Backup & Disaster Recovery
How to Plan for Backup and Disaster Recovery
Published on June 7, 2021
Eventually, organizations learn that their hardware and vital software will age and finally break down, like everything else. As they do, data loss and business interruption can occur, putting a company at risk and potentially forcing it to go out of business. A backup and disaster recovery (BDR) plan must be ready to ensure business continuity after an unexpected event caused by a catastrophe or a cyber-attack.
This article explains everything there is to know about backup and disaster recovery. After reading, you will understand why businesses need such a plan to ensure fast, continuous, and safe data restoration.
What are backup and disaster recovery?
Backup and disaster recovery are two solutions that work side by side to allow an organization to resume operation quickly after experiencing an adverse event. It can include natural disasters such as fires, tornados, earthquakes, and hurricanes, among others. It can also be caused by equipment failure due to age, human error, or a destructive cyberattack.
Backup is the process of keeping an extra copy or copies of important documents or information and storing them in a safe place that is separate from where you have kept the original. That way, you can quickly and easily recover the data if the original is damaged or lost.
On the other hand, a disaster recovery solution is a plan with step-by-step procedures to quickly reconnect and regain IT assets’ functionality after a breach or a disaster. For the program to work, you need to replicate your data and computer processing in a remote location not affected by the outage’s cause.
How backup evolved
Data, including video, audio, images, logs, and other unstructured files, used to be backed up in tapes or disks then put in a vault, on-site, for storage.
For added safety, someone would take the media backed up and move them to another location. That practice went on for a while until about a decade ago. Online backup, or data hosted on the Internet, was introduced, and it quickly changed everything.
As bandwidth increased and virtual computer hardware became available, more third-party providers started offering cloud-based backup. This type of off-site disaster recovery solution resonated well with customers because the idea promised continuous data protection even in the extreme event of a natural disaster.
What are the different types of backup?
1. Full backup
It is a method where the total number of files and folders are selected and copied. You can compare the result to the mother lode of data.
2. Incremental backup
It is the process of copying all the changes you have made after the full backup. For example, after you have done a full backup, you created a new file, which you can then copy in the incremental backup. This method is faster to do and takes little space. An incremental backup is best done automatically by allowing a machine to detect the changes and backing them up after.
Doing the process on your own takes time, as you will need to go through the full backup and pick out the differences. Imagine if you have thousands of files.
3. Differential backup
This type of backup is like an incremental backup in that changes made after the full backup will be recorded. But unlike the former, which only holds new files, a differential backup will include all the changes made since the original full backup.
4. Air gap backup
One of the best defenses against a data breach is called the air gap backup method. It is a backup and recovery strategy that protects data by disconnecting a computer or the network that stores data from the Internet. An air-gapped device or network cannot be accessed online, so whatever data it has cannot be stolen.
Keeping one copy of your sensitive files in an air-gapped computer or network ensures that you can quickly restore them should other documents you have saved in conventional storage are breached.
5. Mirror backup
When you look in the mirror, you see an exact duplicate of your likeness. That is the principle of a mirror backup. It is like the identical twin, in real-time, of the source. It would be best if you were careful with this method because if you lose any original file, you will also lose it in the mirror backup. That would defeat the purpose of having a copy that you can recreate if you cannot find the original.
6. Local backup
Local backup is data that you have copied on tape, disks, or any other physical media then housed on-site or within the organization’s premises.
7. Cloud or online backup
This type is the opposite of a local backup because you keep it at a remote location that you can access online whenever you want. It guarantees protection from natural disasters such as fire or earthquake that can destroy data stored in physical on-site and off-site locations.
8. Hybrid backup
It combines a local backup and a cloud backup. The former is stored on-site in a network-attached storage device (NAS) while the latter is at the cloud provider’s data center. Having both ensures that you can quickly access the data on the company network on-site, and it will be safe in the cloud in case of a natural disaster.
Common backup mistakes to watch out for
1. You underestimate the importance of a file.
You could end up not backing up a valuable one and losing the information it contains. To avoid misjudging a file, scrutinize each piece of data, paying close attention to those with no file names or given the wrong ones. They could have been misfiled in haste yet hold strategic importance, such as an essential sales lead or rare historical reference.
