Table of Contents
In this article, we'll take a look at a free eBook released by Hornetsecurity, a software development company focused on SaaS-based IT Security products which we already talked about a couple of times in the past (see our 365 Total Protection and IT Awareness posts). The eBook name is The Backup Bible - The Complete Guide to Backup and Disaster Recovery.
Will the content live up to such an ambitious title? We'll find out soon enough!
While we are there, we will also spend some valuable time explaining what is meant by backup and disaster recovery, the differences between these two best practices, and why they constitute two fundamental pillars of information security. Are we ready? Let's start!
In this digital age, we all know that data is the lifeblood of businesses and organizations. Protecting data from loss or damage is paramount for any organization, and two key strategies come into play to fulfill this goal: backup and disaster recovery. Understanding these concepts, their differences and their significance in IT security is vital for safeguarding valuable information and ensuring business continuity.
What is Backup?
Backup is the process of creating copies of data, applications, and systems at a specific point in time. These copies, often referred to as backups or replicas, are stored separately from the original data. The primary purpose of backups is to provide a means to recover data and systems in case of accidental deletion, data corruption, hardware failures, or other non-catastrophic incidents.
Here are the key characteristics of a typical backup process:
- Regular and Scheduled. Backups are typically scheduled at regular intervals, such as daily or weekly, to ensure that the most recent data is preserved.
- Data Preservation. Backups prioritize the preservation of data and do not usually address the broader scope of disaster recovery.
- Rapid Recovery. Backups are designed to enable rapid data and system recovery to a previous state, helping to minimize downtime.
- Multiple Versions. They often include multiple versions of the data, allowing you to restore to different points in time.
What is Disaster Recovery?
Disaster recovery (DR) is a comprehensive strategy aimed at maintaining business continuity in the face of large-scale disasters or catastrophic events. It encompasses a broader scope than backup by not only focusing on data recovery but also on the recovery of IT infrastructure, applications, and the ability to continue essential business operations, even in the wake of significant disruptions.
Here's a list of the most relevant aspects of a good Disaster Recovery strategy:
- Holistic Approach. Disaster recovery plans encompass not only data but also the entire IT infrastructure, applications, and processes.
- Continuity Planning. DR planning involves developing strategies to ensure the continuous operation of critical business functions during and after a disaster.
- Geographic Diversity. DR often involves off-site or geographically diverse data centers to ensure redundancy and resilience.
- RTO and RPO. Recovery Time Objective (RTO) and Recovery Point Objective (RPO) metrics are used to define the maximum allowable downtime and data loss in the event of a disaster.
The Backup Bible
As we can easily understand from what we said above, both backup and disaster recovery are essential for safeguarding sensitive data. Regular backups ensure data can be restored in the event of accidental deletion or cyberattacks like ransomware; in addition to that, a good disaster recovery plan ensures that, even in the face of catastrophic events like natural disasters, cyberattacks, or system failures, the organization can continue its operations with minimal disruption.
That's also the high-level approach followed by The Backup Bible eBook by Hornetsecurity: focus on Backup, yet also on Disaster Recovery, treating them as two very different, yet complementary countermeasures that any decent IT Security policy should implement. More precisely, the eBook is split into four sections (or parts):
- Part 1: Creating a Backup & Disaster Recovery Strategy
- Part 2: Backup Best Practices in Action
- Part 3: Disaster Recovery & Business Continuity Blueprint
- Part 4: Providing Backup Services to MSP Customers
Each section is split into several chapters, for a grand total of 29 chapters (plus the Introduction, Glossary, and Appendix) and 180 pages: definitely not bad for a free IT Security eBook!
Let's now see a general overview of each of these parts.
Part 1: Creating a Backup & Disaster Recovery Strategy
This section, after a brief introduction (Chapter 1), explains to the reader the main purpose of the book: create and design a good plan (Chapter 2) while adopting a risk-based approach (Chapter 3). We liked a lot the high-level take of these first chapters: the author takes his time to describe the importance of theory over practice, without rushing to implementation aspects. For example, it mentions the Legal and Compliance aspects, which are often the reason why we need an IT Security plan with a mandatory backup and disaster recovery policy within it.
