Database backup

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What Is Database Backup?

Database backup is the process of creating a copy of a company’s master and transaction data files.

As consumers, we need extra supplies when our typical resources aren’t usable. For instance, in case of a blackout, one would want candles, flashlights, and canned goods.

Similarly, a database backup is a copy of key data you can access in case of a cyberattack, natural disaster, accidental deletion, or other threat.

Why Is Database Backup Important?

Next to people, data is a business’s most valuable asset. You use data to run your business. Your daily operations depend on financial data, customer information, employee records, product details, proprietary formulas and processes, and application software. Prolonged downtime through data interruption hurts both your reputation and bottom line.

Data corruption and data loss can occur through a natural disaster such as fire and floods, power or hardware failure, human error, and cybercriminal attacks. When a data disaster strikes, you need the ability to quickly recover and restore those files and your business to normal operating status.

The planning strategies of database backup and recovery could not be more crucial to business continuity (BC). Coupled with disaster recovery (DR), the acronym BC/DR encompasses two sides of the same coin. Whereas disaster recovery restores needed technology, business continuity is about keeping the business as a whole functioning.

What Are the Types of Database Backup?

There are three general types of database backup:

  • A full backup is, as the name implies, a copy of all your data, or the whole database or database instance.
  • An incremental backup is when only data that changed since the last backup is updated in a new backup file. For example, if accounting posted three new transactions, only those new transactions would be copied to a new accounting files backup.
  • A differential backup is used to back up all files that have changed since the last full backup was done.

Let’s review these database backup types. Say you make a full backup of your client database on Friday. Then on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday, certain client files change. An incremental backup on each of those days would only include the data that has changed since the previous backup. On Wednesday, you might decide to run a differential backup, which would update the data to account for the changes that were made since Friday.

How Do I Back Up My Entire Database?

Many businesses have multiple databases. For example, Oracle may provide a solution for accounting, but a different application (and database) may be best for inventory control.

Databases also come in different structural forms or schemas, such as relational, table-like databases (Oracle, Microsoft SQL, MySQL, SAP HANA). There are also distributed databases like NoSQL and Hadoop, and Software as a Service (SaaS) platforms like Microsoft 365, Azure, and Amazon Web Services (AWS).

With so many database choices, having the right database backup software is essential. Database backup solutions have often been provided by multiple vendors using different manual and automated processes residing in aging infrastructure. These legacy systems can cause data fragmentation and drastically slow recovery times.

Because data is so valuable to organizations, a modern database backup service or database backup software is essential.

Why Do We Need Database Backup?

No one is immune to data threats. In addition to power interruptions, equipment failures, and other non-purposeful events, it’s important to remember the threat of cyberattacks. Cybercriminals are bent on getting or corrupting your data and making you pay to fix it. They’re clever and persistent.

According to an article by Fortune Magazine, “the world saw an alarming 105% surge in ransomware cyberattacks last year.” Such attacks try to shut down a business’s computer systems, holding the data for ransom by offering to “fix” the problem for a fee.

The need for an effective database backup and recovery solution is more important than ever.

What Are the Benefits of Data Backups?

Data backups provide a safety net in case of any disruptions to your business data. They protect you against potential risks to reputation and bottom line. Consider these database backup benefits:

  • Inexpensive insurance against business interruptions
  • Ability to restore missing or corrupted data
  • Security against cyberattacks
  • Bottom line protection
  • Peace of mind

How Is Database Backup Accomplished?

The way database backup is accomplished depends on the size of your business, the technology you’re using, and the type of electronic data you use to run your business. Your backup process can be manual or automated. A small, uncomplicated business might simply copy files to an alternate hard drive, the cloud, or external drive.

It’s wise to keep copies of data in an offsite location in case of environmental threats or physical break-ins. If your backup involves some physical device (external drive or tape, for example), you will need to transport the backup offsite and physically retrieve it if restoration is required. This process involves manual steps and is more time-consuming and far less reliable and secure than cloud-based backup and recovery.

For more convenience and security, most businesses will want a modern software-based backup solution. For example, BaaS, an online or cloud-based backup solution, is a way of storing data remotely in the cloud and having the service provider manage the backup and recovery infrastructure, software, and support services. Using BaaS can free up equipment and staff, thus boosting the bottom line.

How Do I Restore My Backup Files?

A database backup restore can also be done manually or automatically:

  • Has your database been corrupted?
  • Did someone mistakenly delete some isolated data that can be easily identified and restored?
  • Will you need to restore the whole database?

Some data recovery operations may only involve specifically identified files, tables, or objects. That likely involves quickly getting back one or just a few specific datasets from among many volumes.

On the other hand, any major disruptive event such as a cyberattack, natural or man-made disaster, or even human error may require a full database restore. The goal is to remain operational amidst the disaster and return systems to normal as soon as possible. A robust disaster recovery strategy is critical to helping organizations:

  • Minimize downtime
  • Minimize data loss
  • Mitigate overall damage

What Are the Disadvantages of Database Backup?

Database backup requires time and labor costs associated with establishing procedures, defining schedules, and monitoring the related processes. This is because databases are typically used to hold critical business data, like customer records or product inventory, and require clear processes.

Cloud backup comes with many pros, but also cons, such as:

  • You can’t access your data if you don’t have Internet access.
  • You have to deal with bandwidth issues to back up large chunks of data.
  • While cloud recovery of small quantities of data is fast and easy, full data recovery could take some time.
  • Likewise, cloud entry level with a small amount of data is inexpensive, while large quantities of data can steadily increase costs.

What Are the Main Disadvantages of Backing Up Data Locally?

If hackers and cybercriminals can access your live operational files, they may also try to corrupt your database backups.

It’s much safer to back up in the cloud or some other remote location than on-premises. The drawbacks of a local backup are:

  • Higher costs compared to cloud backup
  • Scalability concerns
  • Increased maintenance
  • Enhanced cybersecurity issues
  • More vulnerable to events like fires and floods

How Often Should You Back Up Your Database?

How often you back up your database depends on the nature of your business and database backup strategy. The best rule is “as often as you’re changing your files.”

If your business requires that you minimize work-loss exposure, consider taking incremental backups every 15 to 30 minutes, for example. Many businesses schedule full backups weekly, with incremental or differential backups daily.

It’s a good business practice to periodically review your procedures. Analysis of growth, data volumes, and experience with threats or actual disruptions may prompt changes to your database backup procedures or frequency.

How Long to Keep Database Backups?

This depends on your business and the type of data you gather and use. Do you have any required regulatory reporting requirements? In this case, the database backup and recovery best practice would be to retain older backups for regulatory compliance. These can come in handy in special business situations as well, such as reconstructing transaction history.

You may have other considerations when defining your database backup strategy. What, if anything, have you published about the retention of records in your privacy and information policies? How often are database transactions added or updated?

Bottom line—your business needs will determine both frequency and retention decisions. Reviewing policies and procedures frequently is a smart business practice. It’s much better to be prepared by anticipating problems or even new business activity, rather than scrambling to recover from a surprise data difficulty.

Cohesity and Database Backup

It’s imperative to try and prevent any data attack or disruption with security strategies and technology. Maintaining a database backup and recovery system is equally important. Having the means to restore databases quickly and easily when an unwelcome data breach occurs is being operationally protected and financially responsible.

Cohesity’s backup and recovery solution simplifies your backup and recovery processes and makes them more efficient. You can look forward to predictable pricing for all workloads and one intuitive user interface for your data.

At Cohesity, you can rely on encryption for data that’s both in flight and at rest, fast recovery times, and easy-to-search data.

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