How Often Should You Back Up Your Data?

September 26th, 2019

Backing up data as a part of your organization’s insurance policy or industry regulations entails more discretion than just making a copy of everything. When designing an effective data center backup strategy, you should take yourself through a journey with the Five Ws and H:

  • Who? – Managing data backup in-house or working with a vendor?
  • What? – Backing up all of your organization’s data, or only the most vital? What about endpoint data?
  • Where? – Storing backups on-premise or off-site?
  • When? – How often are you backing up your data?
  • Why? – In-house security policies or legal obligations or both?
  • How? – Traditional backup or via the cloud?

While much attention is given to the who, what, where, why, and how of data backup, not as much attention is given to the “when”, or when you should perform backups, and how often they should be done. It’s easy to take the importance of this question for granted, especially when you’re working with a data center backup vendor who offers management of the service. However, it is becoming common for vendors in this space to provide users with the choice of how often their data is backed up. Data loss can occur at any time, so it’s important to be mindful of just how often you should back up new data as a preventive measure.

Factors to Consider

Even if you’re a seasoned IT professional, this can still present you with a few questions. According to Microsoft, some important questions you should ask yourself when determining a cadence for backup are:

  • How important is the data on your systems?
  • What type of information does the data contain?
  • How often does the data change?
  • How quickly do you need to recover the data?
  • Do you have the equipment to perform backups?
  • Who will be responsible for the backup and recovery plan?
  • What is the best time to schedule backups?
  • Do you need to store backups off-site?

However, many data center backup experts identify one of these questions as being the most crucial: how often does your data change? Almost every organization today is in the business of creating new content. Whether it’s blog posts, emails, consumer data, or policy documents, new data is being created every day, almost every minute. With this in mind, organizations need to stay on top of backing up all this new data.

Many IT professionals get a little nervous about this topic, given that some data center backup products charge per backup. For example, Cloudways charges per GB of backup storage and per the frequency and retention of clients’ backups. While smaller organizations will do fine with a standard incremental backup every 24 hours with a weekly full backup, enterprises typically require a higher frequency.

Recommendations

You can apply quite of bit of nuance, dependent on your organization’s situation. The average mid-size company will benefit from performing a full backup every 24 hours, with an incremental backup every 6 hours. However, businesses such as mid-size online retailers will want to increase their incremental backups to 4 hours in addition to producing transaction logs on an hourly basis. Transaction logs are files which list any changes to your database (in this case, new purchases) and are necessary for maintaining the integrity of your database, so they are crucial to an effective backup strategy.

If you want to take a more aggressive approach, you can perform a full backup every 24 hours while doing incremental backups every 3 hours and transaction logs at least every half-hour. This scenario works best for data systems that see a lot of traffic, such as those belonging to enterprise online retailers and large banks. With these businesses, lost transactions are just not an option. Given that backing up this frequently can be quite the load on storage capabilities, it is recommended to invest in a secondary server in this scenario.  

No matter what frequency you choose, it’s also important to consider whether or not your backups will be performed automatically or manually. Scheduling automatic backups is one way to save your IT team time. Automating backups means your team can spend time focused on other crucial tasks. Competitive data center backup products will provide users with features like automated backup which they can schedule to their liking, but this is not a feature available across the board. When on the market for this type of software, be sure to confirm whether this is a supported capability.

If you’d like to take a deeper diver into data center backup software, take a look at our new Data Center Backup Buyer’s Guide. It is a great place to start to find more information about specific solutions, compare products head-to-head, and see what your fellow IT professionals have to say.