Top 10 tips for choosing a data backup service

Data backup is required by all businesses. With legal requirements tightening and data volumes growing out of control, traditional tape backup is no longer a reliable or cost effective means of meeting compliance levels.

1. Reliability – Use disk-to-disk technology for backups

With disk-to-disk technology, your backup data resides on disk drives, proven to be far more reliable than tapes. When your backup completes, you know the data is secure and accessible on the disk drive. With tapes you never really know if your data is usable until you try to restore it, at which point it's too late. Up to 71% of restores from tape contain failures.

2. Breadth of Offering – Choose a service offerings that meet your business needs

Service provider offerings vary widely. Some are designed primarily for consumers and others for enterprise data centres. Choose a solution that scales, and offers the features you need to provide the level of service you expect. De-duplication and delta-block technologies will improve performance, reduce your data footprint and save you money. Find out if their de-duplication offering is at the file level or the block level. Make sure the solution can back up servers, PCs, and laptops as well your applications.

3. Security – Use end-to-end encryption with no “back door”

60% of organizations using tapes don't encrypt their backups. Using encryption with tape makes backups run slowly and often takes too long to fit within a backup window. As a result, most people simply turn encryption off, creating a security risk. Even with the physical safety of disk-to-disk backup, encryption is essential. Look for 256-bit AES. Find a solution that encrypts your data during transmission and storage. Make certain there isn't a “back door” that would let someone else view your data.

4. Accessibility – Ensure that you can get your data back with minimal delay

Companies waste thousands of hours waiting on tapes. You should have direct access to your backups, with no time spent on physical transport. Your restores should take minutes, not hours or days. Set yourself up to work with your data, not wait for it. Make sure your solution provider can meet your Recovery Time Objectives (RTO) and Recovery Point Objectives (RPO) which determine how quickly you can recover your data and maintain business continuity. Inquire about onsite and offsite replication that provide both improved performance and a solid disaster recovery strategy.

5. Cost-effectiveness – Calculate the true total cost of tape-based back up

Companies lose an average of £64,000 for every hour of lost activity. When you do the math, the pounds make sense: Go with disk-to-disk. Unlike tape, there are close to zero handling costs – no rush deliveries, loading, accessing, locating, or repeated steps. And there's one benefit you can't factor directly: Reputation. Reliability and security can make an incalculable difference with just one avoided breach or failure.

6. Compliance – Choose a data protection partner who has deep know-how about compliance, and the technology to ensure it

Most companies have problems satisfying privacy, security, and data retention regulations. How do you recognize a strong compliance partner? They'll gladly show you a table of regulatory requirements, and list for you how their products, services, and technology help you satisfy them. Even better: Use a service provider who is accredited to store government or NHS data and has been accredited to help you comply with regulatory requirements.

7. Disaster Recovery – Find a service provider that delivers a complete Disaster Recovery solution

Most companies lack a comprehensive, tested plan for disasters. You can't say your data protection is complete until you have a disaster recovery plan that is itself complete and tested. Your backup service provider should have both the product mix and professional services team to help you prepare for a worst-case scenario. Make sure they can help configure your backups so you rebound quickly. Best bet: A service provider who can train you to deal with disasters confidently, based on your company's actual configuration.

8. Ease-of-Use – Get control and reporting you can use anywhere, with ease

Some companies don't – or can't – manage their backups from one place. Managing your backup environment should be simple, and the software you use should eliminate any guesswork that could lead to lost data. You should know at all times if your data is protected across your entire network-including remote offices-by simply looking at a dashboard. The software should be simple to configure using wizards, yet powerful enough to meet your specific needs with customizable views, job propagation, and roles-based security.

9. Customer Support – Find a service provider whose support is passionate, maybe even slightly obsessed

Data Backup service providers' product support varies widely. Customer support should be one of your service provider's main selling points. You shouldn't have to wonder if they'll be there to help when you need them most. Do they offer phone support or email only, are they available 24x7, and who exactly are you talking to when you call that 0800 number? Find a service provider that will treat your data as if it were their own.

10. Reputation – Find a service provider with strong financial backing and customer references

Does your backup service provider have a quality reputation and the financial resources to stay in business for the long haul? There are a lot of service providers that have come and gone. When you consider a service provider, look for one that has strong financial backing, a solid business plan and the ability to be in business as long as your data needs to be stored. Ask for customer references and case studies as their customers are the best validation you can get.

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