Protection Choices for Critical and Just Important Data
Data protection can mean many different things. Every vendor, customer, market analyst and solution provider uses the term with a slightly different focus. Is it backup and recovery? Disaster recovery? The process of managing retained data? In truth, it’s all of the above.
Essentially data protection is the process of safeguarding your important business information from corruption, compromise or loss. Certainly, a key part of any data protection strategy is ensuring that your data can be restored quickly following a downtime event – from ransomware or corruption to a server outage or failure or any other event that may cause loss. But what technology should you use for which datasets?
Critical Data vs. Just Important Data
The technology employed to perform data protection can be very different, and often needs to be properly selected based on the criticality of the data you aim to protect. Every organization has critical data and simply important data. Critical data means your organization deems the data essential for continued business availability – such as customer data and personal information that is covered by data protection laws. Important data, on the other hand, is valuable information such as data used to ensure employee productivity or data used for analytics purposes to optimize marketing programs or improve product quality.
Each set of data, critical and important, needs to be protected in different ways with varying levels of recovery time objectives (RTO) and recovery point objectives (RPO). (This topic will be further explored in an upcoming blog.) To meet the data protection needs of critical and important data, there are multiple data protection technologies to consider.
Following is a high-level summary to review. Use this list to guide your decisions on which data protection technology processes you need to implement for your different levels of data.
• Backup and Recovery – Backup technology is generally used for data preservation and compliance. Think of it as a second copy of your data retained for safekeeping. It is a good practice to implement backup and recovery for all business data as overall insurance that your business can recover all business data in the event of loss or ransomware event. Backups should be performed regularly, daily or weekly for example, based on the importance of the data. Critical data should be backed up frequently. Less vital information can be backed up more periodically. Backups should also be stored securely, potentially in the cloud, and away from live data so that ransomware or corruption events on production servers doesn’t penetrate backups and spoil recovery data.
• Disaster Recovery – Disaster recovery (DR) technology is another data protection practice that is used for more critical data. DR is essentially a rolling mirror of your critical data, preserved in an off-site location, so that you can fail over in the event of a disaster – natural or not – so that your environment can quickly look the same as it did before the event. This is essential to maintain business continuity, especially for that set of data your business can’t survive without. The most effective DR practices perform real-time replication so that in the event of an outage or disaster your data can fail over with little to no data loss.
• Snapshots – Storage snapshots can be another common way to protect your data and systems. Essentially, just as the name implies, it’s a complete capture of your data at a specific point in time. This point-in-time image-level view of your data is useful when you want to capture a version of your data without consuming as much space or network bandwidth as a traditional backup. It’s simply a copy of the metadata that holds information about the data snapped at a given point. This can be used for more rapid recovery. Because snapshots are created instantly, they are done in seconds and can give you the option to roll back quickly to the most recent data snapshot. Some companies create snapshots very frequently to get their RPOs down to minutes. Snapshots, however, are typically stored in the same location as the original data. Thus, they won’t protect you from outages at the source. They are also difficult to check for corruption or recovery reliability.
• Data Encryption – Data encryption is a valuable technology tool that should be part of your backup and DR process. Here your data is translated into another form, or code, so that only those with the “key” can read it. It’s an effective data security measure that, when used with backup or DR processes, can deliver an extra layer of protection. Encryption can be used for data “at rest” while it’s being retained in a backup or archive folder or “in transit” while it is moving from production systems to an offsite location, between offsite locations, or from an offsite location back to on prem for recovery. This helps to eliminate potential tampering while the data is stored or moving between storage locations.
• Cloud or “as-a-Service” Data Protection – Cloud data protection solutions can be offered in many forms, including backup-as-a-service (BaaS), DR-as-a-Service (DRaaS) and even storage-as-a-service (STaaS). The value of these options are multi-fold. The are generally more cost effective than building an on-prem data protection strategy yourself, as the infrastructure and management are delivered and performed as a service and can lower CapEx expenses. They have the value of being offsite by design to keep your data secured and retained away from your internal domain (read this blog, Risky Business Maintaining Backup Appliances in Your Domain) where it is less vulnerable to ransomware attacks or local data outages and corruption. Finally, cloud-based data protection solutions offer a high level of reliability as they are typically managed and monitored 24/7 by expert resources. This means your data is always ready, based on strict SLAs, when you need it for recovery and free from the risk of corruption. As a result, you can free yourself from the burden of data protection and get peace of mind knowing it’s available anytime its needed.
Protecting your data and ensuring its availability doesn’t have to be complex, time consuming and costly. Consider your data protection options and align the right technology to suit your data’s level of criticality. At Verinext, we can help. Contact us to have a conversation about your data protection strategy and how it can be optimized to ensure the business availability you need.