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Protecting Your Backed-Up Data

written by: Jesma•edited by: J. F. Amprimoz•updated: 6/17/2009

The data that your company keeps on its servers and computers is important. It is so important that you no doubt have a backup strategy in place to ensure nothing is lost. But are you protecting the data after it has been backed up?

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    Overview

    Whether it is a large multi-national enterprise or a growing small business, the data stored on the servers and computers is crucial. That is why having a data backup plan is so important. But what do you do with the data after you've backed it up? Do you set it on top of the server and walk away? Do you lock it in the basement, or take it home with you? What is the best way to handle backed up data?

    In any kind of system or network administration class technicians are engrained with the importance of doing backups, but the issue of how backups should be treated after that is less discussed. Many companies will grasp the importance of the backups, but completely miss the boat in how to store them. If you leave your backups laying around they may be useful in the event that you need to restore a few files. But what if your server room catches on fire, or there is a natural disaster? What happens to your data backups then?

    The other pressing concern as regards to data backups is security. If you store any kind of confidential or private information on your backup tapes (or other media) you have to protect those tapes as well as you protect the data when it is on the drives. If you're going to store any backup data on-site, it needs to be in a strictly access-controlled area, where no average joe employee or malicious intruder can get to it easily. Many organizations will go as far as to install magnetic erasing fields at the door of the backup storage room. It is disabled when authorized backups are entering or leaving, but if someone tries to walk out with something they shouldn't the field will completely erase the magnetic storage device, like a backup tape.

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    Avoiding Detrimental Backup Losses

    Rule number one of protecting backed up data is to store it off-site. Think about all of the companies who lost everything in the World Trade Center attacks. It is not comparable to the tragic loss of their co-workers, but as people tried to restart their business, some had not only lost their servers and computers in the disaster, but many lost all their backups when the safes beneath the buildings were buried in tons of rubble. The best thing a company can do is store their data far away from where the originals are. For simplicity, many administrators will have two copies made: One that is stored locally for restoring files here and there simply, and others that are stored far away from any disaster that may consume the originals.

    An alternative to doing backups and storing them off-site is to have a warm failover site. If something is lost locally it can be recovered in real-time. Or, if an entire server crashes, the off-site backup server can take over for a time. The only problem with this method is that if you lose power or a network connection to the site, you lose your backup. Enterprises can afford to mitigate these risks with appropriate back up emergency electrical and connectivity preparation.