As the utilization of cloud infrastructure becomes ubiquitous and more organizations seek to reduce their on-prem footprints, backing up data is one of the most important things an organization must address. In the cloud, your machine can be up and running in no time, but it can also be inadvertently terminated.
This possibility makes implementing a thoughtful backup solution essential. Ensuring that you have redundancy for your virtualized infrastructure is just as important as protecting your on-prem environment or hybrid IT footprint in the form of a backup to address the non-hypercritical elements of your landscape.
Creating a backup means copying your organization’s data and saving it elsewhere. This ensures that when you need the data back, you can access it. Data loss in an organization’s cloud backup posture doesn’t just come from a failure on the part of a cloud platform provider, it can be due to data corruption, cyberattacks, accidental deletion of data, software failure, or any human- or machine-related event that puts your data into an unusable state. One recent example is AWS going down in the East Coast Region.
Beyond ensuring your data is accessible when you need it to recover, security audits and compliance also require you to maintain backups. And finally, backups are an important step in the disaster recovery (DR) process, whether you have data on-prem, in the cloud, or utilize a hybrid footprint. It’s typically the method of recovery that organizations use for less critical data, applications, and virtualized and non-virtualized IT infrastructure.
Disaster recovery refers to the methods you’ll use to get your data systems and applications online in case of natural disasters, cyberattacks, human mishaps, or any other such event. These include region-wide events, like data centers going down due to a flood or earthquake, but also include your ability to continue to remain operational during scenarios like the COVID-19 pandemic.
Types of Data Backup
Different approaches to backup are suitable for different types of data, but they apply whether you’re talking about on-premises, hybrid or cloud deployments. There are multiple types of data backup—including partial, incremental, and whole data snapshotting—and each of these has its own set of pros and cons. Let’s take a closer look at these data backup types.
Full Data Backup
The simplest type of backup is full data. With this method, you backup all your data regardless of how many changes have been made. For example, if you have 10 files to back up, on day one you would back them all up. If you made a change to just one file the next day, you’d still backup all 10 files.
Full data backup is both expensive and time-consuming because you must save all the data every time you want to back something up. This method also uses a lot more space to save multiple instances of backups, and it consumes more network bandwidth as it transfers all this information in the backup process and then again in recovery back to operational status in the event downtime occurs. That said, it provides a useful snapshot of all your data, and restoring the full backup is relatively straightforward because you’re effectively copying the whole database back into your environment.
Differential Data Backup
In this strategy, only changes that have been made since the last full backup will be backed up—but this happens for each incremental backup. If we use our earlier example, on the first day you would still complete the full backup. To save time, on the second day, the backup will only be done for the one file that was changed. On the third day, all changed files from days one and two will be backed up, and this continues cumulatively until the next full backup. If there are small changes in all the files, then they’ll all be backed up and differential backup will be the same as a full backup.
Differential data backup plans offer increased performance since everything isn’t being backed up all the time. However, a drawback is that you have to keep a separate database of files and their hash, so you can check if the files have changed. This could also mean accruing a small overhead for the performance benefit. But if all the files are touched, it’ll take the same amount of time as a full backup, or even longer since it must calculate the hashes for changes.
When it comes to recovery, you’ll have to restore all the data and then apply the changes that were backed up in subsequent changes.
Incremental Data Backup
This is a more efficient way of saving data. In this backup strategy, you only back up the changes that have happened since the last backup of any kind. So, sticking with the ongoing example, on day three, an incremental backup would only update changes made since day two, rather than continuously backing up data that was already backed up.
Incremental backup can be tricky to implement because it has to keep track of changes that were made in order to reach a particular state. So, instead of taking snapshots, it tracks the changes. Restoring data with this method poses the same challenge as differential backup, which can make it seem less appealing than a full backup.
In short, incremental backup can be a good strategy to increase the frequency of backups. You could even conduct backup hourly if you’d like, but if you want fast recovery, you’ll have to choose a full backup and bear the cost of backup performance. There is always a tradeoff, and here the tradeoff is between backup time and restoration time.
Importance of Backups in Compliance and Auditing
The main purpose of compliance and auditing is to make sure that your organization—even in the case of disaster—stays safe and secure, and that it provides a sufficient level of continuity of service for your customers. This is the main reason for including backup and DR strategies in different security and compliance audits. Many auditors also recommend running your applications in two regions, just to be safe in the event of a natural disaster. In some instances, insurance companies may also require this level of redundancy.
For example, here are some common compliance requirements:
- HIPAA – keeps health data, and requires data to be backed up in at least two locations.
