Backup Planning: The Complete Guide

Businesses rely on digital systems and the information stored in them. Your entire operation can come to a screeching halt if that information is corrupted, damaged or lost. Data backup planning is one of the best ways to ensure you have at least one copy of your data that can be accessed quickly in any situation.

Let’s take a deep dive into backup planning.

What is backup planning?

Data backup planning is the process of evaluating what data will be backed up, the tools and techniques for backing up data, the frequency of backups and the recovery procedure(s). In other words, factors like costs, risks, frequency and accessibility are taken into account to draft a solid backup plan.

Why do we need data backups?

Data backups are a must-have for any business that wants to stay in business. Here’s why we need backups:

Data is the lifeblood of modern businesses

Only 78.5% of small businesses survive their first year. When faced with a security incident, that number goes way down. Incidents like human error, hardware/software failure, cyberattacks or natural disasters can severely impact businesses that lack proper backup planning. It hurts revenue, reputation, compliance failures and other legal penalties when outages are prolonged due to a lack of recovery readiness.

Cyberattacks thwart and bypass preventative measures

Businesses today are seeing a massive influx of data for every activity from lead generation to customer conversion. Attackers deploy sophisticated cyberattacks targeted at this steady stream of data stored in the cloud or on-premises. These attacks include but are not limited to ransomware, malware, DDoS attacks, data breaches, supply chain attacks and zero-day exploits.

Business resiliency

Although data can be lost in many ways, you should never underestimate the occurrence of catastrophic natural disasters. Businesses must be resilient against incidents that impact the viability or availability of the production workloads.

Shared responsibility model

Cloud-based workloads (such as SaaS applications) recommend users perform third-party backup solutions as part of their Shared Responsibility. This means that you, not the SaaS provider, is responsible for data protection against human error, coding/scripting errors and malicious attacks (insider/outsider).

What is the purpose of a backup plan?

Backup planning is carried out with two key objectives in mind:

Recovery time objective (RTO)

RTO is the maximum amount of time a business can afford to be without access to their data or applications. In other words, RTO refers to how long it will take to restore a business’ data after a catastrophe. You may have a secure, updated backup, but if it takes weeks to restore, your business could be in trouble.

Recovery point objective (RPO)

RPO is the amount of data you can afford to lose, which dictates how frequently data needs to be backed up to avoid losing more. It helps answer burning backup planning questions like “How far is your data backup from failure?” or “Would an hour of data loss be something you can handle?” or “Can you handle days of data loss? Or even weeks?”

What do we use data backups for?

Once the recovery objectives are set, backups can be used for the following:

  • Long-term retention (regulatory or industry compliance)

  • Disaster recovery
  • DevOps/testing environments (as to not impact production)

What should be included in a backup plan?

The scope of a backup plan identifies the following metrics: data the organization must back up, the frequency of backups, who is involved, which programs and products they use, the location of the backups and whether the backups actually work.

Determine what data must be backed up

“Everything” would be a desirable answer, but you need to focus on restoring critical data to ensure business continuity. Take the RTO as a benchmark when prioritizing what data to back up as part of your overall backup planning.

Determine how often data must be backed up

RPO helps determine how often data should be backed up so that it aligns with your business needs. As a good rule of thumb, backups should be performed at least once every 24 hours to meet the acceptable standards of most organizations.

Identify a backup and recovery solution

Pick out a suitable backup solution that meets your business needs as part of your backup planning. Types of backups, backup location (on-site, cloud or both) and mandatory features your business requires are some of the factors you should consider when choosing a solution.

Test and monitor your backup system

Often, the backup plan is assumed to be secure without ever validating that hypothesis. Test the backup system to ensure successful backup and recovery in the event of a data loss. Along with testing, monitor backup performance and regularly check the logs for data lapses.

What are the different types of data backups?

Here are the different types of backup:

  • Full backup – The most basic and comprehensive backup method, where the entire data of a protected asset (such as a physical server or virtual machine) is copied to another location.
  • Incremental backup – Backs up all files that have changed since the last backup occurred.
  • Differential backup – Backs up only copies of all files that have changed since the last full backup.

How can backups be deployed?

Deployment options are an integral part of backup planning. Here are some common ways backups can be deployed:

File-level backup

File-level backups protect the asset file system and operating system. Backups may also protect the system state, for disaster recovery of the entire asset. File-level backups require the use of an agent.

Image-level backup

Image-level backups protect an asset at the disk and volume levels, backing up the in-use regions of the disk or volume only. Image-level backups provide application-consistent backup and recovery for NTFS and ReFS filesystems and crash-consistent backup and recovery for FAT, FAT32 and exFAT filesystems. Image level backups require the use of an agent.

Host-level backup

Host-level backups protect virtual machines (such as VMware, Hyper-V and Nutanix AHV virtual environments) by protecting hosted VMs by leveraging snapshots. Host-level backups do not require the use of an agent.

Application-level backup

Application-level backups protect specific applications and data, such as Microsoft Exchange, Microsoft SQL, and Oracle DB for example. Application-level backups are used to support specific modes (such as Full Recovery Model SQL databases) and may provide more granular recovery options. Application-level backups require the use of an agent.

Backup planning with Unitrends

Unitrends provides an integrated set of approaches with all the backup and recovery functionalities you need, in one place, making for solid and smooth backup planning.

Meet aggressive RTOs

Unitrends DRaaS (Disaster Recovery as a Service) provides a faster means of recovery by leveraging data replication, orchestration and automation to meet aggressive RTOs. It enables cloud data centers that are specifically tuned for backup and DR use cases and well-provisioned to receive inbound backup jobs, to run recovery testing and host failed over instances.

Less management and maintenance

Unitrends Backup software is a full-featured, prepackaged virtual appliance that runs on the hypervisor or cloud of your choice. It demands less oversight and simplifies local backup and off-site compliance requirements with an all-in-one software, providing you with enterprise backup and business continuity.

Guaranteed recovery SLAs

Schedule the time and backup systems you want to be tested and Recovery Assurance does the rest. Recovery Assurance automatically installs the entire software stack and fully boots it in a test environment on the backup appliance or cloud. Recovery Assurance goes beyond simply validating restoration of server operation to test recovery at the application level.

Unitrends Unified BCDR platform offers a variety of data protection and recovery strategies to protect a variety of different assets. For more information, check out our Backup Deployment Guide to learn more about how Unitrends helps you build and implement a robust backup and recovery plan.


Discover how Unitrends can help protect your organization's sensitive data