Business Continuity Success Series Part 1: Cloud Backups

By Server@Work - June 04, 2016

With the start of hurricane season it is time for businesses to review their business continuity plans.  Even if you live outside a hurricane zone this review process still pertains to you.  Pretend this is "Blizzard Season" or "Mad Season" or whatever keeps you up at night wherever you are.  So let's update all our contacts and get ready to pack up the car and squeeze into a hotel with our in-laws.

Server@Work wants every business and organization to be prepared this hurricane season and the best way to do that from a business perspective is to ensure your company is ready to not only protect your data in the event of a disaster but also be ready to work remotely to continue providing services to your customers and generate revenue for your business.

Getting started we published an Infographic Overview of the five components of business continuity success which we will cover in this blog series:

  • Part 1: Cloud Backup
  • Part 2: Cloud Servers
  • Part 3: Remote Access
  • Part 4: Bring Your Own Device
  • Part 5: Support Desk

The Business Continuity solution in its simplest form is to backup your data to the cloud where it can be restored to a warm data center at any time.  The warm data center will have a remote access solution in place that allows your dispersed employees to connect to your servers and work from anywhere using their personal and company devices.  Finally, your business needs uninterrupted access to your IT Support Desk in this time of need.

This first article is covers Cloud Backups so let's get started.

Why Cloud Backups?

cloud-backup-harddrive.jpgI am not going to spend a lot of time evangelizing about why cloud backups.  The short of it is:

  • Onsite backups do businesses no good in the event of a fire, tornado, or disaster that blocks access to your office.
  • Putting a tape or USB backup in a car and driving away creates complications when it comes time to restore in a remote location.
  • Cloud storage solutions like Dropbox, Microsoft OneDrive, Microsoft SharePoint Online, and Citrix ShareFile do not provide the ability to restore and run business applications and line of business solutions.
  • Security concerns?  Your office is already connected to the Internet thereby creating the same security risks -- if not worse -- than having your data "in the cloud" and protected by dedicated security specialists and technologies.
  • GOOD cloud backup data centers are audited and SSAE-16 certified to physically and digitally protect your data.
Need a financial reason to use a cloud backup?
  • No hardware to buy.  REALLY.  There are fantastic cloud backup solutions that require ZERO HARDWARE.
  • No money spent on tapes, backup drives, backup software, USB drives, or network storage.
  • Easier software to manage and no management software installation needed.

But the biggest reason to have a cloud backup is that it can be managed from anywhere and your data can be restored anywhere -- including a remote data center.

What are your backup requirements?

Backup the Right Data

When protecting your business data it is important to know what to backup as a part of your Business Continuity plan.  Remember the goal here is to backup your data and applications from your office then restore them to a place and in a form that they can be used by your remote employees as a part of your Business Continuity plan.

So start by making a list of all your applications and line of business solutions.  Think about all the programs your company uses to create work and deliver services to your customers.  Is your email already in the could with Office 365 or a hosted email solution or do you also have an on-premise mail server to move?

Identify and document the programs, installation requirements, and deployment requirements for these solutions:

  • Accounting and Payroll Software
  • Office Applications and Productivity Applications
  • Communications Solutions
  • Service and Support Solutions
  • Proprietary and Legacy Solutions
  • Customer Management
  • Line of Business Software
  • Document and Data Repositories
  • Databases

Now make sure that all this data is being backed up.  This should be happening anyway in the course of protecting your business and it is required for a successful deployment to a remote offsite solution.

Most applications only need their "unique data" backed up.  Backup management solutions can target specific files, folders, and databases that can easily be restored then quickly reconfigured to work in a new environment.  Targeting these individual items for backups means faster backups and restores as well as less storage in cloud repositories which can save you money.

Backup Line of Business Servers

Some line of business servers and applications have complicated restore processes and requirements.  In these instances, it is preferred to have a "bare metal backup".  A bare metal backup is a backup of the entire server, operating system, settings, applications and data.  Think of it as a CARBON COPY of your server.

While many cloud backup solutions can do this, a lot of them require an on-premise hardware appliance for the backup and the restore.  This requirement will create a problem when restoring data offsite to a remote data center.  Many data centers are completely virtual and will not permit a customer install of a hardware appliance and others who may allow it will charge a premium for the use of their rack space.

Ensure your cloud backup solution is able to do bare metal restores without needing hardware.  Ideally you want your bare metal backup to be in a format that is easy to bring back online quickly and with little chance of something going wrong.  In a recent survey by Zetta, they found that 50% of those surveyed reported technical issues when doing a bare metal restore of a server.

Ideally you want to choose a backup solution that will backup the entire server in a VHD format.  VHD is the standard format used by Microsoft Windows and Hyper-V servers so a bare metal restore of an entire server is as simple as restoring the VHD file then "mounting" the server into the Hyper-V virtual environment.

What Happens Next?

With your data -- YOUR RIGHT DATA -- safely backing up to the cloud and able to be restored anywhere without needing a hardware appliance, you are ready to think about WHERE you will restore your data.  This needs to be a part of the Business Continuity plan and arrangements with your remote data center should be made PRIOR TO you needing it.

In our next Blog article, we will discuss your data center and what you need to get your data back online.

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