6 Best Practices for Backup and Recovery in an MSP

Backups are an essential part of data security. Organizations rely on their backup and recovery practices to protect their assets from both cyber and physical security threats. Whether companies delegate backup responsibilities to a team or rely on their cloud service provider for automatic backups, having an up-to-date data protection strategy is crucial.

Customers will likely factor in data protection solutions and offerings when choosing a service provider to partner with, so managed services providers (MSPs) should offer a wide variety of backup and recovery services to keep up with the competition.

Corporate security needs are likely to include backups and restores for servers, workstations, databases, and system configurations, as well as SaaS applications such as Office 365. Regardless of your environment and compliance requirements, organizations will likely find numerous options available to them. To help you navigate the changing security landscape and offer the best possible backup options for your customers’ specific needs, we examine reliable data protection services your MSP can explore, as well as six best practices for backup and recovery.

The various types of backup capabilities

Contemporary security typically involves a mix of on-premises and cloud security. Most businesses today operate in versions of a hybrid environment, and corporate backup strategies must include methodologies and tools that can ensure more than just backups on physical hard drives.

Although the line between cloud and on-premises security continues to blur, there are still distinctions we can draw. On-premises security traditionally involves backups of digital assets that are on internal servers. Today, on-premises security can conduct backups that interact with virtualization platforms and applications, enabling database backups from log files. Assets in the cloud are also vulnerable to data corruption and deletion. But cloud backups are a relatively new security measure that requires different strategies and toolsets. As corporate needs grow, so do the numbers of solutions available.

Many businesses turn to MSPs for backup and recovery solutions, and it’s important to know the range of different backup solutions they might be looking for. Here are a few capabilities your MSP might want to offer when it comes to data protection:

  • Cloud-first backups: Cloud-first backups are an efficient way to secure customer data offsite, and a hybrid approach also keeps a second copy on-site using the storage hardware of your choice.
  • Automatic backups multiple times a day: Many MSPs offer backups throughout the day to give customers different recovery points. This is the best way to retain multiple versions of company data and prevent any data loss, helping meet recovery point objectives.
  • Backups with encryption: Data security during backups is paramount, and you should always ensure you don’t expose servers and workstations to greater risk when data is in transit or at rest. End-to-end encryption is the best practice.
  • Version Control: Whether you’re backing up databases, devices, or documents, it’s important to have effective versioning. If you only keep the most recent version of your data, you will only be able to access your last use. This can be especially risky if ransomware has altered or corrupted your files before your last backup, as you’ll be unable to restore your previous version. To ensure greater control over restores, MSPs offer version control to help ensure access to multiple versions of a database or device backup at any given time.
  • Retention Control: Retention control is closely related to “versioning” and the types of restoration you can perform. Retention determines the amount of time you can retain backup data and the frequency with which you prune restoration points. This will likely depend on how long you need your data and what the compliance requirements are for your geographical area and your industry. It is also helpful to consider how much storage you are purchasing. The more retention points you require, the more storage you’re likely to use. If your data storage is billed based on the amount of data being protected (selected size), rather than the amount of storage actually consumed, your costs will remain consistent as data and archives grow. This gives you more freedom to retain archived data longer without incurring high costs.
  • Cloud backup archiving: If you don’t need to prune your retention points regularly, archiving your data can be an ideal option. This is more practical if you need to store data for longer periods of time. Providers should offer backup archiving beyond regular retention periods, as this may be important for compliance purposes—especially if you or your customer need to demonstrate data security over time.

Six best practices for MSP backups

Even with the best tools, it’s important your company adopts best practices when backing up and restoring your databases. To help maintain security when conducting backups, here are some best practices all MSPs should consider:

  1. Keep physical backups: Even if you offer services mostly in a cloud environment, it’s critical you keep physical backups of your databases and system configurations in the event of a disaster or data breach. Having backup diversity can end up saving your business—for example, if a ransomware attack successfully encrypts your data, your physical backup can help you restore critical systems without paying a ransom.
  2. Keep physical and cloud storage separate: To elaborate on the first point, it’s also essential you store your physical hardware backups separate from your cloud storage. This will help ensure your essential data remains safe, even if your hardware somehow becomes corrupted.
  3. Regularly test your recovery strategies: It’s important to be prepared when server crashes and database failures occur, either onsite or in the cloud. You should know how long it will take to get your databases up and running again. Testing your recovery strategies from time to time will enable you to anticipate different scenarios, figure out version control, and develop appropriate protocols.
  4. Test restores on a backup server: Databases and workstations can be vulnerable both before and during backups. It’s important to ensure backup versions of your workstation or database are safe and unaltered after the backup process. Test a restoration of your workstation or database on a test server or VM to ensure your data is not just backed up, but also fully recoverable.
  5. Back up systems databases: In addition to regularly backing up databases and workstations, you should ensure that you are backing up your systems data, which contains the configurations for your databases and workspaces.

While these best practices may seem simple in theory, it can be incredibly time-consuming to manually apply and manage these steps across customer accounts. To help ensure your business is carrying out best practices with ease, choose an MSP solution that reduces the time it takes to manage the backup process. An automated MSP solution can also make it easy to control the number and types of backups, as well as version control and retention points.

Consider a backup service designed for comprehensive protection. N-able® Backup offers protection for the data and assets you need with a 3-2-1 data protection strategy and enables you to manage these backups using an easy-to-navigate dashboard. Whether you are looking for backup solutions for physical and virtual servers, workstations, documents, databases, or Office 365 data, MSPs need intuitive solutions that make it easier to serve customers. SolarWinds Backup provides automatic backups, helps you keep transaction logs, provides archiving capabilities, and offers faster backups and restores.

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