Whether your data resides in the cloud, on premises or in a hybrid environment, it remains arguably the single most important asset of your business, writes Mohammed Sayed, Head of Technical Services SA at DMP SA. It needs to be protected, and it needs to be recoverable, which means that, even in the era of digital transformation and the cloud, it needs to be backed up according to best practice. In the event of data loss, backups are there to restore data from to ensure business continuity. However, while immutability and air gapping are vital, especially given the rise of ransomware, these are not the only considerations. The usability of the front-end system is just as important because you need to be able to access your immutable, air-gapped backups to restore data in case of emergency.

Ransomware – it can and will happen to you

Despite the meteoric rise in the number of ransomware attacks in the past few years, there remains a myth that it is something that only affects larger enterprises and that attackers do not target smaller businesses. The reality is that, although bigger companies may be more frequently targeted because the size of the potential pay-out is larger, cybercriminals will attack small businesses and even individuals, especially if they do not have adequate protection in place to make them less vulnerable.

No matter what size your business is, or what your data storage strategy is, it is critical to have a complete and comprehensive Data Recovery (DR) plan to mitigate risk – not just risk of losing data and the cost involved, but the risk to brand and reputation that causes extensive damage in the long run.

Disaster recovery must include adequate data security measures, including two-factor authentication on backups, as well as offsite backups and multiple copies of data. Data also needs to be encrypted, both at rest and in flight, and systems and restores must be tested to make sure that they are functional and can be recovered in an acceptable timeframe.

But can you use it?

The best backup strategy in the world, with offsite backups and multiple copies following accepted best practice, and immutable and air-gapped copies, is all well and good and is an important part of a DR strategy. However, if you are unable to access these backups when they are required, or the front end of your system is overly complex and not user friendly, the entire plan and the most sophisticated systems in the world will not be necessarily enable you to get your data back .

Given the skills gap in data management and the fact that backups are not a core competency of the majority of businesses, it is vital that backup systems feature a user-friendly front end. This allows individuals, including non-technical users, to easily navigate and interact with the backup system.

Not only will this enable you to perform backup tasks and testing efficiently, without requiring extensive technical knowledge, but an intuitive front end also streamlines the backup process, enabling users to initiate backups, schedule automated backups, or restore data quickly.

A well-designed interface with logical workflows reduces error, improves reliability of backups, enhances productivity and saves time for both individual users and IT teams. This in turn increases trust and confidence in the backup system.

The importance of partnership

Data is important – in fact, it is the foundation of the digital world and a critical business asset. It is also inherently complex, especially in hybrid cloud/on-prem environments and multi-cloud environments, which have become the norm. While the cloud has many business benefits, self-managing data is not one of them, and data management remains the responsibility of the data creator – your business.

Specialised skills are typically necessary to manage data architecture and ensure smooth daily operations, not to mention ensuring that backups are completed, tested and available for restore purposes. A managed service provider partner will investigate your business from an overall perspective and tailor your backup and data management solutions to best meet your needs, while keeping best practices in mind.

Whether you need a full managed services offering with proactive end-to-end data management, or reactive support that works in conjunction with internal IT teams to specifically handle data management, a specialist partner is an invaluable asset on this journey.

In today’s world, it is essential to always remember that data management is only as good as the ability to restore the data. If data protection is not actively managed and monitored, then warning signs may fall through the cracks, and if data cannot be restored from the backup, the backup is useless.

Even if backups are automated, they need to be tested otherwise organisations risk all the repercussions that go along with data loss. And even with the best systems in the world, if your backups are not user-friendly and cannot be accessed, they cannot help your business when you need them the most.

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