Top 5 tips for backup and recovery success

Endpoint security moves to the Cloud in next wave of ‘as-a-service’ revolution
Johan Scheepers, Commvault Systems Engineering Director for MESAT
Johan Scheepers, Commvault Systems Engineering Director for MESAT
Johan Scheepers, Commvault Systems Engineering Director for MESAT

In a world where data is the lifeblood of the enterprise, backup and recovery are no longer ‘nice to have’ solutions, but essential to business continuity. However, while the need for effective recovery in the event of a disaster is clear, achieving this has become increasingly complex. Not only is data growing exponentially, there is also an increasing amount of unstructured data and new places and ways in which to store it. The reality though is that slow recovery and downtime hamper’s an organisation’s ability not only to function, but to respond to unforeseen events. Many businesses are not confident in their ability to make a full recovery within an acceptable timeframe.

There are many issues that can lead to data loss, from UPS failure to cybercrime and a range of disasters both natural and man-made, and these are simply a reality of business. Organisations that are unprepared for such events will inevitably face serious consequences. Every extra minute that it takes to recover from an outage or data loss event costs enterprises, not only in terms of money but also lost productivity, customer loyalty and sales, as well as damage to public opinion and reputation. Successful backup and recovery is critical to mitigating risk and minimising loss of revenue. Here are five top tips to ensure backup and recovery is both efficient and effective.

1. You cannot keep everything
In the early days of IT, disaster recovery solutions simply backed up any and all data indiscriminately and forever. However with the rapid increase in volume, velocity and variety of data in recent years, this is no longer a feasible solution. Not only is it not cost effective, and in fact can be downright expensive, it also means that organisations have very little understanding of exactly what data they have or even why they are keeping it. Much data generating within a business today is effectively junk, and retaining it for backup purposes is pointless. In addition, for compliance purposes it is often important to store certain types of data in certain ways.

In order to optimise backup and recovery it is critical to have an understanding of what data exists where and what value it has to different areas within the business. This requires organisations to conduct some type of data census in order to see how data can support the business and drive value, and what needs to be backed up when, where and for how long. There are many solutions available to help organisations achieve this, including dynamic, automated cloud-based offerings that can revolutionise data backup and recovery.

2. Remember that data is just as likely to be in the cloud as on the premises
It is also essential to remember that an organisation’s data may be stored in many different locations, including within both cloud and on premise solutions. For many businesses making use of cloud storage, there is a misconception that the cloud provider is responsible for backup and recovery. While they may offer some form of data protection, it is not a disaster recovery strategy, and will not be of much use in the event of a significant outage. Furthermore, the time to recover may be unacceptable to your business, and the solution on offer may not integrate effectively with other systems a business has in place in other areas. In addition, relying on the backup provided by a cloud provider can make it very difficult to migrate this data to another provider at some point in the future.

3. TEST your backup and recovery
It is all very well having a backup and recovery system in place, but if this system is not tested organisations have no idea whether or not it works. Finding this out in the event of an actual disaster is risky to say the least. A backup and recovery plan is worthless unless a comprehensive test has been successfully undertaken, covering everything from key parts of infrastructure going down to a complete system failure.

Without successful backup and recovery testing, disaster recovery does not exist, and if there are issues with the failover or the recovery of backup then multiple issues can creep into the business further down the line. Automating backup and recovery testing with intelligent solutions can help to minimise the hassle and stress of this important aspect of disaster recovery planning.

4. Don’t just set it and forget it
Once a backup and recovery system is in place and has been successfully testing, organisations cannot just ‘set it and forget it’. IT infrastructure, solutions and systems are constantly changing, and an active plan needs to be in place to adapt to these changes. For example, hyper-converged infrastructure has become increasingly mainstream, but a few years ago it did not even exist. Today, it may even be key to running the business and therefore for backup and recovery. However, if the organisation developed and implemented its disaster recovery several years ago, it will not be able to take this new infrastructure into account, and will not work.

Any changes to infrastructure mean that disaster recovery planning must change and must be tested again. Changes to both technology and process need to be built into disaster recovery strategy, and when rolling out a new system or application it is essential to ensure that it is covered by backup and recovery across both areas. Automated backup and recovery systems can once again be beneficial, and cloud-based disaster recovery can offer options to assist organisations to effectively deal with change.

5. Backup and recovery is expensive. Not having it is more so
One of the most common complaints from business is the expense of backup and recovery solutions. However, while there is often a significant cost attached to implementing and testing systems, not having backup and recovery is not an option and is actually much more expensive in the long run. Any downtime caused by data loss has massive implications and can cost a business more than just money. Issues such as lost productivity, lost customer loyalty and lost sales all result in damage to the bottom line, and reputational damage can have long-lasting negative effects. In addition, the cost of recovering from a disaster if an effective system is not in place can also be significant, since many hours and specialists are often required.

Backup and recovery systems can also deliver additional value for business, since an effective solution can aid organisations in better understanding their data, where it is kept, its business value and any compliance requirements. This can help businesses to make better, more informed decisions around their data, and more effectively leverage it for business intelligence and big data systems.

What to look for in a backup, recovery and data protection solution
Organisations essentially require a data protection platform that enables the collection of data from disparate sources, including remote locations, edge devices, core applications, the cloud and more. Solutions should allow for a holistic approach to information and support disaster recovery decision-making, with different backup and recovery options available for different values and classes of data. Essential to success is the ability to gather information from different sources and perform discovery to determine what information exists, where it is stored and what its value is. Once this is understood it is possible to put automated processes in place to protect information in a way that makes sense for your business needs.

By Johan Scheepers, Commvault Systems Engineering Director for MESAT