Learn everything you need to know about Backup Planning

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Fault tolerance can be defined as the prevention of data loss if a component fails. But if fault tolerance fails, then disaster recovery would be our last option. Now disaster recovery is the process of rebuilding an organization’s data after a disaster has happened, such as data loss. Even if we have fault tolerance measures, we still need to backup our data. So backup planning is crucial for every organization, and in this article, I will discuss this topic in detail.

What is Backup Planning?

Backup planning is all about how organizations need to plan the way they tolerate security incidents when they happen and how they can recover from security incidents. So it is about the redundancy of services and information and about being able to get the data back to a secure state. It’s all about the availability of our services and data. So, this is related to the way that we think about security as being made up of confidentiality, integrity, and availability. Specifically, the topic of Backups is closely related to the idea of the importance of availability and keeping things available.

Businesses need to plan for when things go wrong, so they can know how to recover. The term backup is basically a verb to restore to an earlier state, i.e., an earlier version of the data before it became unavailable or maliciously modified. This topic is relevant to everyone because you should have a backup strategy for your own information and data, and not only organizationally, but every individual needs to think about how they need to keep a backup of all their information.

Now to do backup planning, you would first need to know the type of backups.

Types of Backups: Full, Incremental, Differential

And there are three different types of backups: full, incremental, and differential.

Full Backup

So let’s talk about a full backup first. Now a full backup is just like its name says, it is a full backup, and it backs up all the data. For example, all the data is backed into one disc in a full backup. This is the simplest form of backup to perform because only one disc is used. However, if your organization has a large amount of data, then performing a full backup daily would not be efficient because the disadvantage of doing a full backup is that it takes the longest to perform. But full backups do have an advantage, and that is during data restoration. Because if you ever need to restore the data, then the data can be restored in one session.

Incremental Backup

Incremental backup is much faster than a full backup because in an incremental backup, the only data that is backed up is that data that has been changed since the last full or incremental backup. So, for example, let’s say a company does a full backup on Monday and does incremental backups on Tuesday through Friday. So again, the only data that is backed up is that data that has been changed since the last full or incremental backup.  So, Tuesday will only backup Tuesday’s data, Wednesday will only backup Wednesday’s data, Thursday will only backup Thursday’s data, and so on. The advantage of an incremental backup is that it’s the fastest backup compared to a full or differential backup. However, the disadvantage of an incremental backup is that it takes the longest when you have to restore the data.

Differential Backup

Now a differential backup is faster than a full backup, but it’s not as fast as an incremental backup. In a differential backup, the data that is backed up is the data that has been changed since the last full backup. So in a differential backup, a company does a full backup on Monday and does differential backups Tuesday through Friday. As data is being added to the database on those weekdays, the differential backup will backup the data that has been changed since Monday’s full backup. So Tuesday will backup Tuesday’s data, Wednesday will backup Tuesday’s and Wednesday’s data,  Thursday will backup Tuesday’s, Wednesday’s, and Thursday’s data, and Friday will backup Tuesday’s,  Wednesday’s, Thursday’s, and Friday’s data. Now after a differential backup, if you ever needed to restore the data, you would only need the last full backup and the last differential backup to completely restore your data.

Backup Planning Strategies

You can plan your backup strategy in below four stages:

Assess the data and backup needs

The first thing you need to decide is what you are going to backup, how frequently the backup will happen, where the data will be backed up, and how long you will store the backup data. So, in the beginning stage, you should have a clear answer to these questions. After that, you need to understand the kind of data you have to backup. Working in an organization, you will have different kinds of data, which you can classify in several ways. One classification can be hot data, cold data, and archive data. Hot data is very critical to the business, and it should be backed up regularly. Cold data is not very critical to the company, and they are accessed infrequently. You can also call them secondary data. Archive data is the data which has been stored for a longer period of time for auditing or compliance, and this kind of data is rarely accessed. So, for the first step, decide the backup needs and the kind of data you have to back up.

Choose the backup method and storage method

There are different ways to store the data backup. It can be cloud backup, local or on-premises backup, or it can be a hybrid backup which is a combination of cloud and on-premises backup. The local backup gets you unlimited control and offers high data availability, but this backup is very costly and technical. Cloud backups are very simple to use and in high demand today because the cost of performing a backup on cloud storage is very less. You can also access cloud backups remotely, but the control here is limited as compared to local backup. If you choose hybrid backup, you can store business-critical data on the on-premises storage and all the cold data which are not accessed regularly and are not business-critical over cloud storage. And as discussed before in this article, you will also have to define the type of backup, and it can be a full backup, an incremental backup, or a differential backup. So depending on the requirement, choose the perfect backup and storage method.

Make asset recovery plan

Create a plan which should clearly define what will happen in the scenario of a disaster. This plan should mention how the data will be recovered after the disaster. This plan should have RTO (recovery time objective) and RPO (recovery point objective) details. So, you must know how much time it will take to recover from disaster and how much downtime is acceptable by the organization before the system comes online again. When creating this plan, you should outline all the types of disasters that can happen and how you would react to each disaster situation.

Test the recovery plan

Before applying the complete backup, you need to test the recovery plan and make sure that everything is running correctly as per the plan. You should check the restore speeds and disaster recovery capabilities by running some data recovery tests. Perform the test for each type of backup that you have planned because different kinds of backups can have different challenges. If all the backups happen as per the expectations and goals that were set in the beginning, then the recovery testing is successful. This process is not a one-time thing, and you should keep on testing after some intervals to identify if there are any loopholes. This will help you avoid failures and save a lot of costs in the long run.

Final Thoughts

So that was all about backup planning. I hope now you are clear with the different types of backup used and what all steps you should follow to execute a backup of your data. You need to choose backup methods very carefully depending on the organization’s requirements to get the best out of it. So go ahead and create a backup plan for your organization today.

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