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Backup is the procedure of making extra copies of data that can be restored and used in case the original data is lost. It involves copying files, folders or databases on to another medium in case the primary storage mechanism fails. A backup server is therefore a server that is responsible for the backing up and restoring data.
Importance of backup
With increasing volumes of data and increasing reliability on data and information technology by companies in the modern business world, backup practices are also increasingly becoming part of disaster recovery plans. Data is an important asset in modern business and while computer components can be upgraded and equipment replaced, lost data is irreplaceable. Data can be lost in the event of a hard drive failure, disaster, an accident or through the most common way, user error. Data can also be lost through deletion or corruption while being transferred from one device to another- a day to day practice in this era of the Internet of Things where devices are more connected to each other. Therefore, a good disaster recovery plan should include a reliable backup process to serve as a precaution against valuable data loss.
When looking for a reliable data backup plan, a company should first consider what kind of data it needs to backup, that is, what kind of data it cannot afford to lose. This should be considered alongside the resources allocated to the backup process. The company should strive at centralizing and automating the backup management as much as possible. This would go a long way in maintaining consistencies. Data of equivalent value and importance to the company should be managed in a similar way.
The whole essence of having a backup plan is to ensure that in the event of original data loss, the extra copy can be restored and used. This would mean having the extra copy away from the original copy so that it would not be damaged in the event of elemental issues such as fire or floods. A company should therefore ensure that the extra copies are safe and this can be through storing the backups in a logically and physically secured offsite location.
With increasing development in cloud computing, companies can also take advantage of the benefits of cloud storage. Some of the benefits of using the cloud include low costs per storage and near-infinite capacity on-demand. This would provide a reliable and inexpensive means of storing the extra copies away from the physical location. However, due to information stored in the cloud being accessible to anyone with an Internet connection, companies should be cautious not to expose sensitive data.
Companies can also use the 3-2-1 rule. This means that the company would make three (3) copies of any important file (A primary file and 2 backups). It also means having the files stored in two (2) different media types (for example, a hard drive and optical media). This helps protect data against different types of hazards. The last bit of the rule means that the company should have at least one (1) copy stored offsite.
Backup servers can come in two forms-
- a dedicated backup server or
- a shared backup server that runs the backup process alongside other applications.
Dedicated server VS Shared Server
A dedicated backup server is exclusive and performs the sole function of backing up data while a shared server performs both duties of backing up data and running other applications.
Each has some advantages over the other:
1. While a dedicated backup server doesn’t come cheap when compared to a shared server, the former has some advantages over the latter. Backed up data is available on the dedicated server 24 hours a day since the server doesn’t perform any other duty. This compared to a shared server which runs the backup process intermittently with other applications, gives the dedicated server an edge since backed up data in the shared server cannot be accessed when it is running other applications.
2. Servers need to be maintained from time to time and a dedicated server offers an advantage when it comes to maintenance windows. Maintenance can be conducted during after-office hours while the server backs up data during office hours. This compared to the shared server which runs applications during the office hours and backup during the after-office hours, leaving little or no room for maintenance, offers an advantage for the dedicated server.
3. There is also the issue of security over the backed up data. A dedicated server minimizes the risk of backing up viruses and other malware, spam or data that is not important or that is harmful to the business. The shared server on the other hand poses a higher risk since the backup process is shared alongside other applications that may be infected or corrupted.
Generally, companies should opt for backup servers that encrypt data stored in them to protect sensitive information about the business and customer records in the event of a security breach. Backed up data should be restricted to only members who require access to it.
The servers should also be tested periodically by recovering important files and testing their validity. The backup frequency should also be daily as this will help reduce the time required for recovery. Backup logs should also be reviewed daily and maintenance conducted as frequently as possible.
Backed up data can also be consolidated on fewer servers to reduce backup management efforts. If resources allow it, companies should opt for dedicated backup and data mover servers as they have advantages over shared servers.
A reliable backup plan will ensure successful data backup and recovery, and is tantamount to keeping data safe, secured and ready to use. The backup technologies depend greatly on the size and nature of the business and how it uses information and therefore companies should opt for backup techniques and technologies that best align with their business needs.