In today’s fast-paced world, any situation that negatively impacts your staff productivity and business continuity can be a disaster. It hinders your ability to drive necessary revenue, execute critical tasks, and communicate with clients and prospects. Disruptions to your server are no exception, which is why it’s vital for your business to have a reliable and comprehensive server backup solution.
It’s not just the possibility of a fire or natural disaster you need to think about, but the more likely everyday threats like ransomware attacks, accidental file deletion, hardware failures, data corruption and the like.
At Core Vision we have years of experience partnering with small and medium-sized clients to protect their critical servers, applications and data. We understand the challenges of evaluating the options for protecting your systems and selecting the right solution to protect your business.
So what are the key things to look for in a server backup system? We’ve identified these 7 key backup system functions that we believe are fundamental to preserving your data and keeping your IT systems protected.
1. Full System Backup
There’s no doubt that your files and documents are the lifeblood of your business, and keeping them safe is a top priority. This includes client communications, contracts, customer records, financial spreadsheets and all of the other documents your business has taken years to produce. How would your business survive if these were all lost in an instant?
But these assets are not your only concern. What about your business applications? When hardware fails or data is corrupted, it can take days or weeks to reinstall a critical business application with all of the customizations your business has taken years to setup. And for older applications do you still have the files and keycodes needed for the reinstallation?
A full system backup takes a snapshot of the server all at once, capturing the full applications and state of the system as well as the actual data files. So when you have a critical failure or event you can quickly recover the entire server – including the operating system, applications, databases, and all of the files and documents the business has created over the years.
The full system backup should occur multiple times everyday, not just once a week. So the backup solution should support incremental backup technology that allows your servers to be backed up every 2 – 4 hours without disrupting your employees. That way you can minimize the amount of work that might be lost if a system failure occured.
2. Local Backup Copies
In the event that a system fails or your data becomes corrupted, it will be extremely important to recover your data and systems as quickly as possible. By having your data backed up locally, you ensure that you can access it immediately and easily, which is critical to getting your recovery process going right away.
For file or document recovery, on-site backup serves as your first response, so to speak, allowing you to instantly access whatever data you might need back. You can recover this data regardless of whether it has been overwritten, corrupted, deleted or completely lost. Most systems allow you to quickly search by partial file name, date and other criteria to quickly find different copies of the files and restore the needed version immediately. Cloud-only solutions can also provide this, but are much slower when comparing versions or restoring large files.
For server recovery, local backup copies are even more critical for restoring your systems quickly. How much revenue would your business lose if it took 3 or 4 days just to download a backup copy of your ERP or accounting system from a cloud backup? That’s why it’s critical to have local copies you can access quickly.
In addition to having local copies of your system backups, we also recommend that your backup solution allow for four weeks or more of local retention. There are many times where you need to go back days or weeks to find data or files before they were corrupted. We’ve also seen where threats like ransomware were introduced on a system long before they actually triggered. So having several weeks with different versions of files that can be searched and compared contributes to quickly restoring your systems and getting your business running again.
3. Cloud Backup Copies
Of course, there will always be threats to local backups, including local hardware failures and damage to physical equipment. So you want to make sure that your backup solution is automatically sending copies of your local backups to a secure off-site location. This is where the convenience and other advantages of the cloud enter the picture.
Having copies of your backup data off-site allows you to recover from local system failures, restore files easily to other locations, and is usually more cost effective for long-term storage retention. In fact, we recommend that your solution allow for a year or more of cloud retention. Having this longer retention becomes critical for finding files that were deleted weeks or months ago before they were missed … like last year’s depreciation file needed for taxes.
One other key that was mentioned was that the solution should automatically send copies of the backup data off-site. Your business survival shouldn’t be dependent on whether an individual remembered to take your data off-site everyday, whether they put a new disk in place, and whether that disk was properly encrypted so your data couldn’t be stolen or lost. Instead your backup solution should send every incremental backup from throughout the day off-site automatically.
4. Automatic Testing of Every Backup
While the concept of backing up your server is easy to understand, the details of how this happens are complicated. And while you don’t need to understand the details, you should be aware that backup tasks can fail, even with the best solutions.
