As mentioned in a previous post on disaster recovery, having a solid backup strategy is crucial in keeping your business data safe.  Particularly in the HR world, where you are storing sensitive personal information and critical payroll data.  Losing those records is not an option.

What’s your tolerance level?

One of the first things to consider is what’s your tolerance level for “losing” data.  If you’ve set your backup to run every night, a failure during the day will cause you to lose all new data you’ve created since your last backup.  This may be OK if you’re backing up files that rarely change, but often this is not the case.  A good approach is to determine how much time it would take you to recreate any data you lost. In the example above, when you’re backing up nightly, you’d have to replace a full day’s worth of data in the event of failure.  If that’s within your tolerance level, then that strategy will work for you.  If not, try to consider the maximum amount of data you’d ever want to recreate, and try to set your backup interval to that.

Real-time backups

If your tolerance level is to never lose ANY data, you need your backup interval to be real-time or as close to it as possible.  The plus side of this strategy is that you should have little to no data loss.  The down side is that there is a larger resource commitment needed to make this happen.  You may need to consider:

  • Redundant hardware, such as multiple servers, which increases your hardware budget.
  • If backing up offsite, you’ll need a fast network connection to ensure copies make it offsite in real-time.

One is not enough

A good backup strategy should include multiple copies of your backups.  A local, real-time backup is great until your building loses power and you can’t access any of your servers.  You should have multiple backup plans, including at least one that takes your data offsite.  You should also prioritize your backups as needed to save time and bandwidth.  An example is if you back up your critically changing payroll data real-time, but set your file server to back up at 15 or 30 minute intervals.  You can also mix and match backup formats, so your real-time data may get backed up to the cloud, but your less-used data gets written to tape or a large hard drive. Hybrid strategies like this can help you keep your critical and less-used data safe without breaking the bank.

Restoring data

Once you’ve got your strategy in place it’s easy to get comfortable and assume everything is working as it should.  One of the most crucial parts of your backup strategy should be testing that you can restore data as needed.  Having all your files offsite in the cloud is useless unless you can actually bring them back down to your servers.  Again, think of your tolerance level here.  If you have all your data offsite in the cloud how long will it take to download all the files in the event you need to do a full restore?  Make sure you can restore your critical files in a time frame that is acceptable to you.

A note about the cloud

Cloud services are becoming more and more popular, and a big benefit to using them is that you can (hopefully) count on the provider to back up your data.  However, in the event that a cloud service has a disruption, shuts down permanently, or fails to make sure their backups are working correctly, you could be stuck with a huge data loss.  It’s important that even if you rely on a cloud service that you still periodically make a local backup copy of your data from the site.  Many services will offer you the ability to download a data dump of your data.  If they don’t, try to find a way to export the critical data that you need (as a spreadsheet, etc.) periodically.  That way you always have a local copy of the data needed to run your business.