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Online Backup - how to look after the data you keep on Google Drive and Office 365

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No-one really wants to talk about backups until there is a problem!

For most small and medium-sized businesses, taking backups involved changing the tapes and remembering to put them in the safe or in the car. For larger businesses it was all down to IT, and you just had to remember to put your files in the right place to make sure they were taken care of - any problems and you just call the helpdesk.

The situation is a bit less straightforward now, as we start to store our data "online" or "in the cloud". It's someone else's computer and there are loads of ways of using it - you can upload files directly, store them direct from your email, and you can even just drop them on your desktop and let synchronisation magic take care of it for you. It's quick and convenient, and most of us don't think about what is happening in the background, or what to do if it goes wrong.

What can go wrong?

Lots of things, but here are the main ones (remember we're just talking about backups / data loss here):
  • Accidental Deletion - you or someone else in your business accidentally deletes your files. This can be obvious - "help, everything's gone!", or more subtle, which is usually worse. You go looking for some files that you are sure you saved and they aren't there. Did you definitely put them there? When? It gets complicated quite quickly.
  • Malicious damage (someone intentionally deletes your files). We don't like to think that this should happen. We trust everyone that we intentionally share our data with. We can't stop trusting people, but we can still be careful. This can manifest itself obviously, or can be harder to detect. Perhaps one or two important files go missing, or get changed slightly but importantly. Think price lists, contract documents, product information.
  • People changes and data ownership. Many businesses are relaxed about where their staff store their data, and let people do their own thing. Everyone has their own favourite tools or ways of working, and many can be registered with a free account. Maybe the shared drives are a bit slow, and it's easier to use dropbox? The problem is that when that person leaves the business, they may take that data with them. It may have been gradually copied over time and without the intention to cause harm. Worse - they may even be able to argue that some or all of it belongs to them. There's enough here for another article, but it isn't as simple as just setting policies and disciplining staff.
  • Ransomware. This is horrible stuff and prevention is most definitely better than cure. However, once it gets on your network it can spread, using your shared drives and cloud storage (in certain cases) to propagate. Ransomware scrambles your files so that you can't use them, uses your own systems to spread through your network and then extorts money to get your files back.

What can we do about it?

There are a huge variety of cloud storage providers, and the story isn't consistent. Some backup features are provided as standard, but I wouldn't recommend relying on it...

Where the service is offered you generally have to restore all data help by a particular user to a point in time (say last Monday), meaning that any changes made since that time have to be tracked separately and copied back in once the backup is taken. You can also check the version history for individual files and restore them (or perhaps use scripting to automate this). Neither of these approaches are easy or straightforward.

The obvious options are:

  • Traditional Backup of some description (maintain a server (either local or remote) with copies of your files, including a history of changes, perhaps every day in the last week, every week in the last month, and every month since you started). This would need the usual programme of monitoring, periodic restoration tests etc.
  • Cloud Backup - this is our recommended solution in most cases. All of your online / cloud hosted files and emails are backed up every night and kept for as long as you subscribe to the service. You can restore some or all of the files whenever you like which is quick and convenient.

Enterprise Systems is a reseller for SpinBackup (G Suite / Google Drive only) as well as for Spanning Backup (Office 365 as well as G Suite). We can easily combine this with your existing G Suite or Office 365 accounts, regardless of how you subscribed. We'll be writing more about these products in another article.

Closely related things I haven't covered

This is quite a complex area and you should be aware of the following related topics:

  • Ransomware Prevention
  • Authentication best practice (passwords and similar)
  • General backup best practice
  • Hardware redundancy
  • Data Protection (including Data Retention)
  • Data Loss Prevention
  • Working collaboratively and co-editing
  • Organising and searching for your data
  • File storage options

More Information Needed?

Please get in touch, we'd be pleased to help.


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