Cybersecurity threats are continuously evolving; IT systems administrators are tasked with constantly seeking better backup methods that can bring their information systems back online in the event of a malware attack.
It is now common knowledge that having an up-to-date or even a state of the art anti-virus program may not always protect a business from getting infected. There are always Zero-day or obscure security issues that can be exploited; not to mention the possibility of internal threats.
With that being said, the final line of defense always comes down to an organization's data backup/ recovery strategy and solution. Data backups are the last line of defense in saving an organization from total devastation.
After reading the title of this article, you may be asking yourself, "what is a flat backup solution?"
A flat backup solution is a system that uses storage block level snapshots to create "backups". Unlike a traditional backup solution or backup software that usually copies the data over and creates the backups, a flat backup solution uses storage block level snapshots to create a point-in-time trail of the data as it changes. Just like a version control system, these snapshots inventory file system changes over time.
Now let's look into the ways that a business can benefit from utilizing a flat backup solution:
1) Recovery Time
As unfortunate as it is, organizations can crumble if your operations are down for an extended amount of time. You may have the best backups but if it takes your IT department countless hours or days to restore them, you could lose a lot of money... or worse, you could go out of business. Sadly, this is a reality and is the reason why firms decide to pay large ransoms after attacks like ransomware infections. A recent example is the ransomware attack at a hospital in Indiana. A $55,000 ransom was paid to recover data even though they had backups of their data. Why wouldn't they restore their backups, you ask? It would simply take too long. The recent ransomware attack in Mecklenburg County, North Carolina is another example: the county used existing backups to restore files without resorting to paying a ransom last December, but it took them weeks to get fully up and running.
Flat backup solutions, on the other hand, almost always guarantee a fast recovery time objective (RTO). In real world cases, you can put your data sets back to where they were in in a matter of minutes, if not seconds (depending on the amount of data you have to restore).
As mentioned above, flat backup solutions use snapshots; these snapshots are created efficiently at the storage block level. This enables the possibility of providing much higher Recovery Point Objective (RPO). Snapshots can be created at higher intervals, giving IT teams the ability and flexibility to recover lost files and folders far more efficiently.
This happens more often than not: an engineer works on a design file all morning and suddenly, the file gets corrupted or is accidentally overwritten in the middle of the day. A flat backup solution can help save the day by recovering to an earlier point in time, in turn, effectively saving the user time and money.
3) Storage Cost Savings
Storage costs account for a large portion of an organization's overall IT expense. Circling back to the realm of storage efficiency, flat backups can help save a significant amount of storage space. Flat backups often apply on-the-fly compression, which helps reduce the space requirements. The benefit there is less money spent on storage, or an increased number of backups for the same amount of storage.
4) Your backups are Safe
Flat backups create layers of protected snapshots on top of each other, leaving only the very top layer exposed. In the event of a cybersecurity infection, only the exposed layer would be affected. All of the underlying levels will remain safe from harm, and the IT team will be able to roll back to the original data state, solving the issue of "infected backups."
5) It Costs less to Acquire and Maintain
Due to their less complex design, flat backup solutions often cost less to acquire and require far less effort to maintain, allowing IT teams more time to devote to other important tasks or projects.
6) Greater data replication possibilities
Since their core mechanism is tailored around file-system snapshots, flat backup solutions often offer a greater level of data replication possibilities, including data replication to off-site and cloud storage providers, as well as various other storage solutions.
In conclusion, relying on traditional methods may not provide sufficient protection against today's more intelligent and smarter threats. Being able to recover using storage block level snapshots will be a necessary asset, which is why flat backup solutions should be implemented at every firm, no matter the size.
Alan Baghumian is a Systems Administrator, Software Developer, Researcher and the Co-Founder of Reevert Software LLC, a firm specializing in innovative backup and recovery solutions.
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