Protecting Your Business from Data Disasters: 5 Key Steps to Data Backup and Restore

SMB owner worry

Written by Third Octet

March 31, 2023

Data is at the heart of your operations. From customer information to financial records and intellectual property, your data is critical to the success of your business, and it’s at risk.

According to Barracuda, “SMBs are an attractive target for cybercriminals because, collectively, they have a substantial economic value and often lack security resources and expertise.” The goal? Ransom, among others. Beyond cyber risk, there are many other reasons for data loss or disruption – employees who accidentally delete data, natural disasters, snow storms, and power outages. We can go on.

That’s why it’s essential to have a solid backup and recovery plan to mitigate the risks associated with data loss. Let’s dive into five key steps you should reflect on.

Step 1: Identify Your Data Risks

Identifying your data risks involves taking stock of the types of data your business relies on and the risks associated with each. For example, financial records may be at risk from cyberattacks or system failures, while customer data may be at risk from human error or unauthorized access. Conduct a thorough analysis of your data to identify risks and prioritize your data protection efforts accordingly.

Pro Tip – Don’t forget servers and services.

When identifying your risk, think beyond files and reflect on the servers and services driving business operations. These elements need protection as well. Service providers like Microsoft do not holistically protect your data. Further, restoring complex servers (such as databases, CRM, and ERP) may require a full server-based backup.

Step 2: Develop a Backup and Recovery Plan

Developing a backup and recovery plan involves determining how often you need to back up your data, what data needs to be backed up, and how quickly it needs to be restored in the event of data loss. It’s essential to consider factors such as the location of your backups, how backups are encrypted, and how they are monitored for quality control. Once you have a plan in place, document it and ensure it’s accessible to all relevant parties.

Acronym Dive: RTO and RPO

RTO (Recovery Time Objective) and RPO (Recovery Point Objective) are two critical metrics used to define the goals and expectations of a disaster recovery plan.

RTO refers to the time it takes to restore critical business processes, applications, and systems after an outage or disaster. It is the maximum amount of time a business can tolerate before these systems must be restored to avoid significant financial or operational impact.

RPO, on the other hand, refers to the maximum amount of data loss a business can tolerate. It is the point in time to which data must be restored to minimize data loss and ensure business continuity.

Together, RTO and RPO help businesses determine the level of risk they can tolerate in the event of a disaster and the resources required to minimize that risk. A solid disaster recovery plan should set clear objectives for RTO and RPO, ensuring the business can quickly recover from a disaster with minimal impact on operations and data loss.

Step 3: Choose the Right Data Backup Solution

Choosing the right backup solution involves assessing your business’s needs and selecting a backup solution that meets those needs. Consider factors such as the type of data you need to back up (files, servers, databases, cloud solutions, third-party SaaS), how often you need to back up your data, and the level of security you require. Evaluate potential solutions based on these factors and choose the one that best meets your needs.

Pro Tip – Data backup locally is not a great idea.

Backing up locally means that all of your data is in one place, leaving it vulnerable to the same reasons driving backup in the first place. If you were to lose your physical infrastructure (servers, storage), what value would the backups have? Little. A backup solution should provide offsite capabilities. A cloud-based backup solution provides this capability while supporting scale, security, and cost-effectiveness. Further, cloud-based backup checks several other boxes, including backup and recovery for traditional files, entire server workloads, and third-party services like Microsoft 365.

Step 4: Test Your Data Backup and Recovery Plan

Amateurs backup, professionals restore. Testing your backup and recovery plan involves periodically testing your backups to ensure that they can be successfully restored in the event of data loss. Regular testing can help identify potential issues and ensure that your plan is up-to-date and effective. Scheduling standard tests, documenting the process, and communicating results validate the approach and provide level-headed thinking during valid disruption.

Step 5: Ensure Compliance and Security

Ensuring compliance and security involves assessing the data protection regulations and compliance requirements that apply to your business and confirming that your backup and recovery plan complies with them. Consider factors such as data encryption, access controls, and compliance reporting. Evaluate your backup solution based on these factors and make any necessary adjustments to ensure your backups are secure and compliant.

A Holistic Problem

Statistics about cyber risk to Canadian businesses are widely available, especially around breaches. 47% of Canadian small businesses state they do not allocate any portion of their annual operating budget to cybersecurity, according to the Insurance Bureau of Canada. And with the increased remote work over the past several years, we can only expect breaches and, inevitably, data loss to grow. Again, cyber risk aside, accidental data loss due to mishaps or neglect will continue to increase, especially for organizations that see technology investment and enablement as an afterthought.

Do yourself a favour right now. Reflect on what you would do today if you lost all your data. Who would you call? How long would it take to recover? Could you afford the impact? Do you have insurance?

If you pause answering any of these questions, you need professionals in your corner (and cybersecurity insurance).

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