Most of us want to store and protect our data. This goes for our website, our pictures, our Word documents, the data on our phones, movies, videos, etc. Nobody wants to lose their data, but without a solid backup plan, and adhering to that plan, you could be left saying what happened to my data? So, what stands in the way of ensuring you a.) have a backup, and b.) you are backing up the data you want on the schedule you want? Mostly time and laziness. But with the right plan, you can create your own time-saving, accurate yet mindless backup system. Here are some tips.
Backup Plan Overview
As Christine Dorffi from Seagate said about backups, “a backup system should offer ease, security, and flexibility. If it’s not easy to set up and use, you’re not likely to do it. If it doesn’t offer file access and recovery security, it’s not really a backup. And it has to have the right options to work for your needs, such as to back up only files that have changed since the last backup.”
So right, we get that it needs to be easy. But we also need to make it simple to audit, and test restoration too. For example, here at AIT, we have a very complex, but well directed backup schedule for our customers who expect backups and who we have a responsibility to restore backups in the event of inoperability of their current services. While the backup itself is very complex, involving thousands of devices and multiple terabytes of data, it is easily displayed in a web interface for our team to review for errors, and updates that need to be run in order to meet our data retention policy. Now, that doesn’t mean you need to run out and build a web application to manage your backups. But what it does mean is that you have to have a plan, organize your data, and then ensure any new area is setup to use the backup system you’ve created.
Step 1: Organizing Your Files
If you haven’t already done so, invest some time to collect and organize your important files into well-named directories. You’ll want to jot all of the important areas that you need to run a backup on a piece of paper or Word document. Here are just a few to get the mind working.
Once you have a list of everything you want to backup, and know where it is, ensure you have enough disk space to support 1, 2 or even 3 different backups of that data.
Step 2: Determine Backup Schedule
Next, determine how often you want to have backups for each data set. For example, if your website has a database that is updated, changed and added to frequently, then you will most likely want backups of this data set more frequently. But for other areas of your backups, such as your website HTML files, you may not need to back them up more frequently than once or twice a month because they may not change very often. Obviously, this completely depends upon your own needs.
After determining the frequency at which you need to backup each data set, consider how long you will keep that data. For example, if you have a MySQL database that is updated very frequently, and you backup this database daily, keeping backups older than a month or so will probably be a waste of disk space. Most backup solutions offer a series of retention schedules, such as keeping hourly and daily backups for a week, weekly backups for a month, and monthly backups for a few months or even years. Best practices include retaining certain backups, such as monthly or bi-annual, for as long as possible, if not forever. Putting these on media which can be archived in a safe deposit box isn’t a bad idea either. In addition, we highly recommend researching your industry’s data retention standards and requirements.
Step 3: Determine Backup Location
While some people like to use remote storage, or “cloud” storage, others like the good old fashion USB devices, or local NAS connected to their PC/Mac. Regardless, you need disk space that is easy to use, and access. AIT does offer OwnCloud (an open source free alternative to DropBox) as an option on our servers, which acts as a file storage location. You can tie many different systems, including your website, laptop, PC, phone, and other devices to the OwnCloud installation and backup your data here. Also remember backing up your data and storing it on the same disk as your original data is obviously not a good idea. Getting your data off of that device will remain viable even if your main server/workstation is compromised, allowing you to fully recover your data.
If you decide to use cloud services, be sure that you are getting the best possible price on storage. AIT also provides cloud and dedicated server storage for backups. We will also work with you and help achieve your backup plans as needed when you are backing up to our servers.
Step 4: Execute Your Backup Strategy
Prevent loss of your critical data by ensuring backups are taken frequently and on a regular schedule. Determining how often your data is updated can help you create a schedule of how frequently your backups need to be taken. Critical data that is updated constantly will need to be backed up more regularly – even hourly, whereas more static data may only need nightly or weekly backups.
Also remember that encrypting your backup files plays a key role in the back up plan. It is an important step in data security. Backup encryption during storage ensures that your data will be exactly what you expect in the event you need to recover it.
Once you’ve executed your backup, look for ways to stack or layer your backups where you can backup to two separate locations at different intervals. This adds one more layer of protection to your backup plan in the event of a major disaster.