“Just” backing up data isn’t enough anymore. While it’s a necessary step and a good start at that, a back-up means little if there aren’t adequate safeguards in place to protect the integrity of the data that might have to be recovered. Even if back-ups themselves are a safeguard, they must be seen as an asset in their own right. After all, it’s estimated 100 mb of company data is worth $1 million on average. Half the firms who cannot recover lost data in 10 days cannot recover themselves.
It just makes good strategic sense to have a back-up plan in the most literal sense as a result. Here are the top five strategies to make it happen, for the sake of keeping your data integrity intact:
1. Know What to Back Up
It’s not only files that must be backed up, but programs, including Operating System software as well. After all, if a newer version of a program has been released, it may not be able to read your data.
The fix relatively simply requires that an image, or a carbon copy of all critical information including programs and their data saved into a single file, be backed up. That way no synchronization issues arise, preventing you from using the data even if you may have successfully recovered it. It would be like having the keys to the wrong car. Only this car can’t be hot-wired to run.
There is an admitted caveat: If you upgrade your hardware, the image may no longer be compatible itself. So, an alternative solution would be to just stay up to date with your program versions and continue to back up data as you normally would (i.e., thoroughly).
2. Encrypt Your Back-Ups
It almost goes without saying in this day and age, but information must be kept secure for its data integrity to stay intact. One way to avoid confidential information from being compromised is to encrypt it into code, which is of course standard practice. It’s a standard practice for a reason though, namely its effectiveness. As a result, it’s significant enough in importance to rank on this list.
3. Make Regular Back-Ups
You can’t simply back up data before an upgrade. Ideally scheduled for when there is low network activity to prevent slowdown, back-ups should be made every day, with daily snapshots taken as well to monitor performance. Furthermore, at least two weeks of daily back-ups should be kept at any one time, as it represents a manageable time frame in case a file does get lost or corrupted.
Meanwhile, once-a-month back-ups should be preserved for one year, while annual back-ups should be kept for seven years in case a governmental request is made. In each case, consideration should also be made with regard to how much space is available, with old back-ups deleted to make room for new ones.
4. Store Your Back-Ups Properly
It goes beyond storing your back-ups in environmentally controlled facilities, even if that’s admittedly a good practice. You would also want to store your back-ups off-site, separately from the original data. Every good plan has redundancies built in and a back-up/ data recovery plan is no different.
The reasoning is simple, as they represent contingencies in case of disaster. Imagine a worst-case scenario in which a literal natural disaster strikes. You would want as large of a chance as being able to pick up right where you left off as soon as possible. You don’t want to lose your back-ups and the original data all in one fell swoop. That would truly be a disaster.
5. Validate the Recovery Procedure
Validation can take many forms. With regard to the GlobalVision Quality Control Platform for example, Installation, Operational, and Performance Qualification procedures serve to verify the application works as it should.
As the definition of validation suggests, it “provides a high degree of assurance that a specific process will consistently produce a product meeting its pre-determined specifications and quality attributes.” In the case of back-ups, the process in question is the recovery procedure. The back-ups themselves are the product.
Verifying the viability of the back-up data is critical. Test runs ensure that, in a worst-case scenario like the one outlined in Point No. 4, the data and operations can be picked up in a reasonable amount of time, even if off-site. Restoring back-ups on a regular basis helps validate the recovery procedure. Restoring back-ups to an alternative server before so doing is actually the best practice as it validates the ability of the data to be recovered. Seeing as the data would have just been validated in a new environment, it also provides you with a back-up you can be sure is viable, should you ever need to use it. Knock on wood.