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Backup, Disaster Recovery and Business Continuity

Every company should be backing up their data, and every company should also have a plan in place for business continuity in the event that a major event outside of their control happens.

If the worst happened and you and the contents of your offices burnt down overnight - where would you stand? Or if one of your main servers suffered a catastrophic failure, are you able to get it back? How quickly? 

Through a mixture of articles, eBooks, guides and video's, we discuss the Online Backup and Disaster Recovery service in it's entirety and look to provide a wealth of information to those who are seeking to protect their businesses most valuable asset. Data.  

We'll cover the common mistakes when seeking a new backup system, help find the best backup systems out there and talk about business continuity and how it affects your business operations.  

Elliot

See the links below which will jump you down to each section on this page. 

 

 

Overview of what Online Backup and Disaster Recovery actually means

Firstly, Online Backup and Disaster Recovery (DR) are two separate things. 

Online backup is the day-to-day "whoops, I've deleted a file, can I get it back?" 

Disaster Recovery is the "I've lost everything, I need to get it back" scenario. 

Each a very different problem which requires a unique solution. Some solutions out there will take care of just one part of the two, whereas others can combine both the backup and disaster recovery side.  

Online Backup

The Online Backup portion of a solution is responsible for the day-to-day file backup options to ensure you have the ability to quickly and easily restore individual items. Files, folders, Applications and also full server operating systems. 

Retention here is important. 

1 Week Retention means you can only restore from as far back as 1 week ago. 

It's fairly standard to get a minimum of 1Yrs retention from an Online Backup product, with some providers offering additional years, for a fee.

In the sections below we discuss the Pro's and Con's of each, as well as the likely costs associated. 

Disaster Recovery

Disaster Recovery systems are key to protecting your business from a company-wide disaster, big or small. 

Disasters can range from a single failed server that hosts your most business critical operation, to losing an entire office location due to fire or natural disaster. It's important to ensure you are protected for all events. 

Hot or Cold?

There are commonly 2 types of Disaster Recovery Systems. 

Cold storage is the most widely used option - where systems have to be restored from backup in the event of a disaster. 

These typically take longer to get your systems up and running, since backups have to be located (find the physical tape, disk or backup files) before they can be restored. Then the restoration process needs to happen, which depending on the backup method can take a number of minutes through to a number of days. 

Hot storage is where a backup system is running parallel with your own production systems. Everything that is being done on the production system is replicated to the backup system. Hot systems provide the ability to fail over in a moments notice, and be fully operational within minutes or even seconds. 

Benefits of using Online Backup

Online Backup and Disaster Recovery has a number of huge benefits when compared to traditional tape or USB drive backup methods. 

  • Backups continue to backup your data even when the office is closed due to holidays or severe weather. No longer will you have a designated 'tape changer' role in your business - who always forgets to ask someone to change the tapes whilst they're on holiday!
  • Regular Backups which can back up daily, hourly, or even to the point of replicating data as it changes. Compare this to the traditional daily backup scheme where you could potentially lose a days worth of data in the event of a server failure.
  • Improved reliability, since online storage can be globally redundant and not suffer disk or tape failures when your backup tapes get old. No more replacing tapes every 12-24 months!
  • Superspeed recovery by almost instantly recovering your failed servers. With traditional tape or USB backups, those backups need to be restored to something - which in itself can take hours if not days in some cases. That's not even including time to source new hardware! 

Recovery Time Objective vs Recovery Point Objective

There are 2 key objectives when deciding on a a DR system for your business. 

  • Recovery Point Objective (RPO)
  • Recovery Time Objective (RTO)

Recovery Point Objective

The point in time which your business can recover from. 

If you are doing daily backups then you will potentially lose 24hrs worth of data if a failure occurs just as a backup starts. 

If you can't afford anything more than an hour's worth of loss then you need to be looking for something which takes more regular backups, every hour or half hour. 

Recovery Time Objective

The time it takes to restore your vital systems. 

All businesses will instantly say "as quickly as possible", however the cost to provide a service that restores IT systems in seconds will cost significantly more than one that takes a few hours or perhaps days longer. 

This may need to tie in with other logistics, such as how quickly you can find a suitable location for your staff if you had to find alternative premises to work from until your offices can be repaired or a new permanent location found. 

More information can be found in our dedicated blog post, as well as our YouTube channel.

Negatives of using Online Backup

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Whilst Online Backup and Disaster Recovery has a huge number of benefits, it does have a small number of drawbacks. 

Cost

Many businesses look at the cost of traditional backups (backup software and tape or USB drives) and balk at the cost of Online Backup. 

Yes it will likely be more expensive, but it's a complete shift in the service. 

Tape or USB backup is like keeping your life savings under your bed. You are responsible for making sure it's there, that it's constantly topped up, and that when you need it - it's there. 

Online Backup is the bank to your bed. Constantly monitored and managed to ensure your savings (data) are protected, regularly updated and recoverable in the event of a disaster. 

Do you want to trust the ability to recover your entire businesses IT systems from underneath your bed? Or would you prefer to trust this to someone who is constantly ensuring you will be able to restore when the time comes?

Availability of Data and it's Location

Online Backup stores your data in the cloud. Where is the cloud? Exactly. 

If you care about your data, you should be asking your backup provider where your data is being stored and how quickly you can access your data.

It doesn't help if you are based in the UK, and your backups are stored in the US! 

How much does it all cost?

Like Insurance, a backup, disaster recovery or business continuity solution is something that you never want to spend vast amounts of money on, however if you ever need to use it, you wish you'd gone for the highest, most expensive solution there is.  

The cost for a backup solution can hugely vary from only a few pounds per month, through to a few thousand. 

This is purely driven from the aformentioned Recovery Time Objective (RTO) and Recovery Point Objective (RPO). 

Essentially, the faster you need your data to be available - then the more expensive the solution will become. 

If you also don't want to lose any data between your data loss and recovery, again this will turn you to a more expensive solution. 

For those of you who need your whole IT systems available immediately following any form of outage, then you may be looking at replicating all of the IT infrastructure you currently have (Servers, Software, Rack Space etc..) and hosting it in a remote location. This cost alone could be tens of thousands, potentially in the hundreds depending on the size of your IT infrastructure. 

 

Once you have an idea of both your RTO and RPO, it's best to speak with a professional Disaster Recovery firm to gauge costs to provide a solution that meets those requirements.