The list of common risks (3.3) is also worth mentioning: whoever works in the IT Security field knows the importance of identifying the risks affecting their company and properly assessing them, and the book explains the concept very well. There is also a section dedicated to cloud-based solutions (Chapter 4), recovery objectives and loss tolerances (Chapter 5), and some advice to consider while building a fault-tolerant system (Chapter 6).
Part 2: Backup Best Practices in Action
This section delves more into practical concepts. First of all, it guides the reader into the latest backup and disaster recovery technologies available (Chapter 7), emphasizing the main features to look for in free vs. paid software solutions. It then lists the most used storage targets available nowadays (Chapter 8), such as magnetic tapes, optical disks, cloud storage, and the like.
Right after that, after a brief explanation of the role of backup in an organizational security business model (Chapter 10), it focuses on some implementation-related tasks: backup deployment (Chapter 11), documentation (Chapter 12), scheduling (Chapter 13), monitoring and testing (Chapter 14), and maintenance (Chapter 15).
Part 3: Disaster Recovery & Business Continuity Blueprint
Designing and implementing the organization's backup & disaster recovery plans is not a task that should be limited to system administrators and software developers: the planning phase must involve all the company's business units, as well as get the required approval from the executives. This section is here just for that, with an entire chapter (Chapter 16) dedicated to the importance of establishing the plan's scope, identifying the locations to cover, performing a business inventory, preparing the personnel, and so on.
There is also a focus on Business Continuity and Disaster Recovery architecture (Chapter 17), explaining the importance of using secondary backup sites and what to require from them, as well as introducing the concept of replication (Chapter 18) and how to use it to enable Business Continuity. This section's last chapters are dedicated, respectively, to Disaster Recovery business processes (Chapter 19) and testing (Chapter 20).
Part 4: Providing Backup Services to MSP Customers
This section is dedicated to Managed Service Providers (MSP), who are typically responsible not only for their organization's data but also for their customers' data. For this very reason, they do have several additional responsibilities and challenges, which are mostly addressed within this last section.
More specifically, it will guide the reader to design and develop a Backup-as-a-Service feature that could be used by (and potentially sold to) their customers. Needless to say, such an ambitious goal requires the reader to grasp several advanced concepts (service level agreements, regulatory considerations, auditing operations, off-boarding process) that are thoroughly explained in Chapters 22-29.
About the Author
Before wrapping it up, let's spend a couple of words about the author. The Backup Bible is written by Eric Siron, a four-time awardee of the Microsoft Most Valuable Professional award in Cloud and Datacenter Management (check out his Microsoft MVP public profile). He has worked in IT since 1998, designing, deploying, and maintaining server, desktop, network, storage, and backup systems. Throughout his career, Eric has achieved numerous Microsoft certifications and was a Microsoft Certified Trainer for four years.
In the world of IT security, backup and disaster recovery are two pillars of data protection and business continuity. While backup focuses on data preservation and recovery from non-catastrophic incidents, disaster recovery encompasses a broader range of strategies to ensure business continuity in the face of large-scale disasters. By understanding the differences and significance of both, organizations can establish a robust defense against data loss, system failures, cyberattacks, and unforeseen disasters. Investing in these measures is not just a matter of IT security but a fundamental aspect of overall business resilience and long-term success in our increasingly data-dependent world.
Given this premise, The Backup Bible eBook does an excellent job of introducing these two pivotal concepts to both experienced and inexperienced readers, by offering a comprehensive coverage of both of them in theory and practice. Whether you're looking to protect sensitive customer information, preserve vital business records, or ensure the continuity of your operations, this eBook has you covered. After reading it, you will gain a well-rounded understanding of the critical concepts and practices needed to safeguard your organization's data.
One of the standout features of this book is its emphasis on practicality. It doesn't just provide theoretical knowledge; it offers actionable insights and best practices that you can implement immediately, assuming you have (or find) the right partner. This also means that you'll be eventually able to choose the right backup solution for your organization, set up a decent disaster recovery plan, and optimize your data protection strategy.
Regardless of whether you're a seasoned IT professional or a newcomer to the world of data protection, this book is tailored to meet your needs. It provides foundational knowledge for beginners while offering advanced techniques and strategies for experts. This versatility makes it an excellent resource for IT teams, managers, and decision-makers alike, as it empowers everyone to contribute to the security and resilience of their organization's data.