Almost every piece of data a business holds, from customer PII to day-to-day documentation, is stored digitally. If a business loses any of their information and doesn’t have a data backup plan in place, their organisation will grind to a halt.
In 2022, the global average total cost of a data breach is an eye-watering £3.69m, with the average of each lost record costing businesses standing at around £131. Similarly, the British Chamber of Commerce found that 93% of businesses that suffer data loss for more than 10 days file for bankruptcy within a year. Another found that 60% of small businesses that experience data loss are forced to shut down within six months.
One simple way to minimise this risk is by implementing a data backup plan.
In this blog, we’ll help you understand what a data backup is, why data loss can be costly and the steps you need to protect your business from financial loss and security risks.
Why is data loss so expensive?
The costs of data loss are multi-faceted, and those costs soon add up. Data losses have a direct impact on your business’ ability to function, which has significant financial implications.
For example, if you lose a product database that feeds into your eCommerce site, and suddenly it will be impossible to generate online sales. If you lose your invoicing records, you’re likely to suffer. If your finance data disappears, orders from suppliers will be held up, negatively impacting your supply chain and bottom line.
Recovering your data also comes at a substantial cost through financial outlay, and administration. Your IT teams will need to spend time retrieving and recovering lost data, draining organisational resources.
Add in the potential ongoing lost revenue due to reputational damage, as well as any regulatory fines, and it becomes clear why data loss is so expensive.
How does data loss occur?
As of 2022, cyber-attacks have now overtaken hardware failure and human error as the leading cause of data loss. But that doesn’t mean locking down your business networks is a sure-fire way of keeping your data safe.
Outside cyber-attacks, data loss occurs when information is accidentally or intentionally put at risk. This can happen at any time and for a variety of reasons, including:
- Act of God incidents
- Human error
- Software corruption
- Accidental deletion
- Formatting errors
- Computer viruses
- Power outages
- System crashes
Whatever the reason for a data loss, there is one secure way to prevent your business from being impacted – a data backup.
What is data backup?
In simple terms, a data backup is the practice of making a copy or copies of data from a primary to a secondary location. Essential for protecting your data and enabling business continuity in the event of a disruption, backing up your data is a cost-effective way of maintaining a level of protection to your business. Backing up your data enables you to protect your business from accidents due to human error or corruption.
Saving your critical business data on different drives or servers, mitigates a majority of risks that physical damage, hardware failure, theft, or malware can cause.
Why data backups are essential
Whatever type of hardware you save your data on – from individual laptops and PCs, and flash drives to SD cards, external hard drives and mainframe servers – all are prone to failures, physical damage and theft.
Networked databases can also be hacked and infected by Trojans. Trojans are used to attack and steal company data. Ransomware attackers may threaten to erase or lock you out of your drives if you refuse to pay the fines they set. There is also the risk of a member of staff making a mistake when saving a piece of work to a particular drive which can result in data being damaged, wiped or overwritten.
Backing up your business data should be viewed as a form of insurance against loss, corruption and malware attacks. The simplest way to safeguard your data is to have everything duplicated on a separate system so, if the worst happens, you can recover all the data you need, without causing disruption to your business.
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The business benefits of data backups
The ability to run a rapid data recovery from a backup source will save your business from damaging downtime, loss of revenue and the expense of trying to salvage data from corrupt or compromised systems. Data backups also protect your business in two key ways.
Business records, have to be kept for a set length of time for compliance purposes, which also means it must be protected.
Certain industries, such as financial and tax services, have added legal obligations to keep other forms of data for certain lengths of time, while privacy laws such as GDPR place more of an onus on all organisations to look after personal data.
2. Good governance
Data backup is a core component of sound data governance, that keeping records and archives in good order.
Having an efficient data management system has a wide range of business benefits, including:
- Reducing the time it takes to compile reports
- Minimising the risk of duplication when working with data
- Boosting customer and investor relations
- Providing accurate business intelligence, giving companies an advantage against their competitors
Despite the clear benefits, many businesses are still not on top of backing up their data. Research shows that 60% of data backups are incomplete, and 50% of data restorations are unsuccessful.
