If you saw this on your way to work, what would flash through your mind? It’s a picture of an offsite storage transport van being pulled by a tow truck because it has broken down. It asks the interesting question of how safe your data really is if it’s in a truck being driven around from place to place.
Most of us are very conscious and aware of the need to take all the appropriate security measures at all levels to make sure our company’s data is secure. But as the post brings up, we often then just turn around and give that data – via the offsite back-up tapes – to a delivery driver that we probably don’t really know. They then physically transport it to a different location. In the event of a disaster, the offsite facility ships those tapes to a DR location for emergency recovery.
In the past, keeping your back-ups in an offsite location was thought to be a very safe way to ensure the integrity of the data in the event of a disaster recovery situation. At the time these policies were put in place at most organizations, this was the most effective way to provide protection from physical data loss due to disaster. As technology continues to evolve, however, we’re beginning to find that storing back-ups on disk or some other types of device and then transmitting it across a network is better than putting the data on tape and having someone pick it up and drive it to a vault. It can be compared to shopping or banking via the internet. For years, people were very hesitant to transmit credit card and other personal info across the internet to make purchases. These days, we all know of high profile data breaches occurring from brick and mortar transactions like the one that occurred at Target.
In more recent times, we’ve seen a shift away from companies willing to use offsite tapes for disaster recovery. Most new back-up solutions these days involve keeping the content completely in-house and electronically transporting/replicating it. And those back-up strategies that do involve tape typically do not send them offsite via courier. Tape, while very efficient for archival and long-term storage, is more challenged to provide the ever-increasing demand for smaller RPOs. It’s not so much the tape as it is the logistical challenge of getting those tapes to a secure location reliably and inexpensively on a frequent basis.
It’s Not All Just About Security
But this strategy of keeping everything in-house doesn’t always stem from security concerns, however. We’ve found that some companies are just looking for better reliability and to avoid the amount of handling that moving the tapes offsite requires. They simply don’t want to go through the physical hassle of going into the data center, pulling the tapes, putting them in a box, doing an inventory check, cataloging the contents and then shipping them to another facility. These tasks consume valuable time from operations staff, or worse yet, the administrators.
Cost is one thing to consider if you’re planning on moving away from tape. It is more expensive to store on disk, so we often see that smaller companies – those with less data (and don’t need massive disk storage systems for backups) – are a little more willing to make that jump. On the other hand, we’ve mentioned that you can cut down your administrative costs by eliminating the physical tasks associated with tape so that will help buffer the increase. These smaller companies can achieve very current RPOs in a disaster.
Furthermore, large companies that have multiple sites with fast communications links between them have the infrastructure in place already to replicate data. This, in conjunction with more stringent requirements for RPO /RTO, means they often make this investment in electronically-transferred backups and replication.
The best way to determine what is best for your organization is to establish what real requirements exist for a variety of data loss scenarios. Here are some basic examples:
- Where one or more servers need recovery onsite, due to data corruption or a localized failure (loss of a rack).
- Where a regional emergency rendered the data center unusable, but preserved (power loss/forced evacuation)
- Where select data is lost and recovery time is critical to major business operations.
- Where audits require specific retention periods for select data.
There are many other scenarios, as well. With this information gathered from the business owners within your organization, goals can be set for achieving these policies.
We’d be interested in hearing your thoughts on this topic. From a security standpoint, does it really make sense to hand over your data to be taken somewhere else?