You understand the importance of backups and regularly back up all your data and information resources. However, how do you know you have a reliable and consistent way to retrieve your stored data? Or how do you find out the correct backup procedures, responsible parties or the right data to be backed up? This is where backup documentation comes in handy. Backup documentation covers everything from policies and procedures to backup activity information like status updates and configuration.
In this blog, we shall discuss the importance of backup documentation and how you can leverage it to create the right backup strategy for your company or clients.
What is backup documentation?
Backup documentation refers to the process of documenting all the formal policies, asset backup details and other activities associated with backup. For instance, in the policy document, you can note down key factors like the location of the backups, type of backups, type of data stored and stakeholders responsible for the process.
Clear documentation of all your backup details and activities can provide critical insights into the overall backup health of your assets and the ideal backup practices that must be followed in an organization. MSPs can use their backup documentation to determine the status of backups, identify their clients’ needs and outline the backup services they provide to their clients.
Why is backup documentation important?
The primary goal of backup is to have a reliable method to recover lost data. Without automated and structured backup documentation, you risk improper and inefficient maintenance of your backups, or even worse, not documenting critical backup information at all. You need robust backup policies and full visibility into backup details to ensure everything is protected and you are prepared in case of any unforeseen events.
Backup policy documentation
A backup policy refers to a document containing guidelines and procedures on how backup data should be managed in an organization. It sets the ground rules for various aspects including backup planning, data types to be backed up, the importance of the backed-up data and more. In addition to procedures and guidelines, a backup policy should also contain information on responsible stakeholders and related documentation.
In an organizational setting, backup policy documents may differ from one company to another. Here’s a list of some of the common sections to be included in a backup policy.
Purpose and scope
This section focuses on the overall aim of the backup process in an organization. For instance, you can define the purpose of the backup policy to ensure business continuity following an unforeseen cyberattack. You should also clearly define what you intend to achieve with your backups to eliminate any ambiguity within your team.
Roles and responsibilities
The backup policy you create should clearly define the roles and responsibilities of all the stakeholders involved in backup and disaster recovery efforts. This section should have detailed information on who is responsible for monitoring the backup status periodically and who should be contacted when there is a need to restore information from the backup.
The backup policies created by organizations play a crucial role in compliance audits. You can use your backup policies to ensure you are in compliance with the regulatory laws governing the industry. For instance, there are specific data laws on how customer data should be stored and backed up in an organization. You can use your backup policy to outline the ways in which your clients can store customer data in their companies.
Data, systems and configurations
This section of the policy concerns the types of data that must be backed up and the systems and configurations that go alongside it. You need to create specific rules for specific types of data, how they must be stored, network configuration information, etc. This helps you retrieve your data in the most efficient way possible.
Backup frequency and schedule
When you have automated backups in your IT environment, you need to create a fixed schedule and frequency to ensure effective storage of recoverable information. Scheduling ensures your critical data is automatically backed up within the required timeframe. Moreover, scheduling allows you to keep your backup activities outside your business hours so that they don’t interrupt your core business tasks.
Your backup policy also needs to address the backup methodology you are going to incorporate. A full backup stores all the files and systems in an IT environment. However, it is time-consuming and may not be feasible every single time. Once you have fully installed all your backup networks, you can set rules for incremental or differential backups based on your requirements. Your policy must have guidelines on the type of backups that must be performed.
Backup location and retention
Your backup policy should also focus on the storage location of your backup. Depending upon your backup strategy, you might have a cloud-based server, an on-site server or both. The location of your backup must be included in your backup schedules and specified in the backup policy. Besides knowing where your backups go, this also helps you adhere to compliance regulations.
Recovery time objective (RTO) refers to the time you have estimated to recover your lost data, and recovery point objective (RPO) concerns the maximum amount of data you can tolerate losing. RTO and RPO are highly critical to understand the overall objective of your backup plan. Including these metrics in your formal backup policy will help you with the effective retrieval of data.
Backup is not something that you can just implement and forget. It must be periodically tested to identify recurring issues and incorporate the necessary updates. Your backup policy should also include your testing plan with all the key details such as frequency of testing, responsible stakeholders and testing procedure.
Backup activity documentation
Backup is more of a set-and-forget process. However, you still need to know the status and integrity of your backups. In case of an unexpected disaster, this will help you get back online as quickly as possible. This is why it is extremely important to bring your backup information alongside the rest of your documentation. Moreover, this will also allow you to compare your asset inventory with your backup information.
