Enterprise data backup is a critical requirement for any business to secure its vital data resources. Although specific technology components like file servers, database servers, storage servers etc. have broad provisions for backing up and protecting data associated with them, these are on a component basis rather than on the global business level. The term “global business level” is used here to represent the data associated with all aspects and interests of any particular business, and is spread over the individual technology components. This includes data in file servers, databases, private or public storage spaces, system and application configurations for the desktops, laptops, mobile devices, network related hardware and software like router configuration, firewall settings and rules, data associated with online SaaS/IaaS/PaaS services like CRMs, Payment Gateways, Cloud Deployed data etc. Backing up and securing data associated with these global business aspects are therefore is a complex procedure and could not be fulfilled by the backup capabilities of any single component like database backup solutions that backups database data only.
Complexity of Enterprise Data
As mentioned above business-critical data spans over the entire business space and extends outside to the premises of:
1. Business stakeholders like vendors, contractors, service providers etc.
2. 3rd party services that are consumed by the business like Software as a Service (SaaS), Platform as a Service (PaaS), Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) or more broadly Anything as a Service (XaaS). These include websites, knowledge-base, hosted business portal, shared resources and other online services.
Enterprise file data consists of both the application level data and system level data. This includes:
1. Business process files created using Office Software suites, graphical files, process documentations, procedure and operational manuals, statistical and tabular data files, departmental files like payrolls, employee files, purchase/order/invoice files, customer data files, transaction files etc.
2. Files related to the product or service being offered by the business like software, technical and user manuals, system analysis and design files, development and operational logs, archives etc.
3. System configurations that exist in the form of files, database records etc.
4. Configured OS, firewall, utilities, administrative tools, internal software etc.
5. Network configurations and settings files.
6. Application files hosted in-house.
7. System and application software associated with desktops, laptops, mobile devices, printers, scanners etc.
It is a nightmare for the IT administrators and security professionals to manage the responsibility of backing up and securing all these resources without a consolidated and automated mechanism. It takes enormous effort and expertise to reach out onto all the above areas, pick the data that needs to be backed up, perform the backup operation over these high volumes of data, storing the back in a secure place in restorable format and finally restore them in a distributable and distinct manner whenever and wherever needed.
Enterprise data components
Why Enterprise Data Backup is Necessary?
Since we have identified the nature and volume of data to be backed up and the complexities involved in accomplishing this, it is time to decide about – is all these data need to be backed up? If so, why? Let’s try to find answer for this question.
If data is to be classified according to the time line that encompasses the creation and modification of data as well as the data structure, then there will be broadly 4 categories of data:
1. Historical or archived data that are no longer actively used but needed for reference and analytical purposes.
2. Data groups created in the past/present and being modified actively in the present and used extensively for business operations.
3. Data that controls configurations, created in the past and used in the present, passively.
4. Data created and modified at present moments and are being added or cumulated like logs and reports.
From the above list, data group no. 1 seems to be less eligible for data backup mainly due to its less priority and involvement in daily operations and also due to the high volume it consumes for storage and backup. But for any organization, that wants to learn from the past to aid in its evolution, to identify benchmarks and optimal levels of performance, and to record history as part of the business track record, then that data can be subjected to a backup scheme that uses heavy compression and cheap backup storage space.
Data group no. 2 involves most of the business operational data that is responsible for powering the business and fueling the processes. Any loss in integrity or consistency of this data means, the business is going to suffer losses in: business functioning and operations, business integrity and reputation, business uptime, financial and market losses and benefits and advantages gained so far. So this mission-critical data is the primary candidate for active backup and security.
Data group no. 3 is responsible for all the hardware, software and logical processes to run in the business. Without a proper configuration malfunctioning and under-performance will occur causing down-times and losses. So this data along with data group no. 2 is an active candidate for backup and security.
Data group no. 4 is the traces and evidences of the operation of all the resources associated with the business. It is needed for fine tuning, optimizing and troubleshooting the business processes, both physical and logical. Also it is to be used as evidences during investigations and forensic analysis. So this data group, through not as critical as data groups 2 and 3 is eligible for backup and security with high compression and moderate cost storage.
Features needed for Enterprise Data Backup Solution
Any solution for business data backup should meet the following requirements, though some can be termed as ideal.
1. Real time backup facility: this performs backup whenever data is changed, since for restoration, the latest data snapshot is needed rather than a scheduled backup taken on a past checkpoint. So this backup is something that changes with time or data updation and optimized for space utilization since too much backups can be costlier in terms of space. A preferred backup type for this is Incremental Backups, that does not backs up the entire data but add to the backup only those parts that are changed.
2. Automatic restore and recovery: an optimal backup system should detect failure scenarios and provide restore and recovery without or little manual intervention. The restore should be rapid so that business functions are not critically affected due to down time or lack of resources.
3. Bare-metal disaster recovery: the backup, restore and recovery should be handled from the infrastructure and platform level such that the entire business operational system is recovered and restored immediately after a disaster strike, attack or corruption.
4. Logical and discriminative restore: Even though the backup solution handles infrastructure or platform level backups that contain the entire data, most of the times, it is needed to restore only a sub system or even a single component in the main business informational system. The logical and discriminative restore mechanism should segregate backed up data on sub-system and component basis and individual components only should be restored upon needed.
5. Solid and controlled compression and intelligent backups – ability to create highly compressed but without data loss, backups that avoids redundancy as far as possible.
6. Distributed backup storage to avoid single point of failure and central administrative unit for controlling the backup process.
Essential Qualities that aid in Enterprise Data Backup
The main constraints associated with enterprise data backup are:
1. Technology selection that suites business infrastructure and limitations.
2. Cost of backup solution (one time/subscription/on-demand).
3. Data compression and space consumption of backups, since high frequency, more data or loosely compressed backups means higher storage consumption adding to the cost.
4. Reliability and security – the backup solution should be up and functional, ideally 100% of time and should be secure from threats applicable to business data, so that it can act as the savior of business data. If the backup location is external to the business premises, then network and communication security is critical.
5. Less complexity and administrational overheads.
6. Compliance with organizational data standards.
7. LAN/WAN coverage to backup data across networks.
An ideal solution will utilize modern cloud and cluster based computing and storage solutions to achieve such a backup solution. Since backing up is a high resource consuming and computing intense process, there will be momentary down-times or resource non availability scenarios can occur during the backup process running time. This must be time sliced or should be run as a concurrent background process to eliminate those disadvantages. Load balancing and secure networking is crucial in order to implement a sophisticated and robust backup solution.