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Backup and DR

Guide to Backup Management for MSPs

At first glance, managed backup services may seem simple. You just copy data to a backup location, then recover it from there if disaster strikes, right?

Well, no. A reliable, cost-efficient backup and recovery strategy requires much more than this. Below, we offer an overview of what it takes to build a truly successful backup and recovery operation, along with links to further reading for more in-depth information.

Define your recovery strategy

You may think of data recovery as the last thing to think about when designing a backup management strategy. After all, recovery happens after backup takes place, so it may seem natural to plan for it after you have already designed your backup strategy.

The reality, however, is that you can only recover data effectively if your backup routine supports your recovery needs and goals. Toward that end, defining your recovery strategy should be the first step in designing your overall backup management strategy. It’s only by identifying your recovery goals that you can later design a backup strategy that supports them.

An effective recovery strategy should be:

  • Tailored to fit your recovery plans and needs, which may vary from client to client or industry to industry.
  • Designed to handle the specific types of disruption (natural disasters, ransomware and so on) that your clients are most likely to face.
  • Communicated clearly to your clients, so that they know what to expect when recovery happens following a disaster (even if they don’t have any role to play in the recovery process).
  • Tested, reviewed and updated on a regular and recurring basis.

For additional tips on designing an effective backup recovery strategy, check out our guide to  data recovery for MSPs:

Further reading Data Recovery Best Practices for MSPs

Define your backup strategy

Once you have established your recovery goals, you can define your backup strategy. This strategy should take into account:

  • The types of data you are backing up (such as system data, application data and operational data).
  • The types of backup (full backups, differential backups and so on) you plan to perform.
  • The backup methods you will use.

Your backup strategy should also reflect the type of backup storage you plan to use. In addition, if you are backing up special types of systems -- such as databases, virtual machines or file servers -- as opposed to general-purpose backup, your backup strategy should be tailored to fit those requirements.

For more guidance, check out our guide to backup for MSPs:

Further reading Backup Best Practices for MSPs

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Define your backup storage strategy

There are a variety of ways to store backup data. Broadly speaking, they fall into two main categories: local backup storage and cloud-based backup.

However, planning backup storage is more complicated than simply choosing one or other of these backup locations. In many cases, you'll want to use both types of backup location simultaneously (to help meet the 3-2-1 backup requirements).

In addition, within each type of backup storage category, there are various specific approaches to take and considerations to weigh. When working with local backup storage, you could choose disk-based backup, a NAS device, a file server, tape drives or a combination of all of these. You also need to think about securing remote and physical access to local storage devices, as well as monitoring backup media and replacing it as needed.

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In the cloud, choosing the right cloud storage provider and the right storage tier (hot, cold or archive) is important. So is setting up a data lifecycle policy that moves data automatically between storage tiers to help save money. And data security is an important consideration in the cloud, too.

For more information on these and other topics related to backup storage strategies, refer to our backup storage management guide for MSPs:

Further reading Backup Storage Management for MSPs

Define managed backup features

The market is flooded with managed backup tools that help automate backup and recovery operations. These tools vary widely in their pricing and functionality.

Key factors to weigh when selecting a managed backup tool include:

  • Which operating systems does the tool support?
  • Does the tool work with all of the backup locations and storage vendors (local as well as cloud) you use now, or may use in the future?
  • Which automation features does the tool offer?
  • Does the tool allow you to test recovery operations?
  • Does the tool fit your budget?
  • Which remote management features does the tool provide? For guidance on these, see our article on remote management features for backup and recovery:

Further reading Remote Management Features You Need in a Backup Solution

Conclusion

Crafting a backup and recovery plan that allows MSPs to back up their clients' data reliably and recover it quickly is hard work. It's even harder when you factor in the need to control managed backup software and data storage costs in order to protect the MSP's profit margin.

But by giving careful consideration to your recovery needs, the backup methods and storage locations you use and the managed backup software you adopt, you can design a backup and recovery strategy that exceeds your customers' needs, while also generating healthy profits for your business.

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