World Backup Day falls on March 31st, and in the light of digital information security, we consider a basic approach to online backup.

Why data backup should not be an afterthought

When looking at connectivity technology today compared to 20 years ago, who would have thought that we would evolve from sending data using electrical pulses through a copper wire to using light through a fibre optic cable?

With such advances, we are able to send and receive data at incredibly fast speeds and in an uncorrupted manner. The amount of data now being consumed by companies and individual users has tripled over the last couple of years. The advantage, however, can easily turn into a disadvantage if the data isn’t managed properly.

The majority of active and useful data is now digitised. There is thus an urgent need to make sure that this data is protected and available when needed. Entities both small and large should very carefully consider how their crucial information is stored and accessed by their members.

It is possible to store this information on a public platform. Millions of users access services such as Google Drive, MS OneDrive, and DropBox daily. These options work very well to access documents from any location, using whatever device may be available, and cut costs on data storage by using the cloud. Those concerned with data security and disaster recovery, however, naturally turn their thought to what would happen if data were to be lost due to unforeseen circumstances beyond our daily control. How quickly could that information be restored, minimising downtime without compromising the data’s integrity?

There are just too many factors that can go wrong with data. Hardware failure, outright theft, human error and compromised systems are just a few examples, each with their own hurdles, but with the same final implication.

Consider the following: according to a Realty Times report, it would take you 19 days to re-type just 20MB of lost text-based data. Market research from Harris Interactive shows that a hard drive crashes every 15 seconds, while 2000 laptops are lost or stolen daily. Most alarmingly, the London Chamber of Commerce advises that 90% of companies suffering significant data loss go out of business within two years.

A dedicated data backup solution should spring to mind.

Online backup vs. online storage

The differences between backup and storage are an essential distinction.

Online storage is used for ease of access, sharing and mobile access. It’s a useful collaboration tool, but has its limitations. For starters, online storage does not usually encrypt the data itself, despite the storage server being encrypted. This means that the data, while behind a secure server, is still open for access to any with permission to that server. Furthermore, online storage typically requires the data in question to be in one overall folder, and users cannot simply select which folders to store online. Finally, online storage’s sharing capability often means that sharing links are sent out and accessed without any authentication requirements – anyone with access to the URL can obtain the shared files.

Online backup addresses the security and integrity concerns over important data. By having the data encrypted on the local device and sent to the backup server via encrypted link, it guards against eavesdropping and compromised server risks. Backup software also normally requires a password to open successfully – this prevents unwanted persons from seeing what is backed up to begin with. Additionally, online backup solutions are “fire and forget”. Once initiated, they process automatically in the background. A final advantage is that an online backup process will normally compress data and backs up changes made, instead of entire files. This saves on both the available backup space as well as cuts down on data use.

Have an online backup strategy

Backup strategies will differ from entity to entity, but a generic idea of how to go about it is a useful starting point. Ideally, the security and process points should be tested and reviewed once each year.

Security aspects should include data risk assessment and analysis. The risk analysis can also assist with data protection compliance matters. Also, making sure that backup software is properly patched and updated is essential. Furthermore, discourage the storage of encryption and access passwords in easily accessible digital format.

The process should make clear who the key stakeholders are. In addition to this, backup processes need to be worked around other regular systems processes. For example, you would want to schedule backups prior to regular maintenance windows. Finally, make reporting a core part of the backup process so as to keep everyone informed, and test the capabilities of the backup and restoration systems regularly.

This article was made possible through research conducted by Riaan Pretorius, Sales Executive, and Willem van Zyl, Senior Solutions Architect at Adept. The author is grateful for their contributions!