As digital life gets cloudy, effective backups are clearing the air for business continuity

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Imagine a championship-class NBA basketball team losing its top three players to serious injuries mid-season. Devastated fans would immediately lower their expectations from a championship to a bottom feeder, and management would essentially give up on the season and focus on rebuilding the franchise. While a sports team can still recover after it loses its most important assets, in the business world the loss of one of your most valuable assets – data – is often the death blow to the company.

94% of businesses suffering from catastrophic data loss do not survive. Of those, 43% never reopen, according to the University of Texas. And despite the perception that the cloud has our backs for backup, data loss through user error, data overwrite, or malicious actors is actually quite common.

The past year saw a spike in data breaches, with the number of incidents rising 68 percent year over year to an all-time high. Ransomware attacks, which at best result in unwanted downtime and have the potential to wipe out the company’s entire data pool, also increased in 2021. The trend in question does not appear to be reversing anytime soon.

These and other data security trends are putting more and more pressure on businesses not only to ensure the maximum possible security for their networks, but also to properly back up every critical service in a way that most tailored to their business needs.

Review your data

Before developing its comprehensive backup strategy and business continuity plan (BCP), every company should start with a strategic review of its digital assets. The company needs to determine how critical each service and data set is to its operations, how long it can sustain operations without access to it, how much data it can lose without going under, and how hard it can be hit in the event of a leak.

Based on this assessment, the company should determine what data to back up, how often to do it, and how to secure the backups. If applicable, it should also work out a BCP that considers a failover solution. Ultimately, the assessment comes down to calculating the financial risk – damage times probability.

Modern organizations rely heavily on SaaS (Software-as-a-Service) solutions to run many of their day-to-day operations. Hundreds of companies rely on services like Salesforce to do their CRM, Hubspot to automate their marketing campaigns, MailChimp to manage their email reach, and use dozens of other services for recruiting, customer support, development, and more. In addition, they rely on these SaaS solutions to make backups and expect high availability and security at all times. However, most SaaS systems operate in the cloud, making many business applications publicly accessible to some degree and therefore increasingly vulnerable. This includes their backup options. Here’s the lesson that a business cannot rely completely on a vendor and on a single cloud storage solution in general.

Best Backup Practices

The Well-Architected Framework concept, which includes design principles and architectural best practices for building and running cloud workloads, is a must-have for any DevOps engineer and leader. It is also a good starting point for developing concrete measures and protocols for backups. To improve their security against data breaches, companies need to examine a wide range of measures, ranging from cloud risk assessments and updated security protocols to smarter authentication policies and anti-phishing exercises.

A thorough review of the company’s SaaS stack is sure to reveal services that are more valuable than others. These require extra security in terms of backups, as losing them could mean losing the entire business, not just missing out on a winning year. Most popular SaaS solutions, such as Salesforce and Google Workspace, work with third-party SaaS companies that can manage users’ backups. It’s a good option – if it’s available.

However, a third-party service can also go down, so businesses should make sure they take that extra step to ensure the security of their data. Backups also need backups. That’s why companies are wise to prioritize backup solutions equipped with robust Application Programming Interfaces (APIs). Setting up another backup for the data stored in a separate cloud environment is just a matter of writing a few custom scripts.

Less developer-friendly solutions will result in more manual work for their customers. This requires the user to proactively pull the backup data out of the service and push it to a secure storage, whether that be another cloud environment or even a vented archive that keeps a copy of the organization’s data offline. While this process is more of a headache, its sheer value in ensuring the integrity of the entire business operation cannot be underestimated.

Backups are critical security that any business should take seriously. It’s not the sexiest part of CloudOps, and if you do it right, it can negatively impact the operating budget. But with critical data backup, it’s better to be safe than sorry. Not to mention that data backups are essential to mitigate ransomware attacks.

As our digital future becomes increasingly cloudy, effective data backup, including preparedness for the threat of ransomware attacks, requires a focus on alignment with the business architecture, which proves critical for long-term business continuity. Rolling the dice and failing to take these steps not only means it takes time to rebuild the company, like in the NBA; instead, it probably means the end of the business.

Shalom Carmel is the CIO of GlobalDots.

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