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Why Every Business Needs Offsite Disaster Recovery

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Tracy Rock

Director of Marketing @ Invenio IT

Published

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History has shown that every business needs to protect its data. Losing data can cause millions of dollars in financial losses, irreparable harm to an organization’s reputation, and violations of strict data and privacy regulations. Off site disaster recovery is an essential tool to help store and secure your business’s vital data.

To look at this from a more concrete perspective, consider how you protect personal items that are important to you. For example, it’s unlikely that you would safeguard your most important documents, like a birth certificate, social security card, or will, by storing them in a paper bag on a bookshelf. Instead, you might put them in a fireproof safe, perhaps with additional copies in a safe deposit box somewhere.

This same principle applies when it comes to protecting your organization from a disaster. It’s important to choose the right place and method to protect and store your data, and offsite backups are a critical component of your disaster recovery plan. In this article, we’ll explore why offsite disaster recovery matters, what might happen if you don’t have it, and how you can make it a part of your business continuity strategy.

What Is Offsite Disaster Recovery?

Offsite disaster recovery is, as the name suggests, the practice of backing up data somewhere outside of your primary business location or data center. If there is a disaster at your main location, offsite backups make it possible to recover and restore data that might otherwise have been permanently lost.

The core difference between offsite and onsite disaster recovery is that your data is being stored away from the office. In many cases, businesses use a cloud service for offsite storage. Some organizations also opt to build a physical backup site that is capable of functioning as a data center if needed. If your organization experiences a critical event that destroys your onsite servers or renders them inaccessible, you can still recover your data from this alternate location.

What Kinds of Offsite Disaster Recovery Are Available?

There are two primary forms of offsite recovery available to businesses: backup and replication. Although the terms are sometimes mistakenly used interchangeably, they serve different purposes when your business is responding to a crisis.

Offsite Backup

Data backup is perhaps the most familiar form of offsite recovery. It involves copying an organization’s files or data blocks to a backup service, such as a public or private cloud storage provider. The data is stored in this offsite location and can be used to restore anything that is lost or corrupted in the event of a ransomware attack, natural disaster, or other event.

Choosing a data backup solution is integral to your business’s ability to function following a disaster, and there are many factors to consider, including your recovery time objective (RTO) and recovery point objective (RPO). The efficacy of your data backups often determines how quickly you can recover necessary data. This, in turn, has a significant effect on how well you are able to meet your objectives.

Offsite Replication

Unlike data backups, which businesses use to periodically create redundant storage of their data, replication can be practically instantaneous. The data stored on your organization’s server is mirrored on an external server. It can be:

  • Asynchronous: Point-in-time snapshots of data are taken on a specific schedule
  • Synchronous: Data is copied to the secondary site as it is updated at the main site
  • Near-synchronous: Data is simultaneously updated, but only changes from the previous version are recorded

Replication is incredibly valuable when it comes to failover and workload recovery, particularly when time is of the essence.

Choosing Between Replication and Backup

Data backup and replication both serve an important role in recovery. However, there are some advantages and disadvantages to both:

  • Depending on how regularly they are scheduled, backups may not have the most recent data, while a replication should be up-to-date.
  • Because it requires you to duplicate your hardware system at a secondary site, replication is generally much more expensive than backup.
  • Data backups are typically slower when it comes to recovery and restoration, potentially extending periods of downtime.

For many businesses, a combination of replication and backup is ideal. In some cases, for example, you may want to limit replication to critical services that are necessary to keep the business running.

Where Can You Store Data Offsite?

There are a variety of options available when it comes to storing your data offsite. Some are privately owned by the business itself, while others are third-party services. Potential sites for your offsite data storage include:

  • A private, public, or hybrid cloud service
  • Media, such as backup tape, that is stored offsite
  • A server or system of servers in a separate branch, office, or backup site

The affordability of each of these options is a major consideration. In general, only very large enterprises use backup tape because it is labor-intensive and expensive. Similarly, the cost of creating a functioning backup site is prohibitive for many businesses. If you choose to create a secondary site away from your main location, there are three possible types to consider:

  • A cold site, which has basic infrastructure in place and might need to be upgraded for use if a disaster occurs and data restoration is needed
  • A warm site with more systems in place but that still requires some level of updating or maintenance before data restoration begins
  • A hot site that is fully operational and can be used with little to no configuration if there is a crisis event

While hot sites offer the greatest level of preparation and the shortest period of time to restore data, they require a far greater financial investment than the other options. This makes them impractical for many small and medium-sized businesses.

Why Is Offsite Disaster Recovery Important?

To put it simply, businesses that do not make use of offsite disaster recovery are making themselves extremely vulnerable to outcomes ranging from minor losses to bankruptcy. As you can see from these real-life examples, a disaster can wipe out decades worth of data, compromise sensitive customer information, and bring operations to a grinding halt. Offsite recovery helps to mitigate each of these effects, which can result from both natural and technological interference.

Natural Disasters

Although it may seem an unlikely prospect, every business should consider itself at risk of completely losing its primary physical location to a natural disaster. Some events are powerful enough to unexpectedly destroy your system of servers or, in the worst-case scenario, your entire data center. Depending on your location and risk assessment, you should prepare for the possibility of disasters like:

  • Hurricanes
  • Fires
  • Floods
  • Earthquakes
  • Tornadoes

Offsite storage makes it possible to restore data from a backup or replication while minimizing downtime and data loss. Keep in mind that this secondary site should be in a different geographical area from your primary location.

