When it comes to project management, a team is dependent on data created, gathered, processed and stored throughout the development cycles. Losing even a part of that data due to an incident, such as a ransomware attack or a hardware failure, can cause significant delays in project delivery. A major data loss emergency can even wipe out the job done since the beginning of the process.
To avoid such unpleasant scenarios, organizations and teams strive to protect their data with multiple software and hardware solutions. However, the most reliable way to keep any data safe from unauthorized alteration, deletion or unplanned loss is backup. In this post, we explain:
- what backup is,
- why it is important for a project manager to care about the backup and recovery strategy, and
- which elements of that strategy are critical to make it successful.
What is Data Backup?
Data backup is a copy of original data that is stored independently from the environment used for development. When original data is lost, a backup can be used for recovery. Independence and recoverability are the key features of backups and how they are used to protect data and process continuity.
For example, a copy of a file saved to a different desktop folder on your computer can’t be considered a backup: when a system failure hits your device, you lose access to both the original file and the copy. This copy can’t be used for recovery in this case and hence, it can’t be considered a true backup.
On the other hand, when you send a file copy to the cloud, a different device or an external drive, you can access the data in that file even when your device goes down. A software or hardware failure then can’t make the file inaccessible.
Data Backup Strategy: A Must-Have for a Project
Regardless of the field, a modern development project can involve dozens of team members working with complex infrastructures and data storage locations. Data generation, processing, accumulation and recording are key for a project to run stably and complete successfully. Therefore, when setting up backup workflows, a team might need to implement:
- Physical machine backups (servers, desktops and laptops)
- Virtual machine backups
- Mobile device backups
- Cloud storage backups
- Database backups
Ensuring data backup efficiency for a complex environment consisting of tens and hundreds of machines and storage repositories is impossible without thorough planning.
As a project manager, you are aware of how important every data piece is for your project’s development. Thus, you can and should have a backup strategy that would effectively protect critical data and ensure the resilience of the entire project to possible data loss incidents.
Check the key elements of a data backup strategy below.
What to Back Up
First of all, you need to find out what data should be backed up. Some machines, files and items are vital for a project and the team’s stable functioning, while other data and devices may not be that critical. Map out all these workloads and prioritize the data: your entire backup plan will be based on the importance and the volume of the data you need to protect.
RPO and RTO
After you find out what data your organization needs to back up, answer two questions:
1. What volume of data can your team lose with little to no impact on production or project development?
The answer to this question is your target recovery point objective (RPO). Remember that your team generates new data and makes changes in the existing data while working the project is in progress. The more recent your backup is, the less new data you lose in case of an incident. However, achieving shorter RPOs requires you to create backups more frequently, thus increasing the storage volume requirements and overall cost of the data protection strategy.
Usually, a daily backup is enough to fit the needs of most project teams and organizations. Still, contemporary backup solutions enable you to set and achieve RPOs measured in minutes. Additionally, you can get more flexibility for backup workflows, setting more space and resources to ensure the required RPOs for important data while deprioritizing secondary resources.
2. What’s the maximum downtime period that your team can tolerate without critical consequences for a project?
Answering this question gives you a recovery time objective (RTO). A prolonged downtime means financial, time and resource losses for your team and organization at large. RTOs follow the same logic as RPOs: shorter objectives require more investments.
For numerous organizations and project teams, an RTO of several hours is fine. Such a recovery time objective does not require much investment while enabling timely recovery of production workflows. Nevertheless, in case your project conditions make you count every minute, modern backup and recovery solutions can help you reach an RTO as short as a minute for an entire environment or chosen workloads.
Analyze your project development processes and define the RPOs and RTOs that your team can tolerate for each workload and machine. Then, you can proceed with the deciding on your backup storage.
A backup storage is where you store that data copy. Therefore, choose that storage in advance based on your requirements, RPOs and RTOs. Then, dedicate storage for backups and ensure 24/7 access to it. That is necessary to organize stable backup and timely recovery.
Data Backup to Local or USB Disks
In case your team has sufficient capacity of local storage, you can use that unused volume for backups. USB drives can serve as an alternative here. In general, local storage is convenient and doesn’t require involving network resources in backup and recovery processes, hence helping you to avoid one of the possible process bottlenecks.
However, local backup storage has significant downsides:
- Original data and backups get concentrated in one location, thus becoming vulnerable to incidents such as natural disasters or ransomware attacks.
- Data management becomes more challenging for a larger environment due to machine-by-machine backup update and recovery workflows.
- Most probably, you’ll delegate backups on individual machines to team members who run those machines, making data protection workflows more prone to human errors.
Using local disks and USB drives to store backups and run recovery workflows can suit if you need to recover particular files or an individual machine after a software failure. For more complex and reliable backups, you need to go further than that.
Data Backup to Network Shares and NAS
This storage option is among the most widely used to back up projects and organizations’ infrastructures. Here, you use a NAS (network attached storage), SAN (storage area network) or a regular network share to have a centralized space where the backups are kept. In this case, recovering a file, a system, or even a large database after an incident becomes simpler, faster and more convenient.
Nevertheless, to successfully involve networks in backup workflows without harming production processes, you need to ensure proper bandwidth. Additionally, you still keep backups on-site, which means you lose them together with the original data when, for example, a fire destroys the entire office.
Data Backup to Tape
A successful recovery from a major incident is possible when you have a data backup copy stored offsite, in a distant location and on a network-isolated medium.
