Data Backup and Recovery 101: How To Restore Data and Prevent Loss

Usman Malik

Chief Executive Officer

January 3, 2024

Data is crucial for every business and having a strong data backup plan is more than just tech talk. It's a key part of keeping your business safe and running smoothly. This guide explores the important details of data backup and recovery and highlights how managed services providers (MSPs) are vital in keeping businesses operational. 

MSPs are experts in setting up reliable backup systems that protect your data from various threats like cyber-attacks, system failures, and natural disasters. By focusing on data backup and recovery, this guide is a valuable tool for businesses looking to strengthen their data security in a smart, tech-savvy way.

Understanding data backup - The first step in data loss prevention

Data backup is a critical process where data is duplicated to ensure it can be retrieved in the event of a loss. This practice is essential for businesses to protect their valuable data. A sound backup strategy involves understanding various backup types: incremental, differential, and full backups.

• Incremental backup is efficient, saving only the data that has changed since the last backup, reducing the time and storage space needed.

• Differential backup, on the other hand, stores data changes made since the last full backup, offering a balance between storage efficiency and quicker recovery times. Each backup type serves a unique purpose.

• Full backups provide a complete copy of all data, which is ideal for comprehensive data protection but can be time-consuming and require significant storage space.

Businesses often combine these methods to create a robust backup strategy. For instance, performing full backups at regular intervals complemented by incremental or differential backups can optimize both data protection and resource utilization.

Understanding these differences and choosing the right combination is key to effective data management and prevention of data loss, forming the foundation of a resilient data backup plan.

what is data backup

Types of data backup storage

Selecting the right data backup type is not enough. Choosing the right storage type is as crucial as the backup process itself. Here's an overview of the different types of data backup storage available, tailored to meet diverse needs and scenarios:

1. Cloud storage

The cloud is a highly scalable and accessible option, making it ideal for businesses needing off-site data protection and regular access to their backups. It offers strong security measures, and many cloud storage providers include managed services, simplifying the backup process. 

This solution is particularly appealing to businesses of various sizes due to its flexibility and the lack of physical hardware management.

2. Network-attached storage (NAS)

This type of storage provides a centralized storage solution that allows multiple users and devices to access data conveniently.  It is well-suited for small to medium-sized businesses, offering a balanced combination of capacity, performance, and cost. NAS systems are relatively easy to set up and manage, making them a popular choice for shared storage needs.

3. External hard drives (including HDDs and SSDs)

These storage types are portable and user-friendly, making them a good choice for individual users or small businesses. Hard disk drives (HDDs) offer larger storage capacities at a lower cost, while solid state drives (SSDs) are faster and more reliable, albeit at a higher price point.

These drives are excellent for local backups and are handy for quick data transfers.

4. Tape drives

Tape drive is an older technology but remains relevant for large-scale, long-term archival storage. They are a cost-effective solution for storing vast amounts of data, prized for their durability and long-term reliability.

Although not the quickest medium for data retrieval, they are an excellent option for organizations that need to archive data over extended periods.

5. Direct attached storage (DAS)

DAS is ideal for scenarios where fast data transfer rates are essential, as it is directly connected to the server or computer managing the data. This type of storage is best suited for individual computers or small networks where complex, networked storage solutions are not necessary.

DAS is straightforward and quick, though it doesn't offer the networked flexibility of NAS or cloud solutions.

data backup storage

The 3-2-1 backup strategy

When performing a data backup, you have to have a solid strategy in place. Every business has a strategy that works best for them. Different businesses may adopt various approaches, but one strategy stands out for its effectiveness and simplicity: the 3-2-1 backup strategy. 

This strategy is a simple yet effective method for safeguarding data against the majority of data loss scenarios, including hardware failure, human error, and natural disasters. This strategy is based on three core principles:

3 copies of data

The first step in the 3-2-1 data backup strategy is to maintain at least three separate copies of your data. The primary copy is your original data, and the other two are backups. This redundancy ensures that if one copy is lost or corrupted, you have multiple other sources to recover from.

