Ben Thompson knows firsthand how devastating it can be to lose data. Twenty years ago, Thompson was finishing his senior year of high school when his computer had a hard drive failure and he lost all the work he’d done for multiple advanced placement classes as well as music he had ripped.
Ashleigh Castrichini also learned a hard lesson about the importance of data backup four years ago after her iPhone was destroyed. Because she was not paying for backup storage, she lost seven months of photos.
These experiences made a lasting impression on Thompson and Castrichini and both are now extremely diligent about backing up files.
|Ben Thompson, Manager, Sales Enablement
|Ashleigh Castrichini, Manager
We all should heed these lessons because data loss is very common, both personally and in business. Despite the immense amount of information stored today, a significant number of individuals and organizations still do not have the habit of doing regular backups and/or do not follow the correct guidelines for this purpose.
According to the 2020 World Cyber Protection Week Survey by Acronis (see infographic below) a world leader in cyber protection, 91% of individuals and 90% of organizations are backing up their devices at least once per year. However, it also showed that only 33% of personal users do backups one to two times a month. Also, fewer than one in five of the combined respondents uses the hybrid backup method (local and cloud storage), which is a recognized best practice.
The same survey indicates that 68% of personal users have lost data or devices, along with 43% of IT professionals. While IT professionals are doing backups more frequently, with 41% doing them daily, only 20% adhere to the hybrid backup practice, while 36% base their backups exclusively on cloud services. Approximately 25% back up exclusively to local storage destinations, while the remaining almost 20% only replicate their backup data to another data center. The survey also found that 41% of businesses reported loss of income and productivity due to data inaccessibility.
I spoke with Thompson and Castrichini about the importance of data backup and asked for some tips to consider. Thompson, manager of Sales Enablement for Multi-Vendor Solutions, and Castrichini, manager of Multi-Vendor Solutions, are part of the Converged Solutions team at Tech Data. They help bring to market multi-vendor solutions around the data center. Their business expertise – along with their personal discipline in the management and backup of data – make them qualified advisors about how to avoid losing personal and business data.
What is the main reason for the loss of data?
Thompson: It’s not top of mind; no one thinks about it until it happens. For me the main reason that people lose stuff is because they aren't actively thinking about what would happen if they lost it and if they can’t recover it. So they don't plan for it until it eventually happens. Data breach is a very serious concern; it happens, and it happens probably more than companies admit to and you have to be proactive in managing that.
What are the top reasons one should do regular backups?
Castrichini: The main reason you should do regular backups is that data losses are unpredictable. From human error to system issues, or breaking your mobile phone and losing all your photos, it can happen anytime.
Another reason is that it keeps downtime to a minimum. And ultimately, one of the top reasons is that for a lot of businesses or even in our personal lives, there's an audit – whether it is an internal company audit or an external IRS audit on our taxes. Citizens are required to keep tax history for a number of years as well as businesses, who not only could be audited by state, local or federal auditors but also by customers and vendors. Individuals and businesses have to be able to pull up these records and show how things were done and are continuing to be done so that they stay compliant.
Why don’t a lot of companies prioritize data backup?
Castrichini: It is really difficult to plan for the unknown, to predict the unpredictable. Think about it like you think about your car insurance. You don't want it until you need it. There's an additional cost: you have to have staff and products to manage data backup. This means an additional cost to the business for something that may or may not happen this week, this month or even this year.
What are some of the options available to back up data today?
Castrichini: For cloud storage, you have the options of public, private and hybrid cloud.
With public cloud – Software as a Service (SaaS) or Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) – there is no need to invest in hardware. Cloud service providers can manage and effectively bill you for the space you use. Many cloud service providers encrypt the data to protect against hackers; however, there are established encryption algorithms in place, and it’s the responsibility of the consumer to ensure he/she understands how the cloud service provider encrypts the data.
Private cloud storage carries an expense for hardware up front, but growth, data encryption and management are owned, managed and operated by the customer or a third party (or a combination) – either on-premise (data stored on local servers, computers or other devices) or off -premise. There is a lot more flexibility in that private cloud network compatibility is built to the needs of the business.
A pro for both of these options is that they allow for anytime access to the data and applications as long as you have an internet connection. A con for public cloud is the fact that control of the data is surrendered to the cloud service provider, meaning the consumer is probably not fully aware of the reliability of the network. A con for private is that the cost can be higher than public due to the expenses of infrastructure needs (hardware) and maintenance.
Thompson: Another thing people need to consider if they're considering between a private cloud or a public cloud service is what kind of expenses they're looking to incur. A lot of companies like the public cloud offering because they can classify it as an operational expense. But if you're going with private cloud and you're buying your own hardware, that's a capital expense. So, depending on how your books are run and what your bottom line needs to represent could influence the decision as well.
The capital expense when you buy all the hardware yourself to set up your private cloud is usually a one-time payment or maybe payments over a few months. With the public cloud offering, there is a monthly bill or cost just like your iCloud storage for your iPhone or your Netflix subscription.