Tape backup has been in an industry for a plenty of years, being a reliable approach to secure data. Here, you record backup copies on tape and then physically transport that tape to a distant office or warehouse. Tape is the perfect medium to use as archive backup storage: you can store large volumes of data for a long time on a highly durable and portable medium.
The most significant downside of tape backups is recovery time. Achieving short RTOs is not about tape: you need to physically return tapes to the main site and use them for recovery only after that. Additionally, particular tape solutions may have recovery options limited, enabling you to recover only an environment or a system as a whole, and not separate files or items. The last but not least important thing here is the need for specific equipment such as a tape library, a tape drive and an autoloader which require additional investment and staff qualification.
Data Backup to Cloud Storage
Using cloud storage can serve as a contemporary alternative to tape backups. Everything is simple here: you find a suitable cloud storage vendor, rent storage space in their data center and send your backup copies there.
With cloud storage, you don’t need specific equipment to run backups and you don’t need real estate to use as a tape warehouse. Additionally, there is no need to spend time and effort to deliver tapes to and from that distant location whenever necessary.
However, you need a stable internet connection enabling you to send backups to the cloud. Moreover, backups usually mean large data volumes, making an appropriate connection bandwidth necessary to ensure the required backup workflow durations and achieving recovery objectives.
Today, the market can offer multiple backup solutions and instruments of different types enabling you to reach various recovery objectives and fit various scenarios. The most widespread types include:
- Cloud BaaS solutions
- Hardware backup appliances
- Specialized backup software
Below, we review them in more detail.
Cloud BaaS Solutions
BaaS (backup-as-a-service) can be a suitable choice for a project. BaaS solutions are cloud-based data protection opportunities enabling you to create, update and use backups located in the vendor’s cloud storage. They don’t require much hardware resources from your side, working with just lightweight agents installed on the team’s computers. Such a service is probably the simplest way to set up backup workflows, as it does not require providing hardware resources and installing and configuring software.
Still, you should be attentive to compliance requirements and other regulatory limitations. In case your project works with personal or other sensitive data, you must double-check whether a cloud backup solution meets the specific requirements in your case.
Hardware Backup Appliances
A hardware backup appliance is the all-in-one device with dedicated CPU, RAM and storage resources that you can connect to your infrastructure and network. Such backup appliances are usually shipped with their own operating systems and carry all the software required for them to work properly. Then, you install agents to your team’s devices, and the appliance runs backup workflows automatically on schedule or on demand.
Still, using a hardware appliance to run and store data backups means that you lose your solution entirely when a failure occurs to that appliance’s hardware or software. Additionally, hardware backup appliances are usually more expensive compared to other backup solutions.
Specialized Backup Software
Software backup solutions offer the most flexibility for the price. A contemporary software solution costs significantly less than a hardware appliance and provides much more functions than a cloud service.
The most advanced software backup solutions, such as VMware backup software from NAKIVO, are all-in-one solutions that combine the advantages of both hardware appliances and cloud services. With such a hybrid approach, a software backup solution enables you to create deeply customized data protection workflows correlating with the needs of a particular project.
You can run backup workflows on schedule or on demand, keep data backups on-site, send them offsite, to the cloud or to tape. The flexibility of backup and recovery settings along with infrastructure configurations enables such solutions to provide tight RPOs and RTOs for your team’s environments. Software backup solutions can become the most efficient choice for a project, and won’t require your organization to invest much funds to get a wide range of data protection possibilities and options.
Backup Options: Security
Making backups and ensuring their availability and recoverability are critical to maintain control over project data. However, the online threats of today are always nearby and growing: hackers and cybercriminals are now targeting backups as much as original data. Therefore, you need to strengthen backup security, and the most advanced backup and recovery solutions can provide you with the necessary tools.
Ransomware is getting more and more sophisticated with time, keeping data protection a challenge for individuals and organizations of any type and size. Contemporary data protection solutions can enable you to protect backup copies, for instance, by making those copies immutable. Immutable backups in the cloud or on local storage are protected from change or deletion during a period specified by the backup administrator. Therefore, such backups can be used for recovery even if ransomware reaches your storage, including the backup location.
Role-Based Access Control
The role-based access control (RBAC) functionality enables you to set access rights that every team member can have for backup storage and workflows. Thus, you minimize the probability of human error and make hacking into the backup solution more difficult for cybercriminals.
Another security feature of modern backup solutions is two-factor authentication that helps you prevent unauthorized access to data protection workflows by adding a security layer to standard user authentication details. With two-factor authentication, you need not only to provide login and password but to confirm that login with the additional action, such as entering the code from Google Authenticator.
Data Backup: A Set of Best Practices
Try to keep up with the following recommendations to increase the efficiency of a backup strategy for your project data:
- Know what data you need to back up.
- Prioritize the data and systems to back up.
- Rule 3-2-1: have at least three data copies on two different storage media with one of the copies stored offsite or in the cloud. That is how you avoid a single point of failure.
- Define target RTOs and RPOs for your project to remain stable and operable in case of an incident.
- Restrict access to a data backup solution and repositories.
Data backup is vital for successful project development. A backup is an independent copy of data that can be used for recovery and project continuity when the original data is unavailable regardless of the reason. Ensuring the efficient backup of project data is impossible without a thorough plan, suitable storage, and backup solution providing the required functionality.