Back Up Strategies

Data back up has always been an important element of IT infrastructure however, with the ever-evolving business environment and the increased sophistication of cyber threats, traditional means of back up no longer meets the fluctuating demands of today’s business.  A company’s survival depends on the existence of its data and a comprehensive back up strategy as an essential part of its cyber security.

The way we back up our businesses data has had to evolve too in order to meet the needs of the modernised business environment – particularly over the last twelve months where a traditional office environment for hundreds of workers under one roof has become a series of individual locations, joined remotely through the creative use of software and technology.  Face to face meetings have become sophisticated video conferences.  School lessons have been performed from dining tables all over the country and transmitted in real-time to hundreds of students.  Traditional retailers on the high streets have had to evolve their businesses to sell online and have been able to reach a much wider audience.  The working practices forced upon us by the Pandemic has pushed all areas of our communications to utilise technology and digitalise much of our daily function.  IT has become a critical part of staying connected whether for business or personal use so the importance of keeping technology running constantly has become more crucial than ever to ensure business continuity.

Why use traditional back up?

Even though technologies have evolved, many industries and organisations still prefer more traditional forms of back up.  Tapes, for example have always been a solid, reliable form of back up.  It is reliable and has a shelf life of up to around thirty years. It is secure because more often than not, backed up data is stored at a secondary location and the back up process is carried out off-line which reduces the threat of cyber attacks – the only way data can be stolen is by physically removing the tapes, and depending on the size of your organisation and your storage requirements, tape backup is cost effective however, there are negatives to this for example, the amount of storage required can be a deciding factor -the cost of a storage facility with the correct environment that has climate control and high levels of security can be costly, not to mention the logistics of physically moving tapes coupled with the challenges of an infrastructure team having to physically back up the data during a non-business critical time. Also, encryption of the data is time consuming and slows down the speed to back up but in current times, encryption is a necessary and to a minimum standard of AES256.  Another negative is the lack of ease to re-upload backed up data in the event that data gets lost or corrupt and files need replacing.  Searching through physical back up tapes in not as easy as searching a Cloud based filing system. 

Online back up

Remote or online backup, also known as ‘Cloud’ backup is a strategy being adopted more and more, especially when there is inadequate IT infrastructure in place – it allows businesses to connect to a single point, regardless of their location, and share data and access applications or on-demand services easily.  Organisations send data to a secondary location to store in the event they experience some kind of breach or failure and typically, that alternative location is in the Cloud and the servers are owned and operated by a third-party supplier rather than an in-house IT team – unlike traditional tape backup.  Global organisations like Amazon, Apple, Dell, Hewlett Packard, Cisco Systems, IBM, Google, Oracle and Microsoft have invested huge sums of money to provide virtual data storage for all our personal and business data.

The most common Cloud backup option is Public Storage where you share the same hardware, storage and network devices with many other organisations to access web-based email, online office applications and storage.  Using this strategy is often a cost-effective option because there is no need for capital investment in assets and infrastructure because on-site hardware is not required and there are no maintenance costs – so you only pay for your data services.

Private Cloud Storage is an alternative option that enables a single business to access and store data.  The applications, data and other web-based services are only accessible by the users within one single organisation.  This solution requires hardware to be located at a facility owned by that business or located by a Cloud Service Provider.  This option offers far more flexibility, security and control for an organisation and is more beneficial to industries that are regulated or use regular amounts of data.

Negatives of Cloud backup

Although this system is becoming increasingly popular with organisations, it is apparent that all back up strategies have their advantages and disadvantages and Cloud back up is no exception for example, if your internet connection goes down for whatever reason, you cannot access your data at all and an unscheduled down-time can be costly to any business – especially online retailers for example, so a strong and robust connection is imperative.  However, with access to the internet and the huge volume of users of the internet comes an increased risk of data security breaches as you are more vulnerable to cyber-attacks and hacking so infrastructure security must be excellent.  Then there are the costs to upload, download and store data which could be a stumbling block for some businesses, particularly if there is a need to recover large quantities of data in a short period of time.  Also, management of Cloud based servers means that you are unable to manage the data storage yourself and you are entrusting the security and storage to a third party who often does not provide complete round-the-clock service or support, or if you are able to negotiate this within your Service Level Agreement, it comes at a high price.

Another major negative of Cloud based back up is the ability to store data from applications for a long period of time.  Due to the Pandemic, normal office-based staff have been forced to work remotely and work collaboratively using various applications to enable group video conferencing with multiple file sharing etc.  A number of applications do not provide a back up facility for more than 120 days which unfortunately does not comply with some industry regulations, therefore an alternative means of back up is more suitable.

Choosing the right solution

It is clear that both strategies have their benefits and disadvantages, but businesses are individual and no solution is a ‘one size fits all’ option.  Often, a ‘hybrid’ solution where you combine elements of on-premises and Cloud based back up can be the best solution, especially when there are more complex data requirements or there is inadequate IT infrastructure in place to meet the changing demands of the business moving forward so, it is always best to bring in experienced and knowledgeable experts who can work with you to understand how your business operates, your challenges and goals then work out what data strategy is more suited to meet your needs.

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