Data is a vital asset for all organisations and, like anything else that’s important to us, it needs protecting from loss or theft.

Prevention is always said to be better than the cure, but threats to data come from all different directions; from cyber attacks to system crashes due to human error, the risk landscape is continually broadening, making them hard to avoid. With this in mind, often the best solutions simply prepare us for the worst-case scenario so we don’t suffer the full consequences.

We interviewed seven IT industry experts in the world of data for World Backup Day (31st March), to explain the options available when it comes to choosing a backup solution, as well as how investing in one can help to protect one of the most critical possessions a business can have.

Saving the pennies

"According to findings from the World Economic Forum’s Global Risk Report 2018, cyberattacks are the third most likely global risk this year. This statistic should make all organisations feel a lot more precious about their data and conscious of their backup processes”, claims Dave Ricketts, Sales and Marketing Director at Six Degrees. “However, for many businesses, the cost of investing in data backup systems can be high, not to mention being operationally intensive and a long-term investment.”

However, as Ricketts advises, “one option that can alleviate these issues while still providing a high level of protection is, Backup as a Service (BaaS). A good BaaS provider is designed to offer a cost-effective off-site backup solution that is secure, compliant and scalable.”

“Whether you opt to backup internally or outsource it to a provider, take the pledge this World Backup Day to protect mission-critical data. The day will come when you'll need to be able to restore it."

Jake Madders, Director at Hyve Managed Hosting agrees, pointing out that "company data is one of the most valuable assets for any organisation and should be at the forefront of your business agenda – yet for many, that just isn’t the case. World Backup Day is a great opportunity to reflect on where yours is stored as well as what the consequences might be should you lose control of it. That means it’s absolutely vital to have a backup solution in place to ensure that your data and systems are consistently available.”

There are a number of avenues to take when it comes to a backup solution, but according to Madders “good managed service providers, for example, should offer a range of solutions that protect data and applications as part of a wider IT strategy. The best enterprise-class backup options are often designed specifically for use with multi-platform environments, meaning greater flexibility and choice for you. What’s more, using a securely managed cloud for offsite backups means that you only ‘pay for what you use’ so offer great value for money, so what’s not to like?”

The clock is ticking

“Backing up business critical data is more complex than many people realise which may be why backup and disaster recovery plans fall apart in the hour of need. World Backup Day is an important reminder of this reality, and many fall short with a few common missteps”, Jason Collier, Co-Founder at Scale Computing, comments. “The closer your backup is to the primary data, the more likely it is to suffer the same fate as your primary data.”

“Additionally, performing backups as frequently as possible often falls by the wayside of priorities, but this is a very effective way to prevent data loss. Lastly, while emphasis is frequently on the recovery point of when your last backup was taken, recovery time is just as important.” Collier goes on to suggest that, “…the bottom line is that we all need to take some time to review backup plans and find out if you need to be doing more to prevent the next data loss event lurking around the corner.”

Cloud is only the beginning

Nigel Tozer, Solutions Marketing Director of EMEA at Commvault, picks up on the fact that "many organisations are turning to the public cloud as an enabler for data services and applications to provide customers with the best possible service. But equally, many are also forgetting that they also have their own responsibilities with regard to security and importantly, backup. There’s no use collecting and using ever-increasing amounts of data to drive new business and services if it isn’t properly protected.”

According to Tozer, “World Backup Day serves as a reminder for businesses that the most important part of looking after their data is backing it up. Today, I urge every business with data in the cloud to check their contracts and find out exactly what is in the small print. It will normally state ‘your data, your responsibility’. Thinking that cloud availability is the same as backup could mean that you're actually less protected than you ever were with your own on-premises systems. Availability won't help with human error, corruptions or indeed, ransomware. Organisations need to think about going 'back to backup’ or face up to the consequences.”

Gary Watson, CTO/Founder at Nexsan, shares the same view that a business’ storage solution plays a big part in efficient data protection: “in 2018 backup and data recovery is critical, and it's not enough for it to simply, well, back up. Evolved options like archive storage solutions can help to eliminate data loss as well as provide added layers of security from tampering, corruption and ransomware – business necessities in today’s threat landscape. Archive storage can also help drive cost and performance benefits by allowing for greater long-term retention of data. A fully comprehensive data backup strategy should include business continuity, data protection and enhanced security features on top of fast and efficient storage.”

Keeping up with the advancements

Steve Wainwright, MD EMEA at Skillsoft, understands that "data storage has changed quite dramatically in the last decade. The typical data server in many companies has evolved from a single physical server into arrays of virtual servers and cloud-based storage.” But Wainwright emphasises that “it’s important that any IT team has a broad understanding of new storage technologies and capabilities to know how best to select the right solution to meet the company’s business needs.”

According to Wainwright, “as data integrity is of key concern for all companies, ensuring backups are securely stored and immediately accessible if a restoration is needed requires IT staff to be routinely trained. Choosing a training route that provides a current in-depth understanding of storage configuration, disaster recovery solutions and resilience will ensure the skills are in place to keep data safe, secure, available and recoverable."

The future is unstructured

Neil Stobart, VP of Global Systems Engineering at Cloudian, acknowledges that “the world is obsessed with unstructured data. Growth rates are mind boggling, as we all collect and keep data from just about everywhere and everything, from images and videos to social media and email.” With data exploding at a rapid rate, Stobart advises that, “to keep all this data safe, it’s really important to adopt storage technologies, which are geared to our shared, scale-out, unstructured future. Traditional, hierarchical file storage, for example, is limited by its ability to grow compared to alternatives such as object storage, which is favoured by the biggest cloud providers around the world. A safer world for our data is one where we embrace the rapidly changing data landscape."

Of course, data backup is affected by the General Data Privacy Regulation, find out more about GDPR at the GDPR Summit London on April 23rd