With the help of structured backup coverage reports, you can generate automatic reports that contain comprehensive information about all the backups and their status in your organization. The insights you derive from these reports, which include up-to-date status of backups and other critical details, can be used to identify assets that are not protected so you can quickly remedy the issue.
To make this work, your documentation tool must have an active integration with your backup solution. Once this is set up, you will simply have all of your backup information alongside the rest of your IT documentation. This will help you stay vigilant, and it also makes life convenient since you don’t have to access a different tool to verify your backups.
Being able to view your backups inside your documentation tool is just the first step. Quickly gain full visibility into your backup health standing with a report that includes the following details.
Determine at a quick glance the backup health of your IT environment with a summary count of successful backups, failed backups and unprotected assets. With a complete view of your backups, it’s easy to determine what requires your attention first to ensure you are protected.
You can view a list of your assets categorized based on their backup status. For instance, you can choose to generate a report that will show only one or all of the following: successful backups, failed backups and no backups. This helps narrow your focus if you just want to see the assets that are not backed up yet, or alternatively, the backups that are in good standing.
Backup device details
Every backup report should show you complete backup details associated with each individual asset including configuration ID, type, status, and last backup date and time. To ensure you can efficiently and successfully back up your unprotected devices, select only the fields that you need and exclude unnecessary information.
You can also generate backup reports that only include backups from a specific timeframe if needed. For instance, you can view the list of the most recent backups in your network rather than a list of all protected assets since the very first backup you performed. You can also select specific date ranges to identify backups that happened over a certain period of time.
What are the benefits of backup documentation?
Managing backups in a complex IT environment is an extremely difficult process. In addition, accessing your backup solution is not a daily occurrence so it is vital you bring backup information into your documentation tool. Without maintaining proper documentation, you will be flying blind when it comes to effective storage and retrieval of critical data. Some of the notable benefits of backup documentation are as follows.
- Clarity: Both MSPs and IT teams can benefit a lot from the clarity offered by backup documentation. You will have well-established procedures, policies and guides on how to perform various backup tasks. Even in case of uncertainty, you will have clear information on what steps to take with regard to backup data.
- Accountability: When you have clear backup documentation, you can easily identify who is responsible for specific backup activities. Your documentation will also have clear instructions on how to contact the individuals associated with various tasks.
- Control: With backup documentation, you can maintain great control over backup activities. You can ensure failed backups are quickly dealt with or completely unprotected assets are backed up right away. Most importantly, you can access the backup details whenever you want.
- Full visibility: Backup documentation helps you identify which assets are protected and which aren’t by allowing you to review the list of assets in your inventory. MSPs can use this information to identify risks or opportunities in their clients’ environments and create more revenue for business growth.
- Business growth: MSPs can manage the backups of multiple clients easily with the help of clear backup documentation. MSPs can also convey the benefits of device backup health to their new customers and sell new solutions to them. Leveraging backup documentation the right way can help MSPs sell more backup solutions and grow their business.
Disaster Recovery Runbook: Maximize recovery efficiency following a disaster
Every single minute following a disaster is crucial. You must be able to manage your time well and be as efficient as possible to bring everything back up to speed. This can be achieved when you integrate your backup solution with your documentation tool, so you can take advantage of a Disaster Recovery (DR) Runbook. With DR Runbook, you get an outline of all the protected assets after a disaster with the correct boot order. This also ensures that no devices are missed, left with errors or rebooted incorrectly.
With a DR Runbook, you can instantly begin the recovery process, reducing the duration that your business operations are at a halt following an unforeseen disaster.
Normally, maintaining a list of all your machines and then identifying which were affected after a disaster is done manually on a spreadsheet. With a DR Runbook, you can bypass a lot of administrative work to keep track of your assets, especially during times when you should simply focus on ensuring your IT environment is fully operational.
Document backups with IT Glue
According to IBM, the average cost of data loss caused by a breach is $4.35 million in 2022. With the evolving cyberthreats in this digital world, facing an attack is not a matter of “if” but “when.” It goes without saying that organizations should leverage the right backup and documentation solutions to protect themselves and ensure minimal downtime. With backup documentation, you can establish the right backup strategy for your organization.
IT Glue is a brand trusted by over 13,000 IT professionals as their single source of truth for all information in the IT environments they manage. By integrating IT Glue with your backup solution, you can save time and reduce operational costs. You can access all your backup information from Datto Continuity, Unitrends and Spanning in a single pane of glass alongside the rest of your documentation to increase backup visibility and asset protection.
To learn more about how IT Glue can help you master backup documentation, request a demo.