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Backup Strategy

Backup Strategy: 7 Key Considerations

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What is a Backup Strategy?

Backup is a mission critical process at any organization. Backups protect an organization’s valuable data against human error, data corruption, and cyber attacks, most prominently ransomware. Many compliance standards specifically require the use of backups as a security control, meaning that insufficient backup can also create compliance risk.

There are three main technical approaches for backup, and many organizations use more than one:

  • Software-based backup involves agents deployed on endpoints, which copy data periodically to a central backup server.
  • Hardware-based backup saves data on a dedicated appliance.
  • Cloud-based backup saves data to a data center hosted by a third party.

Cloud backup is attractive for many organizations due to its flexibility, ease of use, and infinite scalability. However, a comprehensive backup strategy cannot rely on one technical solution only. It must take into account considerations like cost, backup schedule, recovery time, the ability to secure backups, and the resilience of the overall backup solution.

This is part of an extensive series of guides about data breaches.

In this article:

What Are the Options? Hardware vs. Software vs. Cloud

There is a growing variety of data backup options on the market. You can choose between hardware, software, cloud-based, or hybrid backup solutions:

  • Hardware-based backup typically uses disk-based appliances. These are storage devices with integrated software for managing backup data, which store data on site and copies it automatically to off-site data centers.
  • Software-based solutions work similarly to hardware-based, but they are deployed on existing servers instead of dedicated appliances, leveraging the disk space on those servers. Backup software running on the server copies data from locations on the network, saves it on the designated backup server, and copies it off-site if necessary.
  • Cloud-based backup products are easier to run and maintain than an on-premises backup system. You don’t need a data center for cloud-based services or software, making it easier to troubleshoot from any location and allowing remote workers to manage backups. A cloud backup solution lets you outsource management and maintenance to the provider if you want to take a hands-off approach to your backup infrastructure.
  • Hybrid backup combines on-premises backup equipment with cloud-based solutions.

Related content: Read our guide to cloud backup services

Key Considerations for Your Backup Strategy

Here are some backup aspects you should consider when you create a strategy to protect your organization:

  1. Cost—backups can represent a major expense and costs can grow over time. You might need to purchase software and hardware, pay for a maintenance contract, and train employees. As data volumes grow, you may need to purchase additional equipment or, in a cloud model, pay for additional storage. Learn more in our guide to cloud backup cost.
  2. Backup location—many organizations default their backups to the cloud. You should still consider storing a copy of your data in a different location, to safeguard the organization from a cloud outage or misconfiguration. This could be a separate availability zone or region in the same cloud provider, another cloud provider, or on-premises.
  3. Backup method—you can select from various backup methods, such as full backup, differential backup, and incremental backup. Each approach demands a different volume of storage, impacting cost. You also need to invest different amounts of time into each method, impacting the recovery and backup process time.
  4. Backup flexibility—you typically want to back up everything when you create backups, but this is not the case for recovery. Recovery should be flexible, allowing you to restore anything from a single file to an entire server.
  5. Backup schedule—your backups must be automated and run on a schedule. You should schedule backups around production workflow requirements. Here you should consider your recovery point and recovery time objectives (RTO and RPO)—how long you can wait before a system recovers, and how much data you can afford to lose.
  6. Scale—you should expect your data and backup needs to grow. Your backup processes must manage expected volumes of new data. You must have a process in place to ensure new applications, data stores, and servers are added to your backups.
  7. Backup security—access to backups should be carefully controlled. In addition, it is critical to take measures to avoid ransomware and other malware from infecting your backups.

Best Practices to Keep Backup Data Safe

When formulating your backup strategy, consider these best practices that will help you safeguard your organization’s critical data.

  • Increase backup frequency—in a modern environment, facing threats like ransomware and cloud misconfigurations, it is essential to perform backups several times per day. You can use block level incremental (BLI) backups to only backup the modified blocks within each file, which can significantly reduce backup time and storage required.
  • Rapid recovery—data volumes are growing, and you must consider the speed at which systems can come back online after a data loss event. A useful technique is in-place recovery, which recovers data to a fast temporary disk, and instantiates a VM that can immediately read data from this disk. This is much faster than copying large volumes of data across the network after systems come back up.
  • 3-2-1 backup rule—the 3-2-1 rule is more relevant than ever. It states that you should always have three copies of your data, two of them local but using different media, and one-off site. Today on-premises storage may be magnetic disk, object storage devices, or tape storage. The cloud can be used for off-site storage, but you must ensure cloud storage is immutable and can only be erased after a retention period. You can also achieve the 3-2-1 rule purely via cloud storage, by using different storage services and different physical data centers within the same cloud provider. Learn more in our guide to the 3-2-1 backup rule.
  • Automate disaster recovery—it is important to prepare for a major disaster recovery event in which an entire data center is lost. Recovering from this type of disaster requires a carefully orchestrated process—applications and databases need to come back online in a precise order, taking into account dependencies. Some backup providers offer runtime automation, which lets you define an automated runbook, test it, and run it instead of relying on error-prone human execution.
  • Protect endpoints—endpoints are a weak link of enterprise backup strategies. Data stored on an employee laptop or smartphone may never be copied to a central data repository and may not be backed up. You can set up automated backups for managed devices, and for unmanaged devices, encourage employees to save critical data to convenient cloud storage which is controlled by the organization.
  • Software as a service (SaaS) applications’ data backup—is a common misconception that data in SaaS applications is automatically backed up. In fact, most SaaS applications make it clear in their user agreement that customers are responsible for backups. SaaS applications can contain business critical information, and it’s important to work with the vendor to understand the best practices for backing up data on a regular basis.

