Data backup should never be Plan B

Data is more important to businesses today than it has ever been, doing everything from revealing trends in customer behavior to comparing sales performance across business units and regions. Comprehensive data collection provides the who, what, when and how associated with almost all organizational activity. This information is incredibly valuable to executives because it plays a critical role in strategic business decisions. As such, all businesses - big and small - must have a data backup strategy in place to protect against data loss.

The 2012 CDW Data Loss Straw Poll found that IT professionals rank data loss as their No.1 cybersecurity threat. Losing critical data is undoubtedly a serious problem for organizations of all sizes. In 2011, data loss incidents cost companies $194 per record breached, and the average cost per company that reported a breach was $5.5 million, according to a Ponemon Institute report. Beyond the hard costs, there is the resulting impact on business continuity to consider - decreased competitive advantage, litigation and damage to an organization's reputation are all potential fallouts from data loss.

The first step toward protection is acknowledging that data loss is a real possibility. As Murphy's Law tells us, anything that can go wrong probably will, and most organizations are likely to experience data loss at some point. Regardless of how vigorous an organization's security policies are, data loss is still a very real threat and should always be treated as a priority. The next step in protecting organizational data is choosing a backup strategy.

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There are several approaches to data backup. Local device backup on an external hard drive avoids third-party controls but requires manual backups. Data storage vendors offer various options to serve individual backup needs, but increased customization can often translate to increased costs. Cloud-based backup uses third party providers to secure data at an off-site location, and adoption of this method is increasing.

The comprehensive backup strategy

While an organization's specific needs will dictate the appropriate solution it chooses, a comprehensive backup strategy should include the following elements: backup software, backup systems, data deduplication, a data archiving plan and a disaster recovery plan:

  • Backup software protects critical data and enables its recovery within a business' recovery time objective (RTO). This is vital for maintaining business continuity. The best software options offer continuous protection for both file servers and databases.
  • Tape-based backup systems are favored because of low cost and portability. Current trends have shifted focus to disk-based systems, which often provide faster access and recovery capability, but the low cost and reliability of tape help it to remain a preferred method of long-term storage.
  • Organizations typically back up similar or identical files on multiple devices. Data deduplication, or data compression, reduces the amount of storage used for these files. Storage companies typically use deduplication within virtual environments.
  • Implementing a data archiving plan can help an organization prioritize which data should be stored on more accessible disk-based systems and which can move to tape-based storage for long-term retention. Moving older data that is not actively in use to tape can save money and improve backup efficiency.
  • Having a disaster recovery plan is also critical to avoiding permanent data loss. Organizations can store data off-site by physically moving tape or external hard drives to another location - including the cloud. Both options are effective, but virtual options generally provide faster recovery.

The threat of data loss is here to stay. According to Gartner's IT predictions for 2012 and beyond, the financial impact of cybercrime on businesses will increase by 10% annually through 2016. Effective backup strategies can save money, improve business continuity and eliminate the headaches associated with missing data. Businesses of all sizes should implement backup strategies as soon as possible, and trusted solutions providers like CDW can design a customized backup strategy that will leave your organization prepared for whatever the future may hold.

CDW is a leading provider of technology solutions for business, government, education and healthcare. Ranked No. 31 on Forbes' list of America's Largest Private Companies and No. 270 on the FORTUNE 500, CDW was founded in 1984 and employs more than 6,900 coworkers. For the trailing 12 months ended September 30, 2012, the company generated net sales of more than $10 billion. 

Copyright © 2013 IDG Communications, Inc.

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