All businesses, big and small, should have a business continuity plan. A continuity plan sets out how a business will cope with losses of service, from the relatively small to a major business-threatening event.
Small businesses are reliant on digital services. Their IT function can be an in‑house service, or increasingly today one outsourced to a cloud service provider offering managed services based on cloud technologies. Management of a loss of digital services is a critically important part of any business continuity plan, particularly always-on businesses. You need to assess the effects that a loss of service will have on your business, how long you can continue offline, and what you can do to prevent a loss of service and mitigate against its effects.
A data backup/recovery plan within your continuity plan is an insurance policy. In the event that company data is lost or corrupted, you have a mechanism to restore it.
This is particularly important where the business offers 24/7/365 on-line or cloud services. A loss of service effectively closes down the business until services are restored. Leave it too long to recover and the business could fail through a combination of a loss of revenue and reputational damage.
The basic concepts of data backup and recovery are identical for in‑house and outsourced environments in that user and operational data and systems must be copied away regularly to a secure location and systems and applications software copied before and after updates.
Of course, you can carry out the backup function manually, but it is far more common to use software to create an automated process. You lessen the risk of manual error and omission, and in some environments, it may not be possible to effectively backup manually.
There are software applications for a range of budgets and environments, including Always-on. One of these is the Veeam application, used by 70% of the Fortune 500 companies.
What is the business case for an automated backup tool in the always-on business? A Veeam report clearly sets out the case. They show that globally in 2016, always-on businesses suffered an average of 15 downtime events each year, each lasting an average of nearly 2 hours and on average costing the business around $16million. Obviously, the exact figures vary by company and by country. In addition to the financial effects of unplanned downtime, there is the reputational damage caused to the brand and to the organisation. A clear business case as I’m sure you will agree.
What are the key elements of an always-on data protection environment? The IT executives canvassed for the report set them out as follows:
- A high-speed recovery (less than 15 minutes) of the systems and applications software environment
- A maximum of 15 minutes of data loss
- Guaranteed recovery of all files and applications data
There are obviously other considerations, but these are subordinate to the need for 24/7/365 applications and data availability.
If we look at the Veeam application as an example to see how a software tool supports always-on businesses, we can see how these objectives are achieved.
- Support for a variety of operational environments. A data centre might host systems that operate on different platforms, for example, a Windows platform and an Open Systems platform. A backup tool must support these different platforms.The Veeam application provides agents for both environments.
- Support for a variety of backup locations, including public and outsourced private clouds, and an in-house cloud.The Veeam application supports three environments – outsourced public and private clouds and in-house cloud technologies through Veeam Cloud Connect.
- The Core – the Veeam Availability Suite. It meets the requirement by using server virtualization, modern storage and the cloud to provide recovery times of less than 15 minutes for all applications and data.
The software tool most appropriate to your needs will depend on your data volumes, the level of security required, and the software environment from which you backup and recover data. It may be Veeam, but could equally be one of the other software tools available.
In conclusion, one last word of advice. Check your backups regularly. It would not be the first time that supposedly secure backups are empty or unreadable.