- PCI/DSS – keeps credit and debit card details, it also stipulates that backup data should be stored at a secure offsite location.
- CCPA – is more It states that users have the right to delete data, so you also must determine how you’ll remove that information from the backup. GDPR is similar, but with fewer restrictions.
- SOX – requires financial data to be present for seven years for auditors, which can be tough to do in the main database. For this reason, it’s generally taken from the backups.
- FINRA – also demands backups to be stored at alternate sites with retention of up to seven years.
This list of requirements helps illustrate the importance of keeping a proper backup policy and system in place. But beyond making it easier to stay in compliance, a good backup strategy also protects aspects of your IT footprint from attacks, data corruption, and human error.
Strategies for Storing Backups
If you’re keeping your backup on the same machine the files came from, it won’t provide the protections backups are meant to. If the machine goes down, you’ll lose your originals as well as the backup.
Therefore, it’s important to keep your backup away from your main data centers. It’s also recommended to keep multiple backup copies of the data in different regions, so you decrease the probability of losing all the data at once.
A standard way of keeping backups is the 3-2-1 rule, which says that you should have three copies of your data:
- One primary copy.
- Two backups – with one copy stored offsite or away from the location of your servers.
Cloud providers generally offer a backup service target, which can save multiple copies of your data across different regions. For example, AWS offers S3, and Microsoft Azure offers Blob storage. VMware-based cloud providers invariably do as well. There are also many backup as a service (BaaS) providers that offer data protection resources to/on various cloud platforms and some cover backup of on-prem resources. In the next section, we’ll look at what advantages they provide and if they’re worth the investment.
Backup as a Service
BaaS is a backup solution that allows you to automatically configure and store all your backups in the cloud. Such a service provides assurance that your backup is made virtually without issue, and in the rare instance that there is one, you’ll immediately be notified without having to set up monitoring.
The legacy approach to backup, where the backup is taken from the hardware itself, can be an intensive process requiring a lot of human resources and time. Due in part to the cumbersome nature of the process in legacy systems, backups are made infrequently. Modern cloud solutions, on the other hand, are frequent and totally automatic, needing little to no human intervention beyond oversight.
With BaaS, you get an automated backup and can opt to set up multiple copies stored across multiple regions, thus providing a reliable backup strategy. Other features and benefits include:
- Reduction of workload – BaaS can reduce your IT team’s workload so they can focus on other tasks.
- Compression – with compression, you can decrease the size of data by 70-90% before saving it.
- Encryption – encrypting data makes it secure so that even if someone has access to it, they can’t get any information out of it.
- Retention periods – BaaS gives you the ability to define the retention period of the backup.
- Scalability – BaaS allows you to scale as your data backup needs grow.
- Reliability – storing multiple copies of data in multiple locations ensures that your data is available in case of a downtime event, particularly a region-wide issue like a natural disaster, as well as increasing compliance with various standards.
All these abilities come out of the box, making BaaS a solid backup approach, especially when compared with legacy solutions. One drawback to this approach is that it can incur additional—though easily justifiable—costs, depending on the utilization of resources and constructs of your backup design.
Establishing a reliable backup strategy is essential for protecting your data assets in the event of disasters, data loss, data corruption, human error, or cyberattacks. Different compliance and security audits also require backups to ensure that you’re able to recover and keep your clients’ data safely in any of these scenarios.
Managed BaaS solutions offer a lot more security and flexibility than traditional backup methods. They are scalable, reliable, have security in their DNA, and they provide the means to save data across multiple regions without any implementation or maintenance from you or your IT team. BaaS solutions are an excellent resource to complement on-prem backups, particularly to make your backup posture more robust and build a path toward a comprehensive DR strategy.
RapidScale’s Backup as a Service solution has all the features you need to securely back up your data, including scalability, reliability and direct-to-cloud backups. We offer pay-as-you-go options and don’t charge bandwidth fees. Plus, our BaaS can easily be supplemented with our managed DRaaS offerings, so your organization can build a comprehensive DR posture that protects all your critical business data, applications, and virtualized infrastructure.
We can alleviate the load of managing the backups and the recovery process if your IT team is stretched thin and needs to focus on initiatives to drive your business, or we can co-manage alongside your IT teams to supplement their efforts. We can also help your organization design and build a comprehensive DR strategy, create your runbook, and help you test and refine your recovery efforts ongoing.
Sign up for a complimentary assessment today and take the first step toward reducing the challenges associated with legacy or untended backup processes.