The importance of a professional backup is undisputed in the age of digitalization. For a long time now, computer files have no longer been simply “data”; for many, they are also corporate capital. Data protection strategies are among the most important tasks of IT departments and external IT service providers. During a data backup, data is copied to external storage media so that it can be restored promptly in the event of an emergency. But a backup is much more than just copying files. The 3-2-1 backup rule is considered a safe backup strategy. The following applies: Minimum 3 copies, on two different data carriers and one backup off-site (e.g. data center). But are IT employees then permanently busy backing up data? No, because modern backups can be automated to a high degree. While ever-increasing data volumes and complex infrastructures make it difficult to establish a smooth backup solution in companies, there are products and services to mitigate this challenge

Weaknesses of outdated backup approaches

Hybrid work environments and increasing data volumes are not only changing the way we work, but also existing security mechanisms. IT experts need to rethink backup approaches and optimize them to the new circumstances in the long term. Today, it is already taken for granted that data must be available anytime and anywhere. A failure tolerance in an “always-on time” of employees almost no longer exists. However, if a data loss or cyber attack occurs unexpectedly, not all companies are protected against it by a long shot. In the pandemic, phishing methods, ransomware, and encryption Trojans have surged. Most often, data loss occurs due to faulty hardware and cyberattacks and careless employees, especially when they work from home. Among the weaknesses of outdated backup approaches is the problem of continuous data protection. Data backups are often manual and unreliable.

IT administrators must always check intervals and the completeness of backups. Fuses must also be tested, but these tests are time-consuming and are usually performed infrequently, if at all. Another weakness is the long downtime in case of data loss. The process when data is recovered can sometimes take several days in the worst case scenario and is the result of an outdated disaster recovery strategy. It is already crucial in the process of backup that some backup quality management is taken into account. Advanced backup technologies ideally restore backups in minutes.

Gartner describes the situation as follows in its publication “Magic Quadrant for Enterprise Backup/Recovery Software””:

“Companies around the world are looking for ways to easily, quickly and cost-effectively ensure that their data is adequately protected. Further, they are equally vocal about the need for backup to be fundamentally optimized. Increasing frustration with backup suggests that previous approaches to protecting data are no longer sufficient to meet current, let alone future, recovery needs.”

What are the backup species?

A distinction is made between full, incremental and differential backups. Depending on the type, a backup requires more or less storage space and takesdifferent amounts of time for backup & restore.

Full backups:

As the name suggests, full backup backs up all data. Full backups take a long time to back up and restore. The backup software does not check whether files have changed (and then picks them out individually), but backs up a new image each time and overwrites the old one if necessary. The method requires the most disk space.

Differential Backups:

With differential backup, only the data that has changed or been added since the last full backup is backed up. Compared to full backups, differential backups save a lot of disk space. The recovery process requires the first full backup and the last differential backup.

Incremental backups:

Incremental backups are similar to differential backups in their first pass. Here also only newly added or changed files are considered, but the cycle closes with a full image backup. Restore starts with the last full backup plus all subsequent incremental backups.

Modern Backup Technologies: Backup-as-a-Service and real-time backups:

The problem of continuity can be eliminated through backup-as-a-service models. Compared to the backup methods mentioned above, real-time backups (CPO: Continuous Data Protection) write data directly to the backup disk (e.g. online storage) as soon as it is created or edited. CPO backups enable fast recovery in the event of a problem. Backup-as-service models are entire backup strategies. IT service providers offer a complete backup concept for companies. In addition to “normal” IT security, the setup, configuration and monitoring of backup systems is offered. If you have more about IT security and especially backups, you can find more information at the following link: