Data backups are among the top cyber security countermeasures against ransomware, flood, fire, and other threats to data availability. As long as you have backup copies of your data, your business will have a pretty good chance of recovering from almost any major disaster. But what kind of data backup solution is the best?
It depends on your specific requirements. These days, backup solutions can be grouped into two - online backups and offline backups. Each has its own advantages and disadvantages. Knowing when to select one over the other can help you maximise your financial resources when spending on a backup solution.
Since a comprehensive comparison of these two sets of solutions can be quite long, we’ve decided to focus first on online backups. In this post, we’ll help identify situations when an online backup would be a better fit. But before we do that, let me make sure our definitions of these terms are the same.
Online backup solutions are basically those solutions that require an Internet connection. Also known as cloud-based backup, these solutions are delivered by a third party, i.e. the backup solution’s service provider. The provider takes charge of purchasing, setting up, administering, and securing the backup infrastructure. Customers then upload their backup data to this remote infrastructure and are charged under a utility-based pricing scheme.
Offline backup solutions, on the other hand, are those solutions that are purchased upfront and then kept in the customer’s own premises. The customer normally takes charge of installing, managing, maintaining, and securing the backup infrastructure. In most cases, the only network connection you’ll need (if ever) between your system and the offline backup solution would be a LAN.
So when should you choose online backup over offline backup?
When your budget is limited
Because online backup solutions follow a utility-based pricing model, you pay according to the amount of storage resources you consume over a certain period, say per month or per year. The monthly or annual costs are significantly cheaper than the upfront cost needed to acquire, install, and configure an entire offline backup set up.
Although the accumulated costs of online backups can eventually overtake the upfront cost of offline backups over time, utility-based pricing is still a better fit for organisations who simply don’t have the capital to procure their own backup infrastructure. Besides, offline backup solutions still require administrative and maintenance costs.
When you want the ability to backup anytime, anywhere
Since online backups are performed through the Internet, they can be done practically anytime, anywhere due to the greatly improved accessibility of broadband connections. This is ideal for organisations who want their employees and executives to do regular backups of their laptops and other mobile devices even during business trips.
There are benefits of doing backups regularly. This will ensure that corporate data stored in a mobile device during a business trip can still be retrieved in the event the device is stolen or lost. Because out-of-town backups are performed outside the firewall protection of your corporate network, you would have to carry out the backups over a secure connection (e.g. encrypted by SSL/TLS). You also need to make sure your device has adequate virus and malware protection.
When you’re located in a disaster prone area
Because they’re usually stored in the same location as your production data (the data you use in day-to-day tasks), one of the limitations of offline backups is that you risk losing all your data if your premises gets inundated by flood, earthquake, fire, or any major disaster. That risk goes up considerably if your premises is situated in a disaster prone area.
Companies using online backups are almost immune to complete data loss because production data and backup data are stored separately. In addition, reputable cloud-based backup providers operate multiple data centers, allowing you to have redundant copies of your data in multiple geographical locations and eliminating the possibility of complete data loss.
Like regular software updates and patching, periodic backups should be part of your weekly or daily cyber security checklist. These best practices will greatly reduce the risk of data loss and the potential operational, regulatory, legal, and business consequences that come with it.