2. You mislabel files or do not label them at all.
Commit this lapse, and you could find yourself looking for a pin in a haystack. Keep a detailed record of where each specific dataset is stored and in which hardware. If not, you will find it nearly impossible to find the files when needed, especially if you have an enormous amount of data to sort through.
3. You are not testing whether the backup works.
Any process that can malfunction will do so ultimately. The same principle applies while backing data up; you could have gone ahead to burn a disk and took it for granted that everything will turn out right as expected. But several things could have gotten wrong while you were loading the disk, causing the process to fail. Ensure that the backup was successful by scanning the data using anti-virus software, analyzing whether the data was integrated or corrupted.
4. You are saving the backup copy in the same location as the original.
The purpose of a backup copy is to quickly restore data if the original is lost, stolen, or made inaccessible, as in the case of ransomware. If you save your backup copy in the same hardware where you keep the original, you will lose both if the latter gets lost. Always make it a point to back up in a different medium and keep it in a separate storage location.
5. You are not updating the backup copy regularly.
Data evolves as you add new information. What you have backed up last year needs to be updated because so much has happened between that time and now. If you do not correct it, you could lose crucial new information with valuable strategic value to your organization. Worse, you could end up with worthless data that have been made obsolete or overtaken by events.
Where do you store your backups?
You have many choices where to store your backup. In the early days, the go-to medium was a floppy disk. Then came magnetic tape and optical media like a compact disc, DVD, and Blu-Ray.
Today, you have hard disk drives (HDD), external hard disks or USBs, and cloud-based data storage services such as Google Drive, Dropbox, OneDrive, and more.
Deciding where to store or backup your data depends on how long you need to keep them. Each medium has a certain lifespan, and you need to pick one that will be intact and functional within the time you need to keep your data.
Below are the different media used for data storage and their corresponding lifespans:
Tips for a more efficient backup system
Tip 1: Decide which type of backup you need. Is it a full, differential, or incremental backup? If it is either of the last two, analyze the files to decide which ones you need to back up.
Tip 2: Transfer the data that you need to back up to the storage medium. That could either be your company’s hard drive, optical media, or the cloud.
Tip 3: Scan the backup to ensure that the process was successful and the data is intact. This step is crucial because you could go through all the trouble for nothing.
Tip 4: CyberHAWKS recommends encrypting the data after it has been integrated and compressed. The process adds an extra layer of security to the safekeeping.
How the data recovery works
Recovering data is the process of salvaging information that got corrupted, lost, or whose storage device got damaged.
Data storage media include:
- Magnetic tapes
- USB external flash drives
- Solid-state drives
- RAID (redundant array of inexpensive disks) subsystems
Typical situations where data recovery is needed
- Storage media (i.e., tapes, optical discs) have suffered physical damage. For example, you dropped the tape’s casing and broke it; the tape itself has snapped, or there are deep scratches on the discs’ surface.
- The file system does not work, preventing data from being read. The file system puts the order in the storage and retrieval of data. Without it, there would be no way to tell where particular information ends, and the following one begins.
- The storage device (i.e., HDD) malfunctions due to mechanical failure. It could be due to an accident caused by human error, such as coffee being spilled on the equipment or causing it to crash to the floor.
- The operating system does not read data from the HDD. Bad sectors have compromised the drive, causing the OS to freeze.
- You have deleted files accidentally. You may have misplaced them in the trash bin or threw away the necessary files along with the junk.
- Storage media has suffered a major electronic failure. The causes range from extreme heat, a spike in current or voltage, shock from a blow or a fall, or ionizing radiation due to a geomagnetic storm.
Data recovery techniques for damaged hardware
- Copy the essential files from the damaged media to a new drive.
- Replace damaged parts in the hard disk to reconstruct the original file system.
- Use a specialized disk-imaging procedure to retrieve readable data from the disk’s surface.
- Repair the damaged file system using data recovery software.
- Use the file carving process to reassemble parts of damaged files.
- Use data recovery software to restore data files in the hard disk that were lost or deleted due to a virus attack.
- Use remote access software online to recover data from damaged hardware. This method requires a stable Internet connection with sufficient bandwidth. It does not apply when there is physical damage to the hardware.
