The best data protection systems incorporate the ability to restore your most critical data first, then use a tiered approach to recovering less critical information. If you lose data or even an entire system, your solution should let you create strategies for recovering it in this manner, based on its business impact. Today there are a variety of data protection options that help you recover quickly and potentially save you significant expense when restoring your business operations.

Carine Blanchet, Senior Product Marketing Manager of i365, provides five key ways to ensure you get fast, reliable, and cost-effective data recovery:

  1.  Implement online backup and recovery

Many organisations use tape-based methods to protect data. A typical scheme consists of a periodic full backup supplemented by daily incremental backups. Tapes are moved to an offsite location either by internal employees or a vaulting service vendor. This solution seems simple, but it introduces a number of negative impacts including security risk, operational cost, potential data loss, and lengthy recovery times.

A disk-based backup solution eliminates those impacts. There’s no physical transport or other human intervention, and none of the fragility of tapes. Data can easily be backed up to remote electronic vaults, ensuring disaster recovery. And disk-to-disk backup and recovery is dramatically faster than traditional methods. Backups execute automatically—once scheduled, there are no manual steps. Recovering a single file or even an entire directory can be accomplished in minutes, requiring just a few mouse-clicks.

By comparison, recovering even small amounts of data via tape-based systems can take hours or a even a day or more. If you are a smaller organisation with limited IT staff and budget, consider a solution that allows you to store your data offsite with an online backup solution. Such solutions allow you to save on the capital expenditures of an in-house data centre. If you have infrastructure in place, than implementing an in-house solution may make more sense.

  1.  Use replication to enhance your protection

While the case for storing data offsite is overwhelming—and essential for proper disaster recovery planning—there’s a compelling reason to keep an additional copy of backup data at your main office locations: You dramatically speed the recovery process for failures that involve sizable amounts of data. To benefit from this, select data protection that lets you replicate your primary, offsite backups to an additional destination at your onsite location. If you suffer a catastrophic data failure you’ll have immediate access to your complete data set for rapid recovery via your LAN.

  1.  Use ‘real-time’ protection of mission-critical servers

You may have some systems that are not adequately protected by nightly backups, such as e-commerce application and email servers. Consider a solution that provides near-real-time protection of mission-critical systems as well as nightly backups for more static ones. This ensures that you minimise potential data loss. If you choose a solution that backs up to a local storage device, as in the replication system described above, you get the added benefit of rapid local recovery at LAN speeds.

  1.  Integrate system and data protection

While protection of files, messages and databases is important, system protection may be even more critical to your business. What happens if an entire system goes down? What steps must you take to restore it? When it’s operational again, how do you get your backed-up data back into it? In a typical system failure scenario, you need to:

  • Obtain a replacement server
    • Install or update the operating environment
    • Install applications
    • Restore the data from your backup

An ideal solution automates this rebuilding by integrating the steps into a single-pass procedure, and guides you through the effort. You should get the flexibility to restore to the same system, a new system, or a virtual environment.

  1.  Prepare for a disaster with remote backup and recovery

What happens if you suffer a regional or site-wide disaster? How quickly can you recover your critical systems? Unless you have made prior arrangements for a recovery site, you’re likely to suffer an extended loss of operations that could threaten your organisation’s survival. Large companies typically create redundant data centres or hot sites that enable almost instantaneous recovery after a disaster. However, such solutions are costly and thus impractical for many small- to mid-sized businesses.

If your company lacks the resources to implement a hot site, an alternative is to lease collocation space in a data centre and maintain hardware for use in a disaster. These solutions are cost-effective, but they pose challenges. Your staff must to travel to the collocation site to perform a restore. However, they may be constrained from reaching it as they attend to their families or are otherwise occupied. In addition, best practices recommend that your staff travel to the facility and perform a comprehensive test before disaster strikes, to ensure the strategy works as planned. Many organisations fail to do this because other, more strategic tasks get priority. Finally, you need to document every step in the recovery process. Performing some or all of these steps may be overwhelming.

Consider an alternative solution that accounts for these variables. An ideal solution provides a comprehensive service including:

  • A 24-hour guaranteed return to operations
    • A team of experts that walk you through the process
    • Access to state-of-the art facilities to host your systems
    • A thorough DR test and plan you can reference
    • Use of the facility for as long as you need to rebuild your primary site

This type of service is cost-effective: No capital infrastructure expenditures are required. And it is easy: Someone else takes care of the details in your time of need.

How to choose the right solution for your business

Whether some or all of the above provisions are appropriate for your organisation depends on your systems’ criticality, your risk tolerance, regulatory environment, and resources. A general guide: The more frequent the transactions in your system, the more critical their data is to safeguard.

Start by assessing your systems’ relative importance. This gives you the basis for a ‘tiered recovery’ strategy, in which you assign the shortest recovery requirement to the most critical systems and data. Then, work with an established data protection vendor that offers an integrated product-and-service mix to help you achieve your tiered recovery requirements. That mix should include comprehensive recovery options, disaster recovery planning, offsite backup, and local and remote recovery options.