Today, everything we do relies on data, and this could not be truer for small businesses. From your customers’ information to your transaction history, you rely on data to keep your company going.
So, what happens when you suddenly can’t access this data? Unfortunately, this happens more often than people think. Data gets lost, stolen, and leaked every day, and the result is often tragic for small businesses. If you aren’t prepared, the hard work you’ve put into your business can quickly disappear.
Luckily, if you have a plan, losing data can be nothing more than a temporary setback. A data recovery and backup plan will allow you to not only keep copies of your data, but you’ll also be able to promptly restore them and get back to work.
In this article, you’ll learn everything you need to know about data backup and recovery, and you’ll find out how you can make a plan that protects your data from accidents or maliciousness.
What is backup and recovery software?
Data backup and recovery is the process of collecting and storing copies of key data for an individual or organization. The primary goal of data backup and recovery is to protect an organization against data loss.
Your business runs on data. Even if you don’t realize it, you use data every day to successfully run your business. This means that if you woke up one day and all of your data were to disappear, your business would most likely be gone with it. In fact, small- and medium-sized businesses manage, on average, 47.81 terabytes of data.
Backup and recovery are each their own processes, but each one is useless without the other.
What is the difference between backup and recovery?
The terms backup and recovery go hand in hand, and they’re often used interchangeably. Backing up data and recovering data are actually two separate processes that require distinct steps, but you need to ensure that they work together in order to have a solid plan.
Backing up data means to save a copy of the data somewhere separate from the original. In the case of data failure, recovery is used to restore the lost data. In order to recover data, you have to already have it backed up. Conversely, backing up your data is futile if you have no way of restoring it.
Every company needs a data backup and recovery plan
Many people think that a critical loss of data will never happen to them. Unfortunately, it isn’t a matter of “if,” but “when.” Anyone can become a victim of hacking, from individuals to large corporations.
For example, in early 2021, Apple was targeted in a $50-million ransomware attack after Quanta, a Taiwan-based manufacturer of MacBooks and other Apple products, was the victim of theft. This led to a leak carried out by a Russian hacking group.
Hackers aren’t just interested in big corporations. Any company’s data can be valuable. If one of the largest corporations in the world, which probably spends millions in cybersecurity a year, is susceptible to hacking, it’s safe to say that no business is immune.
A data breach or other calamity that results in a loss of data can be detrimental to your business in several ways.
Affect your operational ability
As mentioned, you use data every day to run your business. So, what happens when you suddenly can’t access that data? You can’t run your business.
Even a few hours of data inaccessibility can be detrimental to your business and result in:
- Not being able to communicate with your customers
- Missing transactions
- Losing revenue
Damage your reputation
Depending on what happens to your data, data loss can ruin your reputation to your customers and in your industry.
If your customers are unable to contact your business for a certain amount of time, or if your missing data prevents you from completing a job in a timely manner, your customer will lose trust in you. This will inevitably result in your losing both potential and previously loyal customers.
Likewise, you’ll no longer stand out amongst your competition if word gets out that you experienced a data calamity. Even though it can, and it almost always does happen to everybody, your competitors may view you as incompetent for getting hacked.
This one should go without saying, but one of the most damaging outcomes in a data breach is lost data.
Luckily, there are multiple ways in which you can back up your data, including:
- Local backup on your network (servers, drives, USB)
- Local backup appliance
- Tape-based backup
- Managed backup
- Cloud backup
We’ll discuss these data backup and recovery methods further, but let’s first explore the importance of having a plan for your data.
What is the importance of data backup?
Data backup and recovery is important in order to not lose your business to a calamity. Calamities are events that cause sudden damage to your business - basically a disaster.
Calamities come in several different forms, but let’s illustrate one scenario.
You own a business and have a staff of about two dozen employees. Unfortunately, one of your employees hasn’t been producing the same quality of work as everyone else. You decide that the best decision for your business is to let them go.
You have a discussion with this employee and inform them of your decision. In an ideal situation, you would delete their logins and escort your employee off of the premises. Sadly, the ideal situation doesn’t always happen.
HR informs you that there’s some paperwork to get through, so you trust your newly terminated employee to go pack their things at their desk. However, this employee is upset about their termination and suddenly has ill-feelings toward you and the company.
They decide to access the system and delete important files before they leave. This scenario can play out in different ways. If you have a tech-savvy former employee, they may be able to hack into your system later on and delete company files.