Backup Strategy with NetApp Cloud Backup

NetApp understands ONTAP better than anyone else, which is why the best backup solution for ONTAP systems is NetApp Cloud Backup. Designed by NetApp specifically for ONTAP, Cloud Backup automatically creates block-level incremental forever backups. These copies are stored in object format and preserve all ONTAP’s storage efficiencies. Your backups are 100X faster to create, easy to restore, and much more reliable than with any other solution.

Cloud Backup simplifies the entire backup process. It’s intuitive, quick to deploy, and managed from the same console as the rest of the NetApp cloud ecosystem.  Whether you’re looking for a less expensive way to store your backups, a faster, more capable technology than NDMP, or an easy way to enable a 3-2-1 strategy, Cloud Backup offers the best backup solution for ONTAP.

Learn more about the NetApp Cloud Backup capabilities here, and find out more in our Cloud Backup Service Customers’ Case Studies.

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Learn More About Backup Strategy

There’s a lot more to learn about Backup Strategy. To continue your research, take a look at the rest of our blogs on this topic:

4 Types of Incremental Backup and Critical Best Practices

Incremental backup involves creating copies of data that has changed since the last full backup operation occurred, and re-combine them into a full backup.

Learn about types of incremental backup, how incremental backup differs from differential backup, and best practices for making incremental backup more effective.

Read more: 4 Types of Incremental Backup and Critical Best Practices

Incremental vs. Differential Backup: What Is the Difference?

Incremental backup involves creating a copy of data that changed since the last backup operation. Differential backup involves taking an initial full backup copy and then, with every backup operation, copying everything that changed since the last full copy. Learn about the pros and cons of incremental vs. differential backup, how they are used, and key differences between them.

Read more: Incremental vs. Differential Backup: What Is the Difference?

How to Align with the 3-2-1 Backup Strategy with NetApp Cloud Backup

There are many different approaches to backup, but the 3-2-1 strategy stands out as the most adopted and recommended format. This post will explain the 3-2-1 strategy, how it’s changing, and how you can easily take advantage of it using Cloud Backup.

Read more in How to Align with the 3-2-1 Backup Strategy with NetApp Cloud Backup

Backup Evolution: Traditional vs Modern Backup

From tape-based backup and media gateways to today’s incremental forever cloud backup service solutions, backup has made huge leaps over time. In this post we take a look back at where backup has been to the modern solutions—like NetApp Cloud Backup—that are being used to make backup more reliable and less expensive than ever today.

Read more in Backup Evolution: Traditional vs Modern Backup

Watch: What’s the Right Backup Architecture for You to Achieve 3-2-1 Strategy?

In this video, NetApp Cloud Solution Architecture Manager, Aviv Degani gives a deep dive into the differences between the popular 3-2-1 backup strategy and some of the other variations of that model, including the 3-1-2 and 3-2-2 backup strategies.

Watch the video and read more in Watch: What’s the Right Backup Architecture for You to Achieve 3-2-1 Strategy?

Object Storage Benefits for Backups: How Backing Up to Object Storage Can Enhance Data Security

Object storage is highly scalable and reliable, whether used on-prem or in the cloud, and that makes it the perfect storage target for your backup data. In this blog we take a deep dive into the benefits that object storage solutions can provide as a part of your backup strategy.

Read more in Object Storage Benefits for Backups: How Backing Up to Object Storage Can Enhance Data Security

3-2-1 Backup Rule: Is it Still Relevant in the DevOps Era? 

The 3-2-1 backup rule is a recovery methodology that helps ensure you have enough available backup copies even if some are lost. Understand the basics of the 3-2-1 backup rule, challenges it raises in modern organizations, and whether it can still provide value in an agile environment.

Read more in 3-2-1 Backup Rule: Is it Still Relevant in the DevOps Era?

All-NetApp Backup: Protecting ONTAP Data Using Cloud Backup and StorageGRID

There are a number of substantial benefits to using a NetApp-native backup solution to protect your on-prem ONTAP data to StorageGRID. This post gives you an overview of the advantages to using a NetApp-native solution for your backups, including seamless integration, better TCO and simpler financial operations, streamlined support, and a dark site deployment option.

Read more in All-NetApp Backup: Protecting ONTAP Data Using Cloud Backup and StorageGRID

Why You Need a Dedicated Backup for ONTAP

At the enterprise level, there can be a wide number of storage systems in use. When that happens, backup can be a complex process. Do you choose a single method that backs up all of the systems or do you find a perfect match for each one?

In this article we take a look at these two approaches and discuss why ONTAP systems in such deployments require their own dedicated backup solution.

Read more in Why You Need a Dedicated Backup for ONTAP.

See Additional Guides on Key Data Breach Topics

Together with our content partners, we have authored in-depth guides on several other topics that can also be useful as you explore the world of data breach.

Data Protection

Authored by Cloudian

AWS backup

Authored by NetApp

Cloud Database

Authored by NetApp

Semion Mazor, Product Evangelist

Product Evangelist