Offsite Data Backup 101: Protecting Data in a Real Disaster
Everyone knows that backup is integral to a company’s data security. It’s even more important to take those backups offsite. In the event of a serious disaster, not only could your office building be damaged, but without offsite data backup copies all the important information that keeps your business running would go kaput with it.
“Offsite data backup” is exactly what it sounds like: a copy of your data that is stored in a separate location from your primary data, so if something drastic happens to the primary data’s location (fire, tornado, Godzilla, etc) you’ll have a copy of your data safely stored somewhere else.
Backup copies housed in the same location as your primary data are great for recovering from mini-disasters like a server crash or an accidental file deletion. But in a make-the-news kind of disaster, the offsites are literally all you can count on.
Here’s a field guide on common offsite backup types:
The granddaddy of them all, tape was the standard offsite backup for years. It’s still pretty solid for very- long-term archiving– if you need to keep certain data preserved as-is for a decade (or indefinitely!), put it on tape in a carefully controlled environment and you’re all set.
As a regular backup, though, tape gets pretty unwieldy. Obviously all those data-storing tapes have to go somewhere, and that “carefully-controlled environment” doesn’t come cheap. Like all physical media, they’re also prone to wearing out with regular use, meaning replacements need to be regularly purchased. The biggest drawback, however, is management. Tapes have to be changed, organized and transported manually. Not only is this a drain on IT resources, it introduces the possibility of human error. And if there’s one thing that’s certain in life, it’s the occurrence of human error.
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Also called improvised backup, this usually means saving a backup to a USB or external hard drive and hand carrying it somewhere far from the office. This is a lot cheaper and less cumbersome than tape, but holy criminal negligence, Batman!
Besides the continued risk of human error in making/transporting them, improvised backups can introduce a host of other issues. If staff members are just taking data backups home with them, the data is vulnerable to getting damaged or lost/stolen in transit. And depending on what that data IS, the organization could be opened up to serious compliance / privacy suits if something DOES happen.
Cloud may be the buzzword of the 2010s, but that’s no reason to write it off. Cloud backup and restore generally allows you to automate the process, which ensures the copy is safely offsite (and removes that pesky human error potential). Since the backup isn’t tied to any particular piece of physical hardware, it can be restored to/from anywhere – which comes in handy if, say, a tornado recently deposited pieces of your office all over the county.
A major concern around online backup and disaster recovery is usually speed, but a well-designed cloud service will tap WAN optimization techniques to ensure customers can back up and restore data quickly enough to meet timeframe requirements. Cloud security is also often cited as a concern, but most enterprise-level online backup providers employ stringent, externally-audited security practices required by regulations like HIPAA. Data is no more inherently unsafe in the cloud than in a physical backup medium (and these fears frequently underestimate physical backup security threats).
A disaster recovery plan without offsite backup is really more of a “severe inconvenience recovery” plan. Take the time to choose a secure and reliable offsite data backup service provider. If Godzilla ever pops up out of the nearest bay, you’ll be happy you did.