From natural disasters and cyber-attacks to accidental deletion, there are many reasons a business needs to back up its data. However, Avast’s latest findings on disaster recovery highlight an alarming issue for small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs): 60% of data backups are not fully successful, and half of the attempts to recover data from these backups don’t work. This leads to businesses being offline for an average of 79 minutes, costing them roughly $84,650 for every hour of downtime.

Still, not all backups are created equal. It’s important you’re aware of backup best practices, so you’re confident your backup solution will work when you need it most.

Why Backups Are Failing

There are a few common reasons backups are incomplete or a restoration fails:

  • Backup products are unreliable: When it comes to backups, you get what you pay for. Free or cheap solutions may not offer the robust features of more expensive products. This can result in backups that are not as secure or reliable.
  • Backup times are not optimal. If backups are scheduled during high-traffic periods or when data is being heavily modified, there’s a risk that not all data will be captured.
  • Compatibility issues. As your business evolves, so do your systems and software. However, new systems may not always be fully compatible with existing backup solutions. This can lead to situations where data is not properly saved or, even if it is, cannot be restored correctly because the formats or systems are no longer aligned.
  • Human error. Mistakes such as incorrectly configuring backup parameters, accidentally deleting crucial files or ignoring backup schedules and alerts can lead to backup failures.

Cyber-attacks and other disasters are a constant threat. If your backup fails and you get hacked, you might lose data permanently. Additionally, health care and finance organizations have strict compliance regulations around data handling, and failed backups can result in fines, legal challenges and a damaged reputation.

Best Practices For Successful Data Backup And Restoration

Reliable data backups and successful restoration are your lifeline in times of crisis. From choosing the right backup solution to regular testing and daily monitoring, these best practices protect your data from surprise disruptions, ensuring your business doesn’t miss a beat, no matter what comes your way.

1. Pick a solid backup solution.

Don’t just go for the big names in backup software; some might not deliver what they promise. Digging deep and finding a solution that suits your needs is essential. For example, immutable backups are a must-have for anyone needing to meet strict compliance rules, as they can’t be changed or deleted, even by a ransomware attack. Talk with your IT provider about the backup technologies they’re using for you, how quickly you can expect to recover data, what kind of downtime you might face and whether your backups are on the cloud, local or a mix of both. Make sure your backup ticks all the boxes for compliance, especially if you’re in a sensitive field like health care.

2. Use the 3-2-1 rule.

Once you have a reliable backup solution, consider using the 3-2-1 backup rule, a standard set of best practices for data recovery. The rule recommends storing three copies of your data in two different formats, with one copy stored off-site. This significantly reduces your risk of total data loss.

3. Make sure a backup status report is being generated daily.

Ensure someone – either you or someone on your IT team – is checking the backup status every day. Incomplete backups should be followed up on immediately. Even if your IT team receives a daily report, ask to have a weekly or monthly report delivered to you too, so you can verify that your backups are successful.

4. Do regular restore tests.

Like a fire drill for your data, do a trial run and restore some files or even the whole server every few months to ensure everything works as it should. It’s one thing to have backups, but another to ensure they are in good condition and the data can be retrieved as expected.

Don’t ignore your data backups! Backups might seem like one of those “set and forget” tasks, but when disaster strikes – be it a flood, fire or cyber-attack – your backup could be what saves your business. If you haven’t already, start a conversation with your IT provider and make sure your backup strategy is solid and reliable.