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Back up those backups

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Taking a blanket approach to backing up a company’s data is not a smart idea, warns FRED MITCHELL of Drive control Corporation. Hi says policies need to be put in place that stipulate what data is important, and what isn’t and how this important data is backed up.

In today’s digital age, regulations around data retention are becoming of increasing concern to businesses of all sizes across industry sectors. While the duration of requirements for retention may vary from industry to industry, the South African Revenue Service requires that documents be kept for a minimum of five years for tax and auditing purposes, which means that often large amounts of digital data must be archived for at least this minimum prescribed period. Aside from legal compliance issues, the ever-increasing amounts of digital data are placing added burden on backup solutions. This data often contains business critical information, which means that adequate backup and recovery solutions have become vital technology in ensuring business continuity in the event of disaster. However, taking a blanket approach to backup and archiving of digital data is simply not a smart option, since the sheer volumes of information sent over digital channels can cost organisations a fortune in storage space. It is vital to decide which information is relevant and which is not, so that only important information is backed up. It is also important to ensure that data is not duplicated, as storing multiple copies of the same information takes up unnecessary storage space. The latest backup and archiving technology can be of great assistance, with advances such as deduplication, ensuring that multiple copies of data are eliminated and intelligent archiving solutions automating the indexing process to create searchable archives on a highly granular level, ensuring that documents and data that are stored can easily be located if necessary. Technology, however, can only do so much on its own. In order to ensure effective and efficient backup of data, policies need to be put into place to set the parameters for what is being backed up and when, and how often to run incremental backups as opposed to full backups. Policies should also dictate what happens to the backed-up data, whether it is archived on disks or on tapes and whether the backup data is stored on or offsite, and for how long this data must be stored depending on relevant compliance legislation. These policies should cover not only data such as emails and business critical documentation, but also aspects such as identity management profiles and access control information, in order to ensure security. If the system crashes and needs to be restored from the backup, this data is crucial in ensuring that security breaches resulting from unauthorised access do not occur, since all of the information relating to who is able to access what information can be immediately resumed during the recovery process. When it comes to best practice around backup and archiving, setting up the correct policies is a crucial step. It also needs to be remembered however that the policy document is not a static object, and needs to be continuously updated to ensure that it is in line with the current requirements of the organisation, both in terms of business and compliance needs. The latest technology is also recommended as part of best practice, since advances in solutions can provide more efficient backup that uses less space and costs less money in the long term, and can help organisations to ensure that the right data is being backed up at the right time through an automated system that eliminates the potential for human error. Testing the restoration functionality on a regular basis is another vital element. It is all very well to have masses of data backed up, but organisations must be able to restore this data quickly in the event of a disaster, to make sure that the business is back up and running in short order to minimise lost productivity. Finally, when it comes to implementing any backup and archiving system, it is always advisable to speak to an expert in the field. This will help to ensure that the right system is put into place, that the solution is set up correctly for maximum efficiency, and that policies can be put into place that are effective for each individual organisation. Backup and archiving are a vital part of the modern business, but if the wrong products are used or solutions are not correctly implemented, this aspect of IT can end up attracting unnecessary expense. Following best practice and the advice of a skilled and experienced expert can help organisations to ensure that the right data is always securely backed up and can be quickly restored if necessary, minimising damage to the business.

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