A former employee with malicious intent is just one threat that data backup and recovery protect your company from. There are several other events that can cause a system outage or a loss of data, such as:
- IT device failure
- Theft or loss of IT devices
- Disasters that limit access to key work sites
- Data corruption
- Cyberattacks (ex/ ransomware)
Let’s discuss these calamities more closely.
Device theft is a very common problem that many businesses face. Mistakes happen, and it’s relatively easy for someone to steal your employee’s laptop from their car or other public location.
Not only would your employee be unable to do their work, but if they didn’t back up key data in a way where it could be restored to another device, it’d be lost forever.
Your devices are how you conduct your business. Chances are that you use a combination of servers, laptops, desktops, and drives to successfully run your business every day.
IT equipment seems so reliable these days that we often forget that it can suddenly fail for many reasons, such as:
- Fan issues
- Drive issues
- Firmware problems
Without a proper backup and recovery plan, this issue can affect your business operations in several ways:
- You may not be able to access important data
- You may not be able to restore backup on another device
If the COVID-19 pandemic taught us anything, it’s to always be prepared for anything. The height of the pandemic kept employees as well as IT teams out of the office and away from key sites. For businesses that didn’t have a way of backing up and quickly accessing their data, it was a major calamity.
Weather-related natural disasters such as hurricanes and ice storms have also happened suddenly and kept employees from accessing job sites. Even if this has never happened to your business, natural disasters are actually a more common problem than you might think - 30% of small- and medium-sized businesses have experienced downtime due to natural disasters.
Ransomware is malware that uses encryption to hold someone’s information for ransom. Ransomware attackers usually target business’ critical data in hopes for a large payout. It can be a scary issue, especially considering the high price it comes at - the average ransomware payment is $154,000.
Ransomware attacks usually happen through emails sent out to your employees, which is why it’s important to make sure your entire team stays up to date with cybersecurity training.
The worst part about ransomware is that just because you pay your attacker, doesn’t mean it’s over. The attacker may still decide to release your data online or even choose to target your business again.
What features to look for in a data backup and recovery tool
We’re going to talk about the parameters you should look for in a data backup and recovery plan, but let’s first talk about the misconceptions.
Know the common misconceptions
Many people think their everyday tools are already built with a data backup and recovery plan. In fact, many tools even lead us to believe that. However, there are several misconceptions when it comes to which tools have a backup and recovery plan, and which ones don’t.
For example, neither Google Suites nor Microsoft Office 365 makes backups. Since these software solutions are SaaS (Software-as-a-Service) offerings, they are not subject to hardware or network failures. This creates the illusion of built-in protection.
In reality, Google is susceptible to the same calamities as other storage options. It can be misconfigured, and its data can get corrupted overtime. Data stored in a public cloud can still be lost. Even though Microsoft and Google have resilient hardware and network infrastructure, it doesn’t mean that your data is bulletproof in these platforms.
When using these platforms, your data is on the cloud, and the cloud does not provide data recovery. What happens when one of your employees accidentally deletes important files or overwrites them? Or when that same recently terminated employee from earlier maliciously deletes files? They’re still gone.
Google’s response to this is Google Vault, but it isn’t the best system. Google Vault makes a backup, but it doesn't organize the data. Instead, it’s just one big bucket for you to sort through. Depending on how much data you have, this can still prove to be a loss.
The cloud is just one misconception on data backup and recovery, which we’ll discuss in more detail.
Understand the parameters
Not all data backup and recovery plans are made equal. When seeking a reliable tool, there are certain parameters you can use to assess whether the data protection tool is good enough for your business. Two of the most important parameters to consider are operational recovery goals: Recovery Point Objective (RPO) and Recovery Time Objective (RTO).
RPO refers to the amount of time from the point of failure or calamity that can pass before the amount of data lost during that period goes beyond the point of backup. On the other hand, RTO refers to the maximum amount of time within which restoration must occur in order to avoid any negative consequences. Basically, RPO asks, “At what point will your data be lost?” and the RTO asks, “How long does it take to recover?”
Today, data backup and recovery plans offer low RTO and RPO because of how quickly businesses move. Some solutions even offer RPO and RTO in minutes, meaning you’ll put yourself at a lot less risk in case of a data calamity. However, it’s important to remember that the shorter the RPO and RTO, the more expensive a backup solution is.
Your business’ RPO can be impacted by many factors, such as:
- Maximum tolerable data loss
- The type of industry you’re in and how sensitive your data is
- Whether you use physical storage or cloud storage
Let’s talk more about managing cloud storage.
What is cloud data management?