Imagine, for example, that you have an offsite storage site located within the same town as your primary location. If the winds and flooding from a hurricane cause damage to one site, there is a strong possibility that it will take out the second site as well, nullifying all of the benefits of your offsite storage.

Ransomware and Cyber Attacks

Every year, cyber attacks, including ransomware, become an increasingly common threat to businesses. Even if you have comprehensive data backups onsite, a ransomware attack is extremely dangerous. It can corrupt not only the main copy of your data but also any local backups. However, offsite backups that are not connected to the main network are better protected.

In the event of a ransomware attack, it’s important to be able to recover data quickly and fully. The last thing a business needs is to have to pay a costly ransom, which, according to a 2021 study, averages $170,404. Even this hefty sum doesn’t guarantee that the full scope of your data will be restored. This same study found that only 8% of organizations that paid the ransom recovered all of their data.

What Are the Benefits of Offsite Data Backups?

The primary advantage of backing up data offsite is protecting it in the event that a disaster occurs, but what exactly does that mean? Looking at some of the specific benefits of offsite recovery can help clarify this point.

Protecting Against Disasters

To better understand the kinds of situations that might necessitate offsite data recovery, let’s focus on three of the potentially devastating effects of a disaster.

First, a business’s entire system might crash, which can paralyze operations. This damages the organization on multiple fronts and can also cause difficulties for the customer, ranging from minor inconveniences to more substantial harm. For example, in 2018, the National Health Service in Wales suffered an IT outage that prevented doctors from accessing patient files, causing disruptions in service and patient backlogs. When this kind of event occurs, it’s vital that data is not lost. Offsite backups and replication are excellent ways to improve the odds that you will be able to restore your business’s data.

Likewise, a hardware failure can lead to data loss and extensive downtime. Hard drives, despite all of the technological advancements, have limited life spans. If a hard drive fails, it may be possible to use a data recovery service, but the process takes time that your business may not be able to afford. With offsite backups, you can most likely recover data more quickly, reducing downtime and revenue loss.

Finally, a data breach can corrupt and infect your files, leaving them unusable and posing the risk of spreading the infection elsewhere. An offsite data backup offers you access to an uncompromised version of your data that you can then restore to start fresh.

Preserving Storage Space

As an added bonus, backing up data offsite can also help your organization save primary storage space. When you back up data on a cloud service or offsite server, you can free up space for the operating system, critical files, and other essential software on primary storage. For many businesses, this also helps to optimize system performance as servers aren’t bogged down with unnecessary data that could be saved and archived elsewhere.

Do Offsite Data Backups Make Onsite Backups Unnecessary?

In almost every case, an offsite data backup should be used to complement your onsite backups, not to replace them. This is true regardless of the size or structure of your business.

The 3-2-1 Rule

In the IT world, experts often point to the 3-2-1 rule, which offers good guidance to use when evaluating whether your disaster recovery plans are adequate. According to the 3-2-1 rule, a business should have three copies of data on two different mediums with one stored offsite. This helps to diversify your backup strategies so that they do not all rely on the same location, medium, or source.

Hybrid Cloud Recovery

Some data storage solutions create both a local and offsite backup, a process that is often referred to as hybrid cloud recovery. Enabling data backups and recovery in both locations, in the cloud and on your internal servers, helps protect against disastrous scenarios and ensures that you achieve the fastest recovery time possible.

For example, in situations in which onsite backups can be used, you’ll be able to recover data almost instantly from your internal servers. On the other hand, if the onsite backups are inaccessible, you’ll still be able to recover data quickly and from virtually anywhere with your offsite backup.

How Does Offsite Recovery Fit Into a Disaster Recovery Plan?

Offsite recovery should be one of the points covered in your business continuity and disaster recovery plan. One of the objectives of such a plan is to identify the location of critical data, meaning that you should list what data is backed up and where. Indicate how often new backups are created, as well as which data is most critical to business operations and thus needs to be restored the most quickly.

This information should be highly detailed and specific. In a disaster, your regular IT team, who is already familiar with these practices, might suddenly be unavailable. However, if you have thoroughly documented your data storage, including offsite backups, other team members will have the knowledge necessary to get things back up and running.

What Should You Consider When Choosing a Data Storage Solution?

If your nightmare has become reality and your primary data center has been compromised by a natural disaster or cyber attack, the process of recovery begins. Fortunately, if you have planned ahead and implemented an offsite recovery plan, you can initiate the process of restoring your data right away.

As you research your options for data storage, it may be helpful to consider a few key questions:

  • Does this solution use encryption for greater security? Encryption helps protect your data while it is being processed, transferred, and stored.
  • How frequently will data be backed up? Infrequent backups can defeat the purpose of offsite data storage.
  • What is the most cost-effective solution for your needs? In 2021, companies spent an average of $11.64 per employee on data storage.
  • How much storage do you need? To save money, smaller businesses should look for solutions without excessive storage capacity.

When comparing the best small business backup solutions, pay attention to how and where your data is stored, as well as the process for recovery. Since traditional backups are notorious for being corrupted, look for solutions that automatically check the integrity of the data on a regular basis and also perform mock recoveries. It’s also a good idea to research the security and reliability of the data centers at which your offsite backups will be stored.

How Can You Learn More About Offsite Disaster Recovery?

Offsite disaster recovery is not a luxury but rather a necessity that every organization, from private businesses to government agencies, needs to consider. There are many data storage services available, so much so that you may quickly get overwhelmed while analyzing all of the possibilities.

Fortunately, the team at Invenio IT specializes in data recovery and storage solutions. Reach out to learn more about what options might best suit your needs and how offsite data backups can help protect your business from future disasters.

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