You also need to think about local or remote backups if you are doing your own backups and not going to the cloud. Let’s say you buy a backup machine for your home so you can back up all the data from your laptop and the kids’ iPads. Is it beneficial to have a local backup or a remote backup (out of your house)? What if there is a fire and your backup machine burns? That’s why you should think about a remote backup.
Castrichini: On the subject of local backups, use of an internal hard disk drive (HDD) is an option. There are many storage capacities available, and HDDs are rewritable, meaning you can do rolling updates which will update the files with the most recent version only. Backup is quick and simple, since primary and backup data are on the same drive. On the downside, internal HDDs can be stolen, corrupted, damaged or completely destroyed, like in the house fire scenario Ben mentioned. This means not only could you lose your backup, but you can lose your primary files stored on it.
There is also the option of removable storage media. Think external hard drives or flash drives. One of the advantages of removable storage devices is that they work on most computers. A lot of us use those today. You have control of the data, but you have to be the one to remember to encrypt the data or password protect it. If your company has certain security protocols for the flash drive you're carrying around, you are responsible for the physical security of the data if it’s lost or stolen.
Whichever of these options is best differs depending on the individual’s or the business’ needs.
What are some things to look for in a data backup solution?
Thompson: For me it is important that the data backup solution be smart, efficient and able to survive trauma. So that means a few different things for me. An efficient and smart backup solution has to have some layer of software that will look at all of the data that needs to be backed up and see if it's duplicated somewhere (data deduplication feature). The system also needs to have those kinds of things built into it that allow the efficient rebuilding and recovery of lost data.
Castrichini: In addition to that, I also want to make sure we talk about security. Protecting your data – whether it's on premise, off premise, a physical database or a virtual network – data should be protected, and security measures should be in place. The backup system should provide a secure location.
How do small companies that offer backup services compete against large companies that are perhaps cheaper?
Castrichini: Where I believe the small companies have an advantage over the larger companies is in the customer experience. That includes the possibility to always speak to a representative immediately and have an email responded to within a couple of hours.
What are the biggest risks of not doing regular backups in today’s world?
Thompson:From a company perspective, I think that the biggest risk is profit loss. Losing company data can create a risk to your revenue and profitability. As an example, imagine not being able to enforce service fees and service level agreements (SLAs) because you aren’t able to locate the customer contract.
Castrichini: If a disaster happens and I am unable to operate almost immediately after an event, no matter what the event is, that will impact the business from a profitability standpoint and also will affect the ability to instill trust with customers long-term. This is about more than just losing data, it’s also about the possibility of losing the business.
What are the most common mistakes that people make regarding data backup?
Castrichini: The most common mistakes people make are not backing up their data and/or not doing it regularly from all endpoints.
Thompson: In our current technology scenario, you can check, for example, your work calendar from your phone or your laptop, or you can send work emails from your personal phone, so we need to make sure that the backup solution we have encompasses all of those access avenues.
What is the most efficient way to protect my data?
Thompson: If you are talking about individual data, like photos in your phone, the most efficient way to back that up is paying a cloud service. You don't have to think about it; it's encrypted at the cloud service provider location. You can access it from your phone or your tablet or your laptop.
From a business perspective, you have to consider quite a bit more, because backing up personal photos is way different from training documentation and International Organization for Standardization (ISO) audit information for example. So, depending on what you're storing and what kind of environment you're working in, what customers you interact with or what segment of the market you live in, I think that there are going to be different answers for that.
Castrichini: I look at it more from an effectiveness standpoint – the ways that I can effectively protect my data. I think about data encryption, password protecting my data, making sure my software is updated – whether that’s on my laptop for work or my cell phone – and definitely regularly backing up my data.
What are some best practices in backing up data?
Thompson: Be consistent in the frequency of your backups and your protection levels across all your devices. I also use an external hard drive at a personal level that I take to a friend’s house once a month and pick up the other hard drive and bring it back to my place to plug back in.
Castrichini: In short: 1.) Back up frequently and via automation; 2.) Make sure backups are encrypted and protected; and 3.) Always review your retention needs for backup data.
There is no definitive one-size-fits-all solution for data backup because it all depends on the individual’s or the business’ needs, the technology, the scope – and of course the budget. What is definitive is that accidents and disasters do happen. Devices are subject to failure and the worst mistakes we can make include thinking that data will always be available, not having the discipline to back up copies regularly and in the case of companies, not having a business continuity plan in the event of an incident that compromises the organization's data.
Whether it’s vacation photos or business critical files, none of us wants to lose data. So whatever method you use, be sure to back up your data regularly. After all, it’s better to be safe than sorry.
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About the Author
Karina Seir is a senior communications specialist at Tech Data. In this role, she develops and executes communications plans that reinforce business initiatives and company strategy, supports the development of internal executive communications, collaborates with regional leaders and manages the external communications and public relations efforts for the Latin America and Caribbean (LAC) region. Karina has 20 years of communications experience – the last 14 of which have been with Tech Data. The Venezuela native moved to the U.S. in 2005 and is fluent in both Spanish and English.