What is a Data Backup Plan and Why is it Essential for Small Businesses?

What is a Data Backup Plan and Why is it Essential for Small Businesses

Long gone are the days when small businesses did not have to worry about cyber threats. This is not hyperbole. According to Statista, incidents like data breaches, IT problems and cyber crimes are the leading risks facing SMBs in 2022.

In previous years, small companies did not see a reason to protect their data, and this is part of why security problems are becoming more common. As with large enterprises, SMBs are now facing the need to ensure that their sensitive data and workloads are secured to guarantee business continuity in case of an unforeseen interruption. The risk is not limited to cyber crimes. Other issues like human errors, accidental data loss, intentional deletion, and natural disasters can be a matter of worry.

To mitigate the impact of such events, small businesses are increasingly relying on data protection solutions that provide backup and recovery functionalities. However, organizations should develop a comprehensive data backup plan to make sure they are safe. Read this blog post to learn what threats you are up against and how a backup strategy for small businesses can benefit you.

Common Threats to Small Businesses

It is important to familiarize yourself with the dangers that can threaten your data and subsequently your business. Having a clear understanding of these risks helps you know how to mitigate their impact or, ideally, avoid them altogether.

Natural disasters

As dangerous as they may seem, natural disasters should be the least of your worries when it comes to data. However, this does not mean that you should completely ignore them. Whether it is extreme weather, fire, earthquake or any other natural calamity, your critical data is at risk of being lost.

You may not be able to prevent such events but you can quickly resume your operations by restoring your data. A well-developed data backup plan by definition includes keeping at least one backup copy offsite to ensure geographical redundancy.

Intentional tampering

Threats can also come from internal sources. A disgruntled employee might try to harm the business by maliciously modifying data or deleting confidential information. While the causes may differ, the results are always the same: loss of data, reduced productivity, customer dissatisfaction, or compliance problems.

Instead of wasting time trying to negotiate with the rogue employee, you can implement your data backup plan to restore modified or stolen data.

Ransomware attacks

A growing threat to businesses of all sizes, ransomware attacks can target physical servers as well as virtual environments. In short, ransomware is malicious software that encrypts data and prevents access to it. Cybercriminals usually demand a fee in return for freeing up your data.

In case of a ransomware attack, you can execute your plan to restore infected workloads directly from backups and avoid paying the ransom. A good backup strategy combined with an advanced data protection solution like NAKIVO Backup & Replication allows you to reduce downtime and data loss by quickly recovering the encrypted data.

Human error

Employee errors are by far the most prevalent menace to an organization. Employees in different departments or even higher management can accidentally delete business-critical data which impacts day-to-day activities. If you have a data backup plan all set up, you can recover the deleted data and resume working normally.

What Is a Data Backup Plan?

A data backup plan is a series of activities that organizations should implement to guarantee the safety of their data. Backup is the process of creating multiple copies of workloads and storing those copies on different storage media so they could be recovered in case the original data is corrupted or lost.

When faced with detrimental challenges as the ones mentioned above, having a well-devised plan can save your company from lengthy downtime or even complete shutdown. A data backup plan can reduce the risk of unwanted interruptions.

The plan usually includes the following concepts:

  • Assigning a backup administrator or a team responsible for setting up, maintaining, and continuously testing the security of your data.
  • Installing all the needed data protection tools such as anti-virus, backup solutions, and storage options.
  • Identifying critical data and workloads within your organization and defining recovery point objectives (RPOs) and recovery time objectives (RTOs).
  • Developing a comprehensive business continuity and disaster recovery (BCDR) plan.

The Benefits of a Data Backup Plan

In order to devise and execute a complete data backup plan, you need a backup tool. Modern data protection solutions offer a variety of features that simplify the backup and recovery processes. In recent years, small and medium businesses have been increasingly reliant upon such solutions to safeguard their data from all kinds of threats.

Protection for multiple environments

Through incremental and application-aware backups, most data protection solutions cover a multitude of production and storage environments, including:

  • Physical: You can protect Windows or Linux machines and servers. In addition, some backup solutions even offer physical to virtual recovery, which means that you can restore your physical servers and workloads to virtual machines (VMs).
  • Virtual: This involves backing up and recovering VMs running on the most popular virtualization platforms, including VMware vSphere, Microsoft Hyper-V and Nutanix AHV.
  • Cloud: Whether it is Amazon EC2, Microsoft Azure or Google cloud, backup solutions can also protect cloud environments.
  • Applications: Some solutions allow you to back up and restore the data and objects of applications and databases, such as Microsoft Active Directory, Exchange Online, SQL Server, etc.

Automated backups and recoveries

The threat of human error should not be overlooked. It can severely damage a company. Moreover, if you solely rely on employees to manually perform frequent backups, you are likely to incur data loss. The person responsible for doing these processes might back up the wrong data or simply forget to do it; it takes just one mistake.

