December 16, 2015

Data Recovery & Backup Methods: The Basics You Need to Know

By Saad Alam

In part two of this series, we learned about various types of disasters that can have a major impact on your business and the need to safeguard your critical data from these common events.

We’ve covered what you need to protect and why you need to protect it. The next step is to understand how to protect all business data no matter where it lives. Whether it’s in the cloud on SaaS apps like Salesforce or Google Apps, Office 365, or on PCs and servers, you need to protect it.

Let’s take a look at some common methods of backup and recovery.

Data backup methods
Disks or tape backup. These are the oldest of the backup methods we’re discussing. Traditional tape backups have their benefits (fairly inexpensive), but also have their drawbacks (slower backup and recovery times, and management of physical tapes). With tape, you’re sequentially backing up your data on a physical device. Hard disks offer a faster backup and recovery process than tape, and include additional benefits such as reduplication and data compression. Backing up to a physical device has its merits, but the key is finding a way to do it efficiently and economically.

Hybrid cloud backup. With a hybrid cloud backup solution you’re essentially backing up data on a local device and in a secure offsite data centre for redundancy. You always have a secure local copy of your data, but you also have it stored offsite. Also, your machines are backed up to the local device first, so you don’t have to worry about the replication to the cloud affecting the performance of machines or your Internet connection. The best practice in this case would be to back up from the local device to a secure offsite data centre after business hours (automatically of course).

Direct-to-cloud backup. With direct-to-cloud backups, you send your data directly to the cloud, bypassing the need for a local device. In this case, you’re backing up your data in a remote data centre, without the local copy in your office. Depending on your Internet speeds and specs of your machines, these backups could take much longer. Direct-to-cloud backups may make sense for SaaS data because you’re essentially doing a backup of data that already lives in the cloud!

Data recovery methods
Recover from your local device. This only works if you have a device locally (like in the hybrid cloud backup method mentioned above). Some solutions actually allow you to spin up a virtual machine right from the device, so your business operations (applications, settings, files, folders) can all run from the device. This may be a great option if you’ve experienced server failure, or a machine has had a security compromise. And because you’re recovering from your local device, it happens quickly.

Recover from the cloud. Other solutions require you to look to the cloud for your data recovery and download your data. This involves transferring gigabytes or even terabytes of data over your Internet connection (in most cases) which could result in hours or even days of downtime. If this is the route you take, it’s imperative you find a solution that can recover from the cloud in a few minutes.

Data Recovery right in the cloud. If your local device is damaged, some providers can spin up a virtual machine for you right in the cloud, also known as “disaster recovery as a service” or DRaaS. In other words, you can continue to run these important applications right from the cloud!

These are just a few of the ways businesses back up and recover data. There are advantages to each backup method, but finding a solution that offers you the combination of fast, reliable backups and robust recovery solutions can determine how quickly and easily your business can recover. When picking a solution, you have to ask yourself a few questions. How much downtime can I tolerate?Do I need my data saved offsite in the case of a disaster?

Regardless of which method you choose, one thing you should always do (with the guidance of your business continuity provider) is test, test, test... but we’ll save that topic for a future post.

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