With cloud-based and hybrid backup solutions readily available, every business has the opportunity to safeguard against unpredictable events, minimise risk and protect their business’s most valuable asset.
3 steps to backing up your data
To safeguard your information, a well implemented data backup plan allows you to minimise disruption and maximise efficiency. To achieve this, businesses should follow these three steps:
1. Decide what you need to back up
To understand what you need to back up, you must conduct a ‘data audit’.
To do this, you need to analyse how your company uses data and identify the data you want to back up. As a rule of thumb, it’s best practice to back up everything that is of value or mission-critical to your business. Storing and archiving data you don’t really need will make retrieving information in an emergency more complex and will only add cost and complexity.
2. Plan where you will store your backed up data
Geographic redundancy is also a crucial consideration when deciding where to store your backed up data. It minimises downtime by replicating your business data and IT infrastructure to other sites and data centres, spread across different geographic regions. This means your valuable data assets and applications will remain available in the event of a disruption.
When considering where you store your backed up data, there are three main options:
- Physical hardware on premise
- Physical hardware located off-site
- Cloud-based solutions
Each have their own strengths – let’s take a closer look:.
i. Local hardware
This is the default option whenever you save anything to local drives on a device or on-premise server..
Introducing protocols where you duplicate everything to both, or onto other media such as external hard drives, flash drives or high-capacity digital tapes, provides some protection against small-scale faults or errors on individual machines. But in the event of a fire, a major incident of theft, or a large-scale malware violation, you could find all copies compromised or lost, taking the protection of the backup away.
Saving copies to local hardware as you work is quick and simple, but for more robust protection, this should always be supported with other backup procedures.
ii. Remote hardware
As network technology has increased in speed and reliability, and the IT environment has become more complex due to hybrid working, more businesses are taking the opportunity to backup data, company systems to remote servers. This can be as simple as backing up your entire on-premise system to a digital tape and taking that tape off the premises every evening, meaning if disaster strikes at your offices, you still have a safe copy.
A simple way to back up remote hardware is using a Wide Area Network (WAN) to automatically duplicate copies of vital data on servers dotted around different premises. Similarly, businesses can use a ‘bare metal’ third-party backup service, which saves data to servers hosted in a data centre.
iii. Cloud data backups
The most flexible, cost-effective and reliable safeguarding methods are those that offer cloud data backup services. These provide a quick, and easy remote backup options that ensure complete geographic redundancy.
Cloud data backups make use of virtualisation, saving data on hypervisors, which draw resources from several servers at once, often from different locations. This means your data is effectively stored in multiple locations at once, or in the ‘ether’ of the Cloud, with no single specific location. Even if there is a catastrophic outage at one data centre, or one server fails, your archives will be safe and easily recovered from the rest of the Cloud store.
Cloud data backup services are typically private cloud solutions, and provide you with dedicated storage and exclusive connectivity resources. This adds an extra layer of security to your critical data. Alternatively, some businesses opt for hybrid backups, which use cheaper public cloud to store less-sensitive assets, and private cloud for the more critical data.
3. Determine how often to back up your data
If you suffer data loss or a system outage, any recovery will roll back to the last moment you carried out a backup. If this was a week ago, you are still likely to have lost a lot of valuable data, and you’ll likely suffer damage to your operations.
Your business should therefore conduct regular daily backups to mitigate potential damage caused by data loss. Backing up a minimum of once a day is strongly recommended to minimise the impact on your business.
Find the best data backup system for your business
Without protection in place, losing data will cost your company a significant amount of time, resources and money.
To safeguard your business, it’s best practice to have a mix of local hardware, remote hardware and cloud data backups. This ensures that your core business activities will remain undisrupted in the event of a data disaster.
For complete peace of mind, M247 offers Back up as a Service (BUaaS) as part of a larger Disaster Recovery as a Service (DRaaS) solution. Through automated save schedules and recovery, you can be confident that all your business data is being backed up and ready to be restored should an unforeseen disaster strike.
Discover how BUaaS can help you protect your vital data by downloading your fact sheet.
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This blog was originally posted in October 2019, and has been updated with new figures, statistics and best practices in November 2022.