Why does this happen? When a backup task starts up, there’s usually a lot of activity on that server. Employees have documents open, business applications are being updated, databases are being read, anti-virus software is scanning files, and many other business functions are occurring. In addition, certain hardware or software errors can also be silently occuring. All of these activities can cause the backup task to fail or cause only some of the data to be captured.
To further complicate things, often the backup system can’t detect when these failures occur. As a result it can look like you have a valid backup, but don’t realize the failure until you need to restore the server or a file … and that’s the worst time to find out.
To protect your systems and data from the casualties of failed backups, it is necessary for your backup solution to test every single backup task to ensure that it was successful and valid. This testing usually involves starting a restoration of that backup to make sure that the server comes up and that critical functions can start.
So your solution should be able to perform this testing automatically to safeguard against potential ramifications. And if there are failures, it should be able to tell someone about it so that any issues can be addressed before your business is stopped due to a system outage. That leads us to ask who is watching your system?
5. Daily Management
Who is making sure that all of your backup tasks ran successfully yesterday? Do you know if the data was copied off-site? Are there recurring issues in the backup process that need attention?
As mentioned earlier, failures are bound to occur in the normal process of backing up your busy servers. So backup solutions need to be managed every day if you’re going to ensure that they’re ready for recovery when your business needs it. This includes:
- Daily checks on the success of backup tasks.
- Verification on backup testing to ensure valid recovery points.
- Validation that the backup copies were taken off-site.
- Review of the servers to ensure backup processes were cleaned up.
- Monitoring of the backup system hardware and software.
- Regular system updates and maintenance of the backup hardware.
- Updates to the server backup agents.
Does your solution make these tasks easy to do? Is someone from your staff assigned to perform these tasks … and do they have time to complete them everyday?
6. Multiple Ways to Recover Data
Every recovery situation is different, and there’s no way to predict these specifics before having an event that requires recovery options. Therefore your backup solution should be able to support multiple ways to recover your servers and data.
For example, if your server fails does your backup solution enable you to restore your applications and data on different types of hardware? What about different hard drive configurations? Or different virtualization types? And will it allow you to restore only part of your data so you don’t have to restore the entire server?
The more flexible and varied your recovery capabilities are, the more protected your organization’s data will be and the faster your server recovery will be. And the faster you can recover from an outage or major event, the lower your financial loss will be from the lost productivity.
7. Disaster Recovery Support
When things go wrong, your backup solution is your last line of defense—and every minute counts. Efficient system recovery is paramount for the survival of your business. In fact, the National Cyber Security Alliance found that almost 60% of small and mid-sized businesses fail if they can’t quickly recover from a cyber threat … and over 50% of all businesses have faced cyber attacks in the past year..
That’s why your backup solution is a critical component to an overall security strategy to reduce the risk for your business. And it should include support for quickly and effectively recovering your systems through a variety of avenues, including a combination of:
- Fast local recoveries on your current server hardware.
- Local recovery on the backup system itself as a backup to your failed server
- Cloud-based server recovery for longer-term outages
Having these disaster recovery options as part of your backup solution will get your business back up and running in hours, not days or weeks. But that also assumes you have the IT resources available to respond in a moment’s notice as disasters happen when least expected.
How Can a Managed IT Service Provider Help?
Accidental data loss, equipment failures, cyber attacks, and natural disasters affect so many small and medium-sized businesses every year. You need to protect your organization, and partnering with a managed IT services provider is one of the best ways to do that.
Your provider should be able to explain to you in simple terms how your systems are backed up, how often they are backed up, and how and where your data is kept off-site. They also should be able to explain what happens when your business undergoes any event that requires recovery. This way, you can have peace of mind that your business can quickly recover and survive.
At Core Vision, we provide managed backup solutions for businesses throughout the Milwaukee and Chicago metro areas. Our clients range from small environments with only a handful of servers to larger environments with dozens of servers, shared storage and multiple data centers. And we provide solutions to clients that need a fully outsourced solution, as well as to IT departments that need to off-load the daily backup management.
Using image-based backup systems and a hybrid cloud model, we deliver enterprise-grade data backup, recovery and business continuity through our team of experienced engineers. We work with clients to assess their needs and identify the best solution to fit their situation. Then once installed, we continually monitor the backup tasks to ensure there are no hiccups or gaps that could create a problem along the way.
For additional information about how our solutions can address your business’s backup and continuity needs, read more about our services here.