Storage and backup means something now very different than it did even five years ago.
Historically, storage and backup has meant servers and folders on servers. Today, storage and backup includes cloud storage – Dropbox, OneDrive, Google Drive, etc. Then you’ve got all of your devices and the different storage mechanisms on each of them. The idea of centralized storage is much more prevalent and important today.
Replicated storage ensures the data is the same everywhere that it is stored, but it is a double-edged sword. The potential threat becomes ending up with storage on devices that you’re not aware of. This makes backup more challenging as well. We used to look at backup as a copy or copies of the critical data on drives on your servers. Now backup is more strategic and further-reaching than it has ever been in the past.
Storage and backup is a necessity whether it’s a key part of your business or not. If you want an IT strategy with any type of consistency or uniformity you need to understand it. Over 90 percent of organizations have key data in places that they don’t have ownership of. Employees and even executives put data in personal storage drives because it’s easier to get to, instead of putting it where the company mandates the data should go.
Storage and backup is very much a factor of convenience – making sure people have access to what they need when and where they need it. However, it’s also very much a matter of security. If you don’t know where you data is, and you don’t have a backup strategy, you lose control of your data quickly. So the question becomes how to create a data storage strategy that is robust, protected, has a good backup and disaster recovery plan, but is also convenient enough for users that they don’t use their own methods and put data where it shouldn’t be.
Storage and Backup – On Premise or in the Cloud
The different types of data storage come down to on premise and in the cloud.
On premise storage involves storing data on local devices. Workstations, laptops, or a centralized servers or storage devices connected to the network fall under this category.
One of the benefits of on premise storage comes with moving large data files easily. Keeping information stored on your local network means it only needs to be in your network for you to access or transfer it. For example, a video file that needs a quick, local network environment to transfer from one device to another in the local area benefits from on premise storage. In addition, organizations with poor internet connectivity will use on premise storage to maintain a more traditional environment where data can be easily transferred across the local network. Organizations will also use on premise storage if they have certain systems, such as an ERP system, that need to stay within their network.
Most companies will use some combination of on premise storage and cloud storage.
The major benefit of cloud storage comes with the reliability of the data if something is to happen on premise. It could be a cyberattack, some sort of malfunction, or physical damage from a fire or flooding, but if on premise servers are destroyed the data is lost. Storing that data in the cloud ensures the data still exists. There is also the convenience factor. Cloud storage means you can access the same data set from anywhere on any device.
Platform vendors are investing significant effort into changing the way data is organized, consumed, and understood. The mentality on how to access data in these cloud platforms is different than what we see in file and folder systems. Companies with few or no key anchor points with on premise solutions find a lot of value and are starting to reshape how they view data with these cloud platforms.
What Should We Backup?
The mentality around data is evolving so quickly that the safest thing to do is make sure you have all data at all times. Although it is a case by case decision – there are compliance reasons why you don’t want to store data sometimes. In that case you need to decide whether you’re backing up everything or just a specific subset of data.
Cloud storage makes it easy to have a backup of personal data. In most cases, the personal data stored in someone’s drive, while still a function of the business ecosystem, can be trusted to be backed up by the cloud storage vendor. Do your due diligence and understand what the backup protocol of that cloud platform is. Especially in the case of critical data, where you may want to expand that backup.
You and your team should understand what is critical data that needs to be stored centrally versus expendable data that does not. Critical system and organizational data should go into a place that is relatively uncluttered. That gives you the separation to say that it is the most important data in your organization, and you may create a separate backup plan for this mission critical information. It can make sense to have this critical data stored and backed up by your cloud storage vendor. It also makes sense to keep a copy synchronized to a device or another data center so you can control your own retention and your own schedule for how those backups happen and where the data goes.
Creating a Backup and Disaster Recovery Plan
Most people, when they think about a backup and disaster recovery plan, think of a big, thick document. It’s good to have a specific, well thought out, documented plan that covers any kind of emergency. However, a lot of organizations look at that and say they don’t have the time or understanding to invest in that, so instead they do nothing.
If that’s the case, start with a three-pronged approach. Ask yourself these three questions:
- What do you do if you lose a file that you need?
- What do you do if you lose a piece of equipment that’s critical to your operation?
- What do you do if you have a location-type disaster (fire, flood, theft, etc.)?
If you can answer these questions succinctly then you’ve got the base for a solid disaster recovery plan. Start with one sheet and write down the answers.
If you don’t know how to get a file back that you’ve lost, you’ve got questions to answer. Not just the IT department, but executives, team leads, every employee involved should understand the protocols for what they need to do in case of these disasters. It’s not just backup, it’s how to replace equipment, procurement processes, warrantee processes, and so on.
A disaster recovery and response plan will go much deeper than these three questions, but starting here will get the basics covered so that you have a plan or force yourself to develop one for when something goes wrong.