To ensure protection, integrity and availability of your data backup, there are 10 tips for an effective backup strategy that worth to be considered during the infrastructure design.
Bear in mind that the backup is the only defense weapon administrators have to protect business data against failures, malware attacks, viruses and accidental deletions.
The 10 tips for an effective backup strategy
When designing a backup strategy for your environment, there are some aspects and configurations to consider achieving the best result.
1. Meet the 3-2-1 backup rule
The 3-2-1 backup rule is the recommended approach while implementing a backup strategy because it is not only a best practice you should apply to your design, but it allows to define a good level of protection.
- 3 copies of backup - you must have three copies of your backup to guarantee data integrity and availability. A single copy can face a single point of failure (SPOF) component.
- 2 different storage media - storing the backup on a single storage creates a SPOF scenario compromising the data security. A backup copy should be stored to local drives, NAS or cloud storage devices ensuring protection in case one media fails.
- 1 offsite backup - good practice is to keep one backup copy offsite to protect the data availability in case the primary site fails.
Every backup infrastructure should be designed by following this simple rule.
2. Backup VMs and Physical Machines
All virtual machines as well as physical machines in your network should be backed up to protect the business and to limit services disruption in case of failures.
During the software selection, make sure the backup of both virtual and physical machines is supported. Typically backup solutions handle the backup of virtual and physical environments in two different ways:
- Virtual machines - the VM backup is generally snapshot-based (agentless) and provides an image-level backup to ensure the protection not only of files an folders inside the VM but also the entire VM structure for a faster restore.
- Physical machines - backups for physical environments are typically agent-based and provide the same level of protection of virtual machines working in the same way.
For mission critical VMs, make sure to enable the Continuous Data Protection (CDP) feature to have the lowest RPO possible reducing the data loss to minutes in case of failure.
3. Keep DBs consistent
If your machines contain databases, it is essential to enable the application-aware processing in the backup job for the supported databases to capture data in memory or any pending I/O operations making the DB consistent. An appropriate backup configuration is able to properly quiesce the database application, flush its memory cache, and complete all its writes in order and then perform an application-consistent backup.
Image-level backups based on snapshot technology are defined crash-consistent backups since applications that use databases (Active Directory, Exchange, SharePoint, MS-SQL for example) are not properly backed up and they are left in an inconsistent state with the risk of having a corrupted database.
4. Use the Changed Block Tracking capability
Changed Block Tracking (CBT) is a native VMware feature that allows to backup only the blocks that have changed, rather than backing up every block of every VM in the infrastructure. This feature allows to save disk space and requires less time to complete the backup.
Modern backup software solutions provide the CBT capability you should always enabled.
A good backup design is the key for a successful data protection strategy to avoid potential data loss that can affect the business. Without an efficient protection of your data, a ransomware attack is the worst nightmare administrators can face.
Storing your backups to Hardened Repositories is the most efficient way to make your backups immutable protecting the data against deletion, changes and overrides. This is the best way to ensure the highest level of security for your data against ransomware attacks.
6. Store a backup copy offsite
To comply the 3-2-1 backup rule and to ensure data availability if the primary site fails, a backup copy should be stored offsite or in the cloud. Solutions such as Microsoft Azure, Amazon S3, Wasabi or your own offsite servers offer storage capabilities where backups can be safely stored. Cloud storage solutions can also provide immutability adding an extra layer of security.
7. Verify backups
Taking several backups of your environment is not enough to ensure data integrity and recoverability if backups are not verified.
Backups must be verified on regular basis to ensure they are working and can be recovered to production when required.
8. Snapshots are not backups
Bear in mind that snapshots are not backup. Snapshots are good for short-term purposes such as patching or new drivers test but it is a bad idea to use snapshots as your primary backup. They heavily affect the VM performance and if something bad happens to the storage where the VM is stored, regardless of how many snapshots you have taken, the VM is gone forever.
Snapshots are not independent in fact they depend on the VM's parent disk and if the parent disk is deleted, you cannot restore the VM to that specific moment.
9. Essential restore capabilities
Make sure your backup solution provides the essentials features required by modern software:
- Easy restore - the restore process must allow the restore of a VM in the same or different location.
- Instant recovery - if no replicas are available, the instant boot of any VM directly from the backup location feature allows you to reduce the RTO/Downtime required to restore the service.
- File Granular Restore - useful to restore single files and folders stored within the VM.
- DBs restore - you must include in the backup strategy the option to perform a granular restore of supported databases.
10. Choose the right backup solution
Last but not least, for efficient and effective backups is essential to choose the appropriate solution for your backup strategy that meets your business requirements. The chosen backup software must include all the features modern businesses require, that is scalability, flexibility, user friendly, protection for all environments running in your organization, fast recovery and application support.
Only implementing the correct backup strategy in your environment ensures the appropriate data protection and availability keeping your business safe.