2 different media types

The second principle involves storing these backups on at least two different types of media or storage devices. This could mean having one backup on an external hard drive and another on a network-attached storage (NAS) device, for example.

The rationale here is that different storage media have different vulnerabilities. By diversifying, you reduce the risk of both backups being compromised by the same event.

1 off-site backup

Finally, at least one of these backups should be kept off-site. This means storing it in a different physical location than the primary data source. This could be as simple as keeping a hard drive in a bank safety deposit box, or it could involve storing data in the cloud. 

The key is geographical separation to protect against local disasters like fires, floods, or theft. Embracing the 3-2-1 data backup strategy provides a comprehensive safety net for your valuable data, ensuring that your business can withstand and quickly recover from unexpected data loss incidents.

321 backup strategy

The unseen risks: What leads to data loss?

Understanding the common causes of data loss and implementing preventative measures is crucial. Here's a look at the key factors leading to data loss and how to mitigate these risks:

• Human error: Mistakes by people, like deleting files accidentally, are a big reason for data loss. Human error caused 75% of all data loss incidents in businesses, including accidental deletion and issues during software updates or system changes​​.

• Cyber attacks: Tricks like phishing emails, where employees are fooled into clicking harmful links, are a big cyber threat. Interestingly, about 90% of cyberattacks use these kinds of tricks to get into systems​​.

• Hardware and software problems: When equipment fails or software gets corrupted, data can be lost. Keeping everything well-maintained and updated helps avoid these issues.

• Natural disasters: Events like floods or earthquakes can damage physical data storage locations. That's why having backups in different places, like in the cloud, is really important.

causes of data loss

Data backup and recovery: Navigating through a data loss incident

Navigating a data loss incident efficiently requires a well-thought-out approach to data backup and recovery. This process involves specific steps and the implementation of a comprehensive recovery plan.

Step 1. Initial assessment 

When data loss occurs, the first step is to assess the extent and impact of the loss. This involves identifying the types of data lost and determining how it affects business operations.

Step 2. Consult the disaster recovery plan

Refer to your organization's disaster recovery plan. This plan should outline the steps to take in case of data loss, including who to contact and the procedures to follow.

Step 3. Determine the recovery point objective (RPO)

The RPO helps in understanding how much data loss is acceptable and how far back you need to go to restore data. This is crucial in determining which backup copies to use for recovery.

Step 4. Select the appropriate backup copies

Based on the RPO, choose the right backup copies. If your backup solution includes cloud backup or a synthetic full backup, these can provide more recent data states for recovery.

Step 5. Use backup software to restore data

Utilize the backup software to initiate the restoration process. The software should be compatible with your operating system and the type of backup used (such as cloud backup or local backups on a backup server).

Step 6. Monitor the restoration process

Keep an eye on the restoration process to ensure data is accurately and completely restored. Any issues during this process should be immediately addressed.

Step 7. Verify data integrity

Once data is restored, verify its integrity and functionality to ensure all critical data is back in place and operational.

Step 8. Review and update the backup method

After recovery, review the backup method and strategy to understand if any improvements or changes are needed to prevent similar incidents in the future.

Step 9. Update the disaster recovery plan 

Based on the experience and lessons learned from the incident, update the disaster recovery plan to improve future response and recovery efforts.

data backup and recovery

The importance of having a recovery plan in place

A data backup and recovery plan acts as a lifeline, ensuring swift and effective action in the event of data loss. The benefits it can bring to your business include: 

• Minimized downtime: A well-defined disaster recovery plan helps in quickly initiating the data recovery process, thereby minimizing operational downtime.

• Business continuity: Having a plan in place is crucial for ensuring business continuity. It provides a clear roadmap for recovery, reducing confusion and delays in critical situations.