In practice, cloud data management is the practice of storing your company’s data on a third-party, offsite server - the cloud. The cloud can be a supplement to on-premise storage, or it may be your primary storage option. This third party is usually a vendor that specializes in cloud data hosting for multiple companies.
Popular examples of companies that offer cloud data storage include:
Keeping your data in the cloud lets you manage it across the cloud and from any device. You can authorize others to access it and share it in multiple ways. This makes cloud data management a convenient, safe, and reliable option for your business, but it can also be a risky one.
In general, when you use cloud storage to manage your data, you don’t have to worry about losing your data if the system crashes. You’ll be able to access your information on any other device from which you can access your cloud account.
It’s important to understand that your data is still susceptible to theft, leaks, or damage in the cloud. The likelihood of your data being accidentally deleted or damaged is almost non-existent, but the security of your data depends on how safe your account is with your cloud storage provider. It’s always possible for a hacker to attain one of your employees’ company login information and access your data.
One of the most famous examples of a cloud data breach is once again from Apple, when in 2014, a number of celebrities had their iCloud hacked and their private photos leaked online. The best way to ensure that your data is as secure as possible is by tracking your authorized users and keeping strong passwords.
If you use cloud storage as your primary means of storing data, you still need a reliable data backup and recovery plan in case of calamity. As a rule of thumb, your backup should never be stored on the same network as your original data. So, if all your data is stored in the cloud, do not store your backup using the same server.
Where is your backup data stored?
One of the most important elements in a successful data and backup recovery plan is ensuring that you keep your backup separate from your original data.
Make sure that your backup is completely separate from your network, meaning you shouldn’t keep it on the same device or linked to the same accounts. You may be able to access a copy of the data, but if it’s encrypted, it doesn’t help you. As a rule, if you can easily access your backup from your main laptop, so can malware and hackers.
What’s more, ask yourself this question: Do you know where your backup is stored? Thanks to the misconception created by the cloud, most people assume that they have a backup, when in reality, they often don’t. If you own a small business, it’s especially important for you to understand where and how your data is being backed up.
Here’s one way to check your data backup and recovery process: run tests with your IT person or company by taking an important file and placing it somewhere else. Act as if it’s gone, then ask your IT company to restore it. Make sure you time how long it took them to restore it, how much data you could have lost, and how much it cost you. This will give you their RPO and RTO.
It’s important to regularly test your backup to ensure that it’s still working for you. This test will help you assess how efficient your current IT company is and whether it’s worth however much you’re paying it. If anything, you’ll at least know how much you should be spending on insurance.
If you don’t already have a reliable data backup and recovery plan in place for your business, here are some solutions you should consider.
- Cloud storage: As mentioned, keeping your data in the cloud is a reliable way to keep it organized and accessible across different devices. Just be sure to keep your backup data on a different network if you’re already using cloud storage to manage your data.
- USB flash drives: Now considered old school, USB flash drives have long been an easy way of backing up and recovering data. They’re inexpensive, portable, and can be used on multiple computers. The main drawback is that since this solution relies on a small physical object that can be misplaced, it isn’t the most reliable option.
- External hard drives: These portable hard drives connect to your computer through a USB port to allow you to transfer copies of your data. They’re great for transferring a lot of data fast, but as another option that relies on a physical object, external hard drives may not be reliable enough for your needs.
- Network-attached storage (NAS): NAS is a data storage device that is connected to a network instead of through a computer. If set up properly, this data can be accessed from multiple devices by multiple people via permissions.
It’s important for everyone to have a data backup and recovery, but it's especially crucial for small business owners to have complete control of their data. A data calamity can happen to anyone, and it is likely that every business will be a victim of hacking, a leak, or data damage at some point. It’s all about being ready for it.
Ultimately, the protection of your data is your responsibility. Having a reliable data backup and recovery plan gives you peace of mind in the case that a calamity happens. Instead of being a tragedy for your business, such an event will be seen as nothing more than a momentary inconvenience.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: What is data backup and recovery?
A: Data backup and recovery is the process of collecting and storing copies of key data for an individual or organization. The data backup and recovery will protect your business against any serious impacts from data loss.
Q: What happens if I don’t back up my data?
A: If you don’t have a proper data backup and recovery plan, you’re leaving your business exposed. You risk losing crucial data such as your transaction history and orders in process. What’s more, if you don’t have a recovery plan to go along with your backup, you’ll still lose that data.
Q: What are the best data backup and recovery methods?
A: You have several options when it comes to data backup and recovery. Some of the most popular options include:
- Cloud storage
- External hard drives
- USB flash drives
- Network-attached storage (NAS)