Have you ever lost an important file or perhaps an entire hard drive? When a person loses valuable data, they typically respond with sadness and regret. When a business loses valuable data, the cost of the data loss incident can be downright devastating unless the proper precautions and safeguards are in place.
The Importance of Backups
It’s estimated that 2.5 quintillion bytes of data are created every day, with 90 percent of the data in the world being generated in the last two years alone. Largely due to their embrace of the Internet of Things and cloud technologies, businesses of all sizes now produce data at a scale that would be unimaginable just a decade ago, and they depend on the data during day-to-day operations.
It shouldn’t then come as a surprise that more and more cyber criminals are going after sensitive information stored on company hard drives and private servers, increasingly often launching sophisticated targeted ransomware attacks that prevent users from accessing their system or personal files and demanding hefty ransom payments in a cryptocurrency in order to regain access.
But despite the fact that data security is rapidly emerging as one of the most significant cyber security challenges, 58% of businesses still have no backup plan for data loss. No wonder then that 60% of businesses that lose their data shut down within 6 months—the cost of data loss is simply too high to bear without data backups to fall back on.
The good news is that it has never been easier for businesses to securely back up their data thanks to modern data backup solutions. However, it’s important to keep in mind that the mere existence of backups doesn’t guarantee successful data recovery, which is why it’s important to create a comprehensive backup and recovery strategy and make it an integral part of a broader cyber security program.
Implementing a Backup and Recovery Strategy
All businesses have at least some information that is worth protecting, which is why it’s so important to have a strong, proactive backup and recovery strategy in place before an unexpected incident occurs—regardless whether it’s a ransomware attack or a catastrophic hardware failure.
1. Understand Your Backup Options
Today, businesses can choose from a multitude of backup options, with each option having its own distinct advantages and disadvantages.
External hard drives, which also include USB flash drives and solid-state drives, can be easily transported from one location to the next, are relatively inexpensive, and can store even very large files. They are, however, rather difficult to manage, making them suitable only for very small businesses with just a couple of devices to back up.
In recent years, businesses of all sizes have been embracing cloud backups, which allow them to seamlessly back up important information to storage devices in remote locations from which they can access it anytime and on any device via the internet.
Due to security and regulatory reasons, not every business can upload its data to storage devices belonging to a third-party cloud provider—at least not without protecting the data with multiple layers of encryption. Fortunately, there are now many cloud backup providers that do just that, making it easy for businesses to comply with HIPAA and other regulations.
2. Know What to Back Up
According to a TechTarget survey, most businesses back up their databases and virtualized servers, followed by user shares, enterprise applications, endpoint and desktop data, and virtual desktops. But instead of blindly copying backup strategies of other businesses, it’s best to back up everything that cannot be replaced.
Since users often know more about the data being used than IT because they are the ones who are actually using it on a daily basis, it can be extremely beneficial to tap into their knowledge when identifying prime backup targets.
Businesses that don’t produce too much data might be inclined to simply back up their entire infrastructure and skip the identification of prime backup targets entirely. While it’s true that the cost of data storage has been getting cheaper, it’s still much more cost-effective to back up only what needs to be backed up.
3. Test Your Backups
In October 2016, Marin Healthcare District and Prima Medical Group lost 5,000 patients’ data after being hit with a ransomware attack. However, it wasn’t the ransomware attack that actually caused the data loss—it was a failed backup system, which was provided by Marin Medical Practices Concepts.
The story now serves as a great cautionary tale that warns businesses about the importance of backup testing. So many businesses believe that they’re safe just because they back up their data at regular intervals, but they rarely care to check whether it’s possible to recover from the backups.
According to Boston Computing Network, 34% of businesses fail to test their tape backups, and of those that do, 77% have found tape backup failures. When a disaster strikes, the last thing any business wants is to find out that all the time and money it has spent on backups have been wasted, and all it takes to ensure that this won’t happen is backup testing.
Don’t Forget About Cloud Services
One of the most often praised benefits of cloud services is their data security, with hardware failures not resulting in data loss. But that doesn’t mean that cyber criminals can’t compromise the data stored in the cloud the same way they can compromise data stored locally.
“Cyber criminals could seek to exploit weak or ignored corporate security policies established to protect cloud services,” states the McAfee Labs Threats Predictions Report. ‘Home to an increasing amount of business confidential information, such services, if exploited, could compromise organizational business strategy, company portfolio strategies, next-generation innovations, financials, acquisition and divestiture plans, employee data and other data.”
Even businesses that store most of their data in the cloud should keep up-to-date backups and frequently test them to ensure their recover ability.
It’s surprising how many businesses still don’t have an effective data backup strategy despite relying so much on their data. The importance of data backups is, indeed, difficult to emphasize enough, especially since the cost of data backup negligence can be so high, and the availability of reliable data backup solutions is so great.
Written by: Payam Pourkhomami, President & CEO, OSIbeyond