• Clear recovery objectives: A recovery plan outlines clear objectives, such as the Recovery Time Objective (RTO) and RPO, which are essential for efficient and effective data recovery.

• Prepares you for various scenarios: A comprehensive plan prepares the business for various data loss scenarios, whether due to hardware failures, cyber-attacks, or natural disasters.

• Increases stakeholder confidence: Demonstrating that the business is prepared for data loss incidents can increase confidence among stakeholders, including customers, employees, and investors.

Implementing a strategic approach to data backup and recovery and having a detailed recovery plan is imperative for navigating data loss incidents. These measures ensure that businesses can quickly recover from setbacks and maintain uninterrupted operations.

importance of data recovery plan

Choosing the right data backup and recovery service

Selecting the right data backup and recovery service is a decision that should be approached with careful consideration. It's about finding a service that not only meets your current needs but can also adapt as your business grows and changes. 

Here are some essential factors to consider in your selection process.

Comprehensiveness of the service

The data backup and recovery service should offer a comprehensive solution that covers all aspects of backing up and recovering data. This includes providing support for various types of data and ensuring compatibility with different operating systems and platforms.

Reliability and reputation

Research the reliability and track record of the service provider. Look for reviews, testimonials, and case studies. A reliable backup service should have a proven history of minimal downtime and effective data recovery.

Security measures

Security is paramount when it comes to data backup. Ensure that the service provider offers robust encryption for your data, both in transit and at rest. The provider should also have secure data centers with appropriate physical and network security measures.


The chosen service should be scalable to meet your future data storage needs. This is important as the amount of data and the number of users might increase over time.

Backup and recovery speed

Consider the speed at which the service can back up and restore data. This is crucial in reducing downtime during a data recovery operation.


While cost shouldn't be the only deciding factor, it's important to consider the pricing structure of the service. Assess whether the cost aligns with the features and benefits offered.

Ease of use

The service should be user-friendly, with an intuitive interface that makes it easy to back up and restore data as needed.

Customer support

Good customer support is essential. Ensure that the service provider offers reliable, accessible customer support to assist with any issues that may arise.

Customization options

Look for a service that offers customization options to tailor the backup and recovery process to your specific needs.

By considering these factors, you can choose a data backup and recovery service that provides the security, reliability, and functionality your business requires to effectively manage and protect its critical data.

data backup and recovery service

How MSPs elevate your data backup and recovery strategy

Managed service providers play a big role in helping businesses keep their data safe and easy to recover. MSPs are experts at data backup and recovery services that fit exactly what each business needs. 

MSPs don't just set things up and leave. They keep an eye on how the backups are doing. They make sure that important data is backed up often and that everything is working as it should. They also focus a lot on keeping the data safe from hackers and other online threats.

If something goes wrong and data is lost, MSPs are ready to step in quickly to get everything back to normal, reducing the time the business is affected.

Working with an MSP means you can relax, knowing that your data is being looked after by experts. MSPs keep everything up to date and offer advice on the best ways to handle data. This partnership is really about making sure that your data is always safe and can be quickly revived if it's ever lost.

data backup with MSPs

Implementing a data backup and recovery plan with your MSP

Setting up a data backup and recovery plan with your MSP partner is a smart move for any business. It's about working together to make sure your business's data is safe and can be quickly recovered if something goes wrong.

Developing the plan

The first step is to sit down with your MSP and discuss your business's specific needs. This includes figuring out which data is most important and needs regular backups. Your MSP will explain different ways to back up data and help you pick the best option for your business.

Customizing backup strategies

Your business is unique, so your backup plan should be, too. Your MSP will help set up a plan that fits your business perfectly. This means deciding how often to back up different types of data. The goal is to keep all important data safe without wasting time or resources.

Putting the plan into action

Once the plan is developed, your MSP will take charge of implementing it. They'll install any needed software, set up cloud storage, or get backup servers ready at your location. They'll also make sure that backups are automated where possible to reduce the risk of human error.

