some pretty basic questions about the files you are protecting. Here at NovaBACKUP Corporation, we offer a variety of products for both businesses and consumers to protect and restore their important files. We've compiled a few questions that should help you as you create a backup plan as you work toward developing a strong backup strategy. For additional assistance, we recommend downloading this Backup Strategy Guide.

How Sensitive is Your Data?

Determining the importance and sensitivity of your data can help you determine how often your backup software should be saving your files. Important data like a database may need to be backed up more frequently and also saved for an extended period of time to include several backups.

More sensitive data should also be encrypted or secured physically. Daily user files and less sensitive data may not require a backup plan that is as elaborate as your more sensitive files and documents do.

Regardless of the sensitivity of your data, your setup should be run regular automatic backup jobs and you’ll want to ensure that your data can be easily recovered in the event of an emergency.

Does the Information Change Regularly?

Data that changes regularly may need to be backed up more frequently in order to provide you with the most recent version of your files when a mishap occurs. Data that is changed on a daily basis should also be backed up on a daily basis. Most backup software solutions will allow you to back up only the data that has changed so you don't have to back up everything, every day.

There are two types of backup that backup changed files only. If you are looking to reduce your backup window, reduce your storage requirements and ensure that your able to restore files that change regularly, you should consider using incremental backups or differential backups. These types of backups can backup only files that have changed. While they are similar, there are significant differences between them, so it's important to understand the difference between incremental vs. differential backups.

For personal files, data should be backed up every time a significant change is made or more information is added. By far the simplest option is to schedule automatic backups on a regular basis, at least once a week, but preferable once every 24 hours. If you make a major change, say update your operating system or save photos from your yearly family get together, by all means use this as an excuse to perform a full backup of your files.

How Fast do You Need to Recover Data?

Businesses often need access to data quickly when a system is compromised. This fact will affect the type of backup software you choose and the type of backup you perform. If you need to recover lost data fast and be back online quickly with access to all your information, you need to rely on a professional backup software program that supports multiple backup options including local and online backup with disaster recovery and copy and mirroring options. Also, having support should you need help to recover your files is extremely important and cannot be overlooked.

When it comes to file recovery speeds, full backups and differential backups are the fastest.

                                            Incremental Backups        Differential Backups          Full Backups

Backup Speeds Fastest Fast Slow
Restore Speeds Slow Fast Fastest
Storage Space Least More Most

 

One of the primary reasons that Differential backups are so fast is that you only need to use a full backup and the last differential backup to restore. While full backups are the fastest, they also are the slowest in terms of backup speeds and storage space requirements. If you need to perform a bare metal recovery, a Disaster Recovery image backup is your best option for a complete system restore to the same or dissimilar hardware.

Personal and home files may not have the same sense of urgency that business files have. Personal files are not usually considered critical systems, allowing you to be a little more flexible with your backup strategy. But, that is not to say these files are not important. It just means, you are most likely not losing money for every hour your files are not accessible.

When is the Best Time to Backup?

Performing a backup in the middle of a workday is a recipe for disaster. Most businesses, ideally you want to schedule backups during slower times like the early morning hours, on weekends or long after everyone has left the office. Depending on the nature of your business, you may choose to perform your backups regularly after everyone has gone home.

Personal files offer a little more flexibility regarding when the software should be run, but it’s important that your software can run without interruption. Your backup should run during a time when your computer is not needed and can’t be interrupted by little hands that sneak behind your back to play their zombie games.

How Long do You Need to Keep Your Backups?

How long you need to keep your backups is considered your backup retention period. A backup retention policy, refers to the amount of time backups are retained. This is where not all data is created equal and should not follow the same requirements for retention.

Due to compliance, legal or regulatory requirements, certain kinds of data if not retained for the required length of time, could result in costly penalties. While other data, may be required to be retained for a certain length of time due to internal business rules. If you work in a heavily regulated industry it is critical to understand the various data retention period requirements as they vary significantly.

Here are a few regulatory requirement acts and regulations:

  • Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA)
  • Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS)
  • Federal Information Security Management Act (FISMA)
  • General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR)

Mission-critical data, which your business relies on to operate it's day-to-day business, requires the highest level of data protection, so having a 3-2-1 backup rule in place as recovery of this data will be critical.

When it comes to non-regulated data, you may want to adopt a retention policy that makes sense for your business needs. There is no one-size fits all answer to how long you should keep backups, as it depends upon your backup configurations, your business, legal and regulatory requirements, as well as your storage capacity. Here is one example of a retention policy:

  1. Keep all backups for at least 8 days
  2. Keep all weekly full backups for at least 5 week
  3. Keep all monthly full backups for at least 2 months

When it comes down to it, retention periods often come down to rules and regulations, so please make sure you fully understand the requirements for your industry.

What is Your Plan for Testing Your Backups?

While this may seem obvious, testing your backups for recoverability is a critical step that cannot be underestimated. Your backups are only as valuable as your ability to recover from them, so test, test, test. If you need help, check out our article on how to test your data recovery plan.

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