How much is good data backup worth? …It’s complicated


A lot of people contact Integris asking about the best backup solution to protect their business data. What they always end up discovering, though, is that “best” is a relative term when you’re talking about backup. Sure, you can get a backup solution that will have your business up and running within an hour of a data loss incident, but before you say “Sounds great – sign me up!” you should be aware that level of protection is going to cost hundreds of dollars a month. And you might not even need it.

When it comes to backup, there are three factors to take into account when identifying the best solution for you: backup quality, recovery time, and solution cost. Let’s look at how those play out in choosing a solution.


Backup quality: Is the solution reliable? Easy? Secure?

Reliability is essential to a quality backup solution. If your solution is supposed to run automatically every day at midnight but skips a day for some reason, you’ll be missing a whole day’s worth of data when you go to recover the material.

That leads to the next point: How easy is the solution to use? Does it run on its own in the background, or does it require you to manually go in and take action? If you have to remember to implement a backup, you run the risk of forgetting – not to mention that you probably have better things to do with your time than launch a manual backup (and, as is the case with some offerings, “babysit” the solution while the backup is taking place).

Finally, you want a solution that secures your data as it’s being backed up. After all, data backups are just as vulnerable to today’s ransomware and other malware threats as regular data. If your backups aren’t encrypted to protect them from such threats, the data can be compromised – and after that, all the backups in the world won’t matter.


Recovery time: How quickly do you need your data back?

Even though we commonly refer to “backup solutions,” backup is only half of the equation. Recovery is just as important – if not more so – because your corporate operations are going to be out of commission for as long as it takes to get your data back. If your business relies almost entirely on the data in your systems (like an accounting firm, for instance), then even a couple of hours of downtime are going to be intolerable. But if your everyday work is less affected by data (for example, a construction company), then you’ll be able to tolerate more system downtime.

When you’re trying to choose the right backup solutions for your business, you need to establish recovery time objectives (RTOs) against which to evaluate the various options. The RTO is the amount of time in which you need to recover your data before you start to suffer unacceptable consequences. For some data-reliant companies, the RTO could be as little as an hour. For less data-driven businesses, it could be as long as several days.

What determines how quickly you can recover your data? One of the main elements is what shape the data is in when you get it back. If you have image-based backup – which literally takes a picture of your data at a particular point in time and recovers that image to return your business to the exact state it was in before the loss – you can expect to be back up and running in very little time. But if you have a less sophisticated system that saves backups as raw data without archiving any of your folder structures, you’ll likely have to spend days reorganizing the data before you can use it again. Or, if you have a large amount of data that you need to download from a backup provider’s website before you can even start your own recovery process, that’s going to add to your recovery time, too.


Solution cost: What’s it worth to you?

When you’re trying to decide how much you can afford to pay for backup, a good place to start is to calculate how much a data loss will cost you. Going back to the example of an accounting firm, if you’re without the data you need for a full eight-hour day and you’re charging $250 per hour for each of the 10 accountants you have on staff, you’re going to lose $20,000. A figure like that makes it well worth paying $600 a month to be sure you can get your data back within an hour and minimize your losses.

In the world of backup and recovery, faster is better if your business runs on data. If it doesn’t, there’s nothing wrong with paying less and waiting longer. It’s like flying to your vacation destination instead of driving: If your priority is to get there quickly, by all means, fly! If you’re in no hurry, save the high cost of airfare and drive.

Why not just go for the cheapest solution, then? If you’re considering an online backup company that charges $20 or $30 a month, bear in mind the old adage “You get what you pay for.” Solutions like these will almost certainly require you to download data backups from their servers to yours, a time-consuming process that will slow your recovery time. And what about the quality of the recovered data? For that price, you’re likely not going to get a ready-to-use data image; rather, you’ll be faced with raw data that you have to sort through and reorganize. And your backup may not be secure, either.

The takeaway? Take into account the speed, reliability, and security of both backup and recovery, and consider cost in the context of your needs as they relate to those three areas.

Schedule a free consultation if you have any questions about backup.

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