NovaBACKUP Security Blog

Overcoming the Challenges of BYOD Backup in Small Businesses

Previous articles detailed the basics of what you need to know about BYOD (Bring Your Own Device), and why it is essential to backup your BYOD endpoints. We also provided some suggestions on where you should store these backups. While these challenges are crucial to consider in a small business environment, there are still various obstacles to tackle when implementing your chosen solution for BYOD backup.

One challenge that deserves attention is the necessity of documenting your implementation plan. Putting your solution in writing ensures that everyone involved is aware of what data will be backed up and where it will be stored. By establishing this clarity, the end user is responsible if any unauthorized files are backed up. All parties must acknowledge and understand the setup and location of the data being backed up for the BYOD device.

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BYOD Backup: Impact on End User

Additionally, you must consider the impact of the backup process on the end user, including the computer's performance during backups, the frequency of backups, and the duration for which backups should be retained. While these challenges are not exhaustive, they are the ones frequently asked about when customers attempt to implement a BYOD backup solution.

To address this challenge, you need to consider a couple of factors. Firstly, how can you ensure that the machine is always on during the backup processes? Secondly, how can you minimize the impact on the end-user and the network? 

These requirements pose a couple of different challenges:

  1. How can you make sure the machine is on?
  2. How can you minimize the impact on the end user?
  3. How can you minimize the impact on the network?

Unexpected Downside of Continuous Incremental Backups

One potential solution that has gained popularity is backup software with a continuous incremental backup schedule. This type of schedule only backs up changes made since the last backup, minimizing the amount of data transferred. However, this approach has its downsides. It often requires a filter system driver or file watcher service, which can negatively affect the performance of the end user's machine.

Moreover, continuous backups tend to back up multiple versions of files, including those that users may not consider important. For example, when a user has a Microsoft Word file open, the software automatically saves and backs up each version. In most cases, users wouldn't want these intermediary versions to be backed up. Conversely, they would want important files like Outlook PST (which includes all their emails and crucial data) to be backed up effectively. Unfortunately, most continuous backup solutions do not handle such files well.

Timing BYOD Backups Perfectly

Another challenge to address is timing the BYOD backups perfectly. I often recommend scheduling BYOD backups during lunch breaks. This approach ensures that the targeted machine is usually left on, as most people in a small business rarely shut down their computers during lunch breaks. Additionally, employees typically do not engage in resource-intensive tasks during this time. Lunch breaks also tend to have lower work-related network usage.

Consequently, while the backups might cause a slight slowdown in the network, they primarily affect non-work-related activities like browsing social media. This strategy exemplifies utilizing natural slow periods to fit in a short backup window. Since BYOD backups usually involve capturing important data, the process should be relatively swift and efficient.

Now that you have a solid understanding of when to back up your BYOD devices, it's important to determine the frequency of these backups. For small to medium-sized business BYOD devices, I recommend a daily backup, as long as it is properly configured. I also suggest running the backup every day that the end user is officially working for the business. During non-business hours, it is generally not necessary to schedule a backup, but this may vary depending on the individual using the device. If they frequently take work home or use the device over the weekend, it may be wise to schedule a backup in case of unforeseen incidents, such as a spilled glass of milk on their laptop.

Backup Retention: How Long to Keep BYOD Backups

Finally, let's address the duration for which backups should be retained. There is no definitive answer to this question. Firstly, you need to determine if any compliance regulations in your industry stipulate specific data retention periods. If compliance is required, then the answer is straightforward. However, if no regulations apply, the decision becomes more fluid. Typically, data created on BYOD devices and then transferred to a central location or server should be treated as company property. Therefore, it should be subject to the same data retention policies as backups from other devices. For archiving purposes, you can consider the data more accessible and transfer it to another storage medium, such as tape, USB drives, cloud services, or slower and cheaper storage devices. In my experience, I usually retain BYOD data in the normal backup rotation for up to 90 days before archiving it to another medium.

By addressing these challenges, you can effectively overcome the obstacles associated with BYOD backup solutions. It's essential to ensure minimal impact on end users, schedule backups during optimal times, determine backup frequency based on user activity, and establish appropriate retention policies for the backed-up data.