Luckily, advanced data protection solutions provide a variety of automation capabilities to help you implement a robust data backup plan. You can schedule backups to run at a specific time or link different procedures to start one after another. Some backup solutions even allow you to configure custom policies that automatically include workstations matching the selected criteria into the backup process.

Fast and reliable recovery

What good are backups if you can’t restore your data when you need to and as quickly as possible? Data protection solutions generally combine these two processes so you could boot entire virtual machines directly from backups or perform instant cross-platform recovery. With some tools, you can choose to quickly restore individual files to the source or a custom location.

Legal and regulatory compliance

With a data protection solution in place, you can guarantee regulatory compliance through several retention and security features:

  • Long-term archiving: You can retain customer and financial data for as long as required to perform audits and create reports.
  • Advanced search capabilities: Some solutions offer electronic discovery tools to simplify browsing through extensive datasets as well as quickly finding and restoring data.
  • Robust security: Numerous safety measures such as data encryption and backup immutability help prevent unwanted tampering and keep your data secured.

How to Create a Suitable Data Backup Plan

There are multiple factors to consider when developing a data backup strategy for small businesses. The first thing to think about is how you can make this strategy suitable for the needs and conditions of your business.

Abiding by the 3-2-1 data backup approach

The most prevalent strategy in data protection is the 3-2-1 backup rule. It dictates that you should always have at least three (3) copies of your data, stored in two (2) different storage media, with one (1) copy kept offsite. You can extend the rule to 3-2-1-1 if you also keep one (1) copy on tape or offline to further secure your data.

The point of this approach is to eliminate a single point of failure. In other words, if a disaster impacts your office, the backup copies stored offsite remain intact. Additionally, backups kept offline cannot be targeted by a ransomware attack. An automated storage tiering process is an intrinsic part of the 3-2-1 data backup strategy since it includes sending backups to different locations.

Identifying critical workloads

Some machines, such as IT infrastructure, are more essential to business continuity than others. Workloads carrying business-critical data should be backed up more frequently to avoid retention gaps and loss of data. You should also set specific recovery objectives in your data backup plan to restore these machines as quickly as possible after an incident or disaster.

Defining RTO and RPO

Deciding when to back up your data and how quickly you need to recover it is a necessity. In other words, you should set your recovery time objectives (RTOs) and recovery point objectives (RPOs). These two parameters refer to the maximum downtime and data loss your business can tolerate. RTOs and RPOs can widely vary from one business to another and from one type of data to another.

Choosing a storage option

After defining your RPOs and RTOs, it is time to choose a storage location for your backups. Each option has its pros and cons:

  • Local disks: You can physically install these disks at your office to conduct faster backups and recoveries. This option can be more expensive than others and might be damaged in case of a disaster.
  • NAS/SAN: Network-attached storage and storage area network devices are cheaper than the local disk option. However, they are also susceptible to natural disasters.
  • Tape: The biggest advantage of tape storage is that your data is completely safe from ransomware attacks since it is kept offline. In addition, you can store the tape offsite so it would not be impacted if a disaster hits your office. The downside is that the recovery process can be lengthy and the tape itself can be lost or damaged.
  • Cloud: This cost-effective and safe storage option allows you to access your backups from anywhere and at any time. Cloud storage can get more expensive over time as the volume of stored data increases.

It is highly recommended that your backup strategy abides by the 3-2-1 data backup rule and includes at least two of these storage options. This will help you almost certainly avoid a single point of failure and guarantee business continuity.

Conducting recurring employee training

All organizations, big or small, need to include employee training in their data backup plan to ensure that their entire workforce is knowledgeable and up to date with the latest security trends. This is the most effective approach to reduce the high probability of a human error that could jeopardize your data.

Most employee training programs usually include good password practices, phishing email testing, and ransomware awareness. You can also perform frequent disaster recovery tests to guarantee that all members are aware of their roles and responsibilities.

Choosing the Right Data Protection Solution

It has become evident that small and medium organizations also need a data backup plan to safeguard their data. An advanced data protection solution is an intrinsic part of a comprehensive backup strategy for small businesses. 
NAKIVO Backup & Replication delivers a complete data protection solution that helps businesses of all sizes guarantee the safety of their data. You can easily implement the 3-2-1 data backup strategy and define RTOs and RPOs suitable for your business needs with features such as automated and incremental backups to the cloud, full VM recovery, and much more.

About Carson Derrow

My name is Carson Derrow I'm an entrepreneur, professional blogger, and marketer from Arkansas. I've been writing for startups and small businesses since 2012. I share the latest business news, tools, resources, and marketing tips to help startups and small businesses to grow their business.