Overcoming the Challenges of BYOD Backup in Small Businesses
by Nathan.Fouarge, on Sep 18, 2014 8:37:26 AM
Previous articles detailed the basics of what you need to know about BYOD (bring your own device), why you should backup your BYOD endpoints, and gave you some ideas on where you should back them up to. Those are a number of the challenges that you have to deal with when thinking specifically about BYOD backup in a small business environment, but there are still a number of other challenges to overcome when actually implementing whatever solution you decide to go with.
One of the challenges that I will not dig too deep into, is the concept of putting the solution you plan to implement in writing. This document should cover what you will be backing up, and what is expected to be in those locations. This way, the liability falls on the end user if for some reason a file that should not be backed up is backed up. By putting the plan in writing, everyone should be aware of and acknowledge what is setup in terms of the location of the data that is being backed up for the BYOD device. You will also have to think about the performance impact on the end user when a backup is running, what frequency you want to do the backups, and how long you need to keep those backups. Those are not the only challenges to look at, but those tend to be the big ones that I get asked about most when a customer is trying to implement a solution for BYOD backup.
BYOD Backup: Impact on End User
Impact on the end user is a big challenge that needs to be accounted for when implementing a BYOD backup solution. If the solution that you implement slows down the user’s computer significantly, impacts the network, or causes other issues to the end user, they will figure out a way to stop it from happening. This means that the backup has to be seamless to the user; they should not even know that it is happening and it should require no interaction at all from the user.
These requirements pose a couple of different challenges:
- How can you make sure the machine is on?
- How can you minimize the impact on the end user?
- How can you minimize the impact on the network?
Unexpected Downside of Continuous Incremental Backups
One of the solutions that is touted to resolve these issues is backup software that includes a continuous incremental backup type of schedule, as it minimizes the amount of data backed up at a time since it only backs up changes since the last backup, which could have been minutes ago. This type of solution does have a number of downsides, though. It typically requires a filter system driver or file watcher type of service, which can in practice negatively affect the performance of the end user’s machine. This type of continuous backup also tends to backup a lot of versions of files that people do not really care about. For instance, when someone has a Microsoft Word file open it automatically auto-saves and gets backed up. In most cases, you would not want this version of the document that you are working on backed up. On the other hand, you would want to backup your Outlook PST file that includes all your email and your entire life. Unfortunately, most continuous backup solutions do not backup this type of file very well.
Timing BYOD Backups Perfectly
What I have recommended to a number of customers implementing a BYOD backup solution using NovaBACKUP is to schedule the BYOD backup during lunch breaks. This almost assures that the machine in question will be on as almost no one shuts down their machine to go to lunch in a small business, and they typically are not working on something heavy even if they are working through lunch. Lunch breaks typically have less work-related network usage too, so while your network may slow down a bit more during the backups, all you are really doing is slowing down the employee’s Facebook browsing. This is just one example of using a natural slow time to fit in a short backup window, as BYOD backups typically are just grabbing the important data so it should be a short and sweet backup.
Now that you have a decent idea on when to backup your BYOD devices, you need to decide on how often you need to back them up. Typically for a SMB BYOD device, I would suggest just doing a daily backup, as it should not be that big if configured correctly. I would also suggest for the backup to be run every day the end user of the BYOD device should be officially working for the business. For times when the BYOD device is used during normal non-business hours, I would typically not suggest a backup to be scheduled, but depending on the individual that is using the device, you should use your own judgement. If they tend to take things home with them and work on them over the weekend, it might be worth doing a backup over the weekend in case something happens such as their child spilling a nice large glass of milk on their laptop that is on the table.
Backup Retention: How Long to Keep BYOD Backups
Finally, we get to how long you need to hold onto this data that you backed up from a BYOD device. There is no clear cut answer on this one. You will first have to see if there are any compliance issues in the industry that your business is in to see if there are any regulations that you have to keep data for a certain amount of time. That can be a very simple answer if you need to follow regulations to keep the data for a specified time period. If that does not apply, then the answer is a little more fluid. Typically, this data is created on the BYOD device and then maybe transferred to a central location/server. The data that is created on these BYOD devices is company property and should be treated like any other backup from any other machine in regards to data retention. For archiving, you can treat the data as much more available to be archived off to another device. Personally, I keep BYOD data in my normal backup rotation up to 90 days and then archive it off to another type of medium like tape, USB drive, cloud service, or just a slower cheaper storage device.