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The COVID-19 pandemic has had far-reaching effects on just about every aspect of business. One of many questions it raises is: How has backup and recovery planning changed?
Assuming existing data backup practices -- especially, those involving electronic data -- haven't changed, the answer is a cautious "not much." In situations where organizations store data tapes and hard copy documents off site, practices such as social distancing, wearing face masks, safe delivery of tapes being rotated and handwashing might impact those activities. In these cases, we'll answer the above question with an equally cautious "somewhat."
Here, learn trends in backup and recovery planning, plus discover how organizations can adapt to the new normal for data protection.
Backup and recovery planning: Before and after COVID-19
Pre-COVID, an organization typically backed up data using software for backup orchestration, storage repositories for storage, and network resources for the transmission of backed-up data. Backup schedules ensured that backups occurred in accordance with business and technology requirements. Policies and procedures provided the underpinning of the data backup process. The overall data management process also includes recovery, storage technology, and media protection and destruction.
Characteristics of today's new normal in business include remote working, social distancing, the wearing of face masks, cleaning and disinfecting surfaces, and revising the concepts of meetings, conferences and other business interactions. Employees working at home or in an office still must back up daily files, revisions to databases and other data resources, and they still require access to a variety of systems and other company resources. Organizations must also periodically update and back up these business resources to ensure they perform optimally.
Assuming IT departments engineered sufficiently strong remote access capabilities in time for the pandemic, employees working remotely should not see much of a difference in terms of how they work from home versus in an office -- from a technology perspective. However, other dynamics that arise from working remotely still might require addressing, such as infrequent physical contact and anxiety regarding performance reviews.
Remote workers and office-based workers still must back up data according to established company guidelines. Remote workers might augment their data backups using plugin thumb drives and other devices. Make sure IT has reviewed and approved these devices before using them.
The organization might need to revisit existing data backup systems and repositories from operational and storage capacity metrics, respectively. Amounts of data an organization must back up per employee might change as the organization's operation changes. Frequencies of backups could also change. Smart IT operations should proactively monitor data backup and storage activities and modify resources to accommodate changes as needed.
How you can best back up your data
Regardless of whether employees primarily work remotely or your organization has a mix of remote and on-site workers, existing data backup and recovery processes should be sufficient for employee needs. Expect an increase of external plugin drives to supplement corporate data backup procedures.
Employees working remotely increasingly use company-provided and configured workstations or laptops. Most organizations discourage use of employee-owned laptops and other devices for work purposes. This reduces security breaches via remote access and unauthorized activity by employees.
The best way to back up data is to continue using the backup procedures and repositories established by the IT department. IT technical teams regularly monitor a wide variety of performance, security and operational metrics to ensure that all employees have access to the most secure operating environment.
Current challenges in backup and recovery planning
Organizations with most employees working remotely must continue to address backup and recovery planning as they have pre-pandemic. This is perhaps the most significant challenge facing IT departments -- even if IT employees work remotely, they still need immediate real-time access to all aspects of their technology infrastructure. IT leadership understands this, and technical teams will likely increase their diligence with regards to monitoring the performance of all critical IT systems, including data backup and recovery.
Availability of network resources -- such as internet access -- to connect each remote worker with IT resources presents another challenge. Although network recovery plans have always been a key IT activity, with the substantial increase in remote workers, the demands for greater bandwidth and lower latency might continue to increase.
Finally, organizations should test data backup and recovery resources more frequently -- such as quarterly or every two months -- to ensure that those critical resources remain operational and work as needed in an emergency.