Monitoring and maintenance

A key part of the plan is regular monitoring and maintenance. Your MSP will keep an eye on the backups to make sure they're happening as planned and check that the data is being stored correctly. They'll also conduct regular tests to ensure that data can be recovered quickly and completely.

Ongoing review and adaptation

As your business grows or changes, your backup needs might change, too. Your MSP will keep checking in with you to make sure your backup plan still fits your business. They'll suggest changes or improvements to keep your data backup and recovery plan up-to-date.

data backup plan

Best practices for your data backup solutions

Having a solid approach to data backup and recovery is vital for any business. Here's a look at some best practices in data backup and recovery, incorporating key aspects of the process.

Comprehensive data backup solution

It's essential to have a data backup solution that covers all bases. This means not only backing up your data regularly but also ensuring you have different types of storage options.

For example, you might use object storage for large data volumes and disk backup for faster, more frequent backups. The idea is to have a backup of data that is both comprehensive and efficient.

Data deduplication

This process helps in reducing the volume of data to be backed up by eliminating duplicate copies of the data. Data deduplication is especially useful in environments with large data volumes, as it can significantly reduce storage requirements and backup windows.

Regular backup schedules

Establishing a regular schedule for backing up your data ensures that your most recent data is always protected.

The frequency of these backups may depend on the data volume and how often the data changes. It's important to strike a balance to avoid unnecessary strain on resources while still protecting critical data.

Three copies of your data

Remember the 3-2-1 strategy, which suggests having three copies of your data on two different types of storage, with one copy stored off-site. This approach ensures that you have multiple layers of protection against data loss.

Backup windows management

Managing your backup window effectively is crucial to ensure that the backup process does not interfere with regular business operations. This might involve performing backups during off-peak hours or using backup solutions that allow for faster data copying.

Backup as a service (BaaS)

For many businesses, using backup as a service can be an effective way to handle data backups. BaaS providers manage the backup process remotely, ensuring that your data is securely backed up and stored off-site.

Training for backup administrators

Proper training for those responsible for managing backups is crucial. They should be well-versed in the latest backup technologies and best practices to ensure the data is stored securely and can be restored quickly in case of a data loss event.

Testing restore processes

Regularly testing the restore process is as important as backing up the data itself. This ensures that in the event of a data loss due to hardware failure, cyberattack, or other reasons, the data can be recovered effectively and promptly.

Diverse storage systems

Utilizing different types of storage systems can provide added layers of security and efficiency. This might include a mix of cloud storage, on-site servers, and external drives, each serving a specific purpose in the overall backup strategy.

data backup best practices

Protect your data today

From understanding the critical nature of data in your business to implementing advanced strategies with the help of an MSP, this guide has covered the full spectrum of data protection. The greatest takeaway is that data is the lifeblood of your business, and with its loss, everything can be in shambles. 

Data backup and recovery is the way to go to avoid a total data disaster. It's an ongoing process and might be overwhelming at first. The good thing is our data experts are here to plan it out for you. If you're ready to get the blood of your business protected, message us, and we'll get started.

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Frequently asked questions

What is data backup?

Data backup is the process of creating a copy of your data to safeguard it against loss. This copy can be used to restore your data if it's ever lost or corrupted.

What are the different types of data backups?

There are various data backup options, including full backups, incremental backups, and differential backups. Each serves a unique purpose in the data backup process.

How is data stored during the backup process?

Data is stored in backup storage options, such as the cloud, network-attached storage (NAS), external hard drives, tape drives, and direct-attached storage (DAS).

What is the data backup process?

The data backup process involves copying data from a primary source to a backup storage medium, creating a safeguard against data loss.

Why do I need a data backup solution?

A data backup solution ensures that you always have a copy of your data, even if the original is lost, damaged, or changed. It's vital for data management and recovery.