Backing up data and restoring it are two different things
So, you have backed up your sensitive files and stored them on-site or off-site. Can you sleep soundly now?
Check carefully if the process was successful because the software you have used to back up can fail. Also, having a backup stored somewhere is just one-half of the backup and disaster recovery plan.
The decisive factor would be to ensure that the steps needed to recover what you have backed up are dependable and will work.
Said measures include using the correct servers, tools, and operating systems that will help you recreate the data.
Different stages of data recovery
A successful data recovery goes through five stages depending on the extent of data corruption or loss after an adverse event.
Stage 1: Check if you have backups, and, if you do, test if they are functional.
Data recovery presumes that you have not backed up your files and need to recover them as soon as possible to avoid downtime. If you were smart enough to make copies as you add new files, data recovery might not be necessary when the originals are lost. All you need to do now is to check whether your backups work. If they do, backup your backups and store them in separately.
Stage 2: See if the hard disk drive (HDD) is working.
The HDD is where the data are stored. You should have it repaired if it is not functioning so you can read the data it contains. An HDD relies on a spindle and platter system, so if the spindle motor is not working correctly, you should move the platters to a new drive. Faulty heads and circuit boards also need to be fixed or replaced.
Stage 3: If the drive is faulty, create an image of it on a new drive or disk.
It is crucial to retrieve data from a faulty drive at once because not doing so risks further data loss or, worse, losing data altogether. To prevent this, create a clone of the defective drive on another device. It will allow the transfer of a secondary copy of the information, which you could then test and recover safely without damaging the source.
Stage 4: Repair the master boot record (MBR)
If the drive has failed logically, you can use its clone to repair the partition tables or MBR. It will allow you to read the file system and how it has structured the data, easing retrieval of the information stored in the faulty drive.
Stage 5: Proceed to retrieve data and repair damaged files.
While you can now start recovering data from the damaged drive, you can also expect damage to the data if they were written on a sector of the drive that had been compromised. Said sectoral damage usually leads to drive failure, which results in the data becoming unreadable. You can reconstruct damaged or corrupted files using software or data repair tools.
The composition of a disaster recovery plan
A disaster recovery plan must consist of four essential elements to be effective. These are:
1. A realistic assessment of potential threats.
Evaluate your organization’s risk profile and identify the data, systems, and applications critical to your business. Next, figure out the types of negative events you could face and outline the steps to recover data and quickly resume operation when each of the events occurs. Proactive risk assessment is key to successful disaster recovery.
2. Frequent data backup.
Identify what data you need to back up and how often, how to do the backups, who should do it, and where the backups will be stored. It is also crucial to decide how much disruption your organization can handle to set the limits within which you should implement data and disaster recovery.
3. A competent backup disaster recovery team.
Assemble a group that will handle planning and executing your disaster recovery plan. If you lack the needed talents in-house, Cyberhawks can prepare a robust and flexible disaster-recovery strategy for your organization. Our specialist Disaster Recovery Consulting Team (DIRECT) will customize a near-bulletproof disaster recovery plan with step-by-step procedures to ensure quick restoration of your IT operations.
4. Regular testing and updates.
A disaster recovery plan needs to be continuously tested and optimized to conform to the demands of shifting business priorities and worst-case threat scenarios.
What’s your backup and disaster recovery plan?
It is always best to err on the side of caution and act proactively in preparing for the big one, or a disaster that can strike when you least expect it.
It is a fact that even big businesses have learned quite painfully. But while they have the resources that will allow them to bounce back quickly, most are not as lucky.
Disaster recovery solutions for small businesses need to be in place – NOW. It will cushion the impact of a negative event and ensure continuity. That is the reason you are in business in the first place.
So, have you prepared something that will get you through the challenge? Have you ever thought about it? If not, start preparing a plan that will make you sleep soundly, knowing you are ready.
The first step is to look for an experienced backup and disaster recovery provider. Talk to CyberHAWKS, and we will gladly take you through the process and advise you on the best course of action.
Together, we can design a robust and cost-effective backup and disaster recovery strategy that will fit your specific requirements.
The future of your business might depend on it.
Consult a CyberHAWKS expert by sending an email to [email protected], or call 800-314-5835.
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