online_backupOnline backup enables business to backup their data automatically using the internet to pass the information securely to off-site data centres, managed by data specialists. Let’s take a look at how this works, how secure and what is on offer.

Until recently, business has backed up their sensitive and distributed corporate data in a variety of ways and would put a good portion of the burden on the user. The organisation may have deployed shared folders in which employees back up data by uploading to these resources or they may synchronise user folders on a central server or perhaps they rolled out USB flash drives for users to backup their data. These methods had the potential to work well, provided the users were vigilant and committed. If they made any mistakes, corporate security and data integrity would be at risk.

Online backup removes the human component in these outdated means. Computer users and many experts often consider lost data permanently destroyed. Information about data loss is complex, inconsistent and inaccurate, it’s not surprising that people seem to fall into a comfort zone of uneducated bliss on how rife the loss of data is, and the effects it has on business. Computer data is your company’s most valuable and vulnerable assets.

The primary threats to your information include:
Hardware or system malfunction
Human error
Software corruption or program instability
Computer viruses
Natural disasters

These major threats to your business share two things in common, they are unpredictable and in many cases uncontrollable. Therefore, the precautions taken by IT professionals to safeguard company data cannot always prevent data loss. Online backup as a service aims to improve the existing backup infrastructure.

Online backup incorporates many services, some of which include:
Scheduled continuous data protection (CDP)
Secure off site storage
Data encryption for reliable secure backup disaster recovery.

Online backup service providers have unparalleled protection against data loss typically including an automatic, intervention free process which quickly defines schedules for times of backup over the internet. These schedules can be configured to run once, three times or consistently throughout the day depending on thedata protection needs. Continuous data protection (CDP) can offer up to the minute changes and is often known as continuous backup or real-time backup. This allows the administrator to restore data to any point in time. This type of solution is becoming more and more feasible as internet providers in South Africa work to reduce the cost of bandwidth.

Online backup software also allows the user to choose whether whole files are uploaded (differential), or whether just the changes (incremental) are uploaded. After a backup completion the user will receive a backup data report, confirming success or failure of the transaction, keeping the user and the backup service provider informed of the integrity of the current backup.

One of the main concerns to any business organisation is business continuity; companies rely on their information systems to run their business and if a system is unavailable, the company operations may be impaired or stopped completely. It is therefore necessary to provide a reliable infrastructure for IT to minimize any chance of disruption. Information security is also a concern, and for this reason a backup data centre must therefore keep high standards of security for assuring the integrity and functionality of its hosted computer environment. Online backup service providers often maintain redundant facilities to cater for extra data security, data protection and data storage.

Privacy and confidentiality are a prime concern both for the home user and corporate user. As mentioned earlier all data is encrypted with a minimum of 128 bit SSL (Secure Socket Layer) communication. All communications between the backup provider and your computer are transported in a 128-bit SSL channel, what this means is that although all of your backup files travel through a public network (Internet), eavesdroppers have no knowledge of what has been exchanged, thus your backups are securely encrypted (e.g. online banking). All of your files are first zipped and encrypted with your defined encrypting key before they are sent to the backup service provider. To anybody else other than the defined user, the files stored on the backup servers are no more than jumbled files with random content. Encryption keys are the be extremely well guarded.

How secure is 128-bit SSL encryption that is normally used with online backup?

A 128-bit key size has 2128 or 3.4 x 1038 possible combinations. Even if you have a super computer(like the ASCI White, SP Power3 375 MHz manufactured by IBM) it would take 8.77 x 10 17 years to test all combinations. Assuming you have a super computer, which totals a capability of 12.3 teraflops (trillions of operations/second), checking all combinations on this encryption algorithm it would take:

34000000000000000000000000000000000 / 12300000000000

= 27 000000000000000000000000000seconds = 876,530,835,323,573,935 years to successfully try all combinations. You can be sure that your data that is stored with an online backup server is 100% secure.

Most reputable online backup providers will offer a trial period. This allows the business to gain insight into their backup requirements, thus ensuring that an optimal backup package is chosen. This use-before-you-buy philosophy is a sure way to find out the competency your backup provider.

With more and more people becoming reliant on information, it is obvious that data collection will continue to grow, and so will the data device failures. It is reported that 2 GB of data is lost every minute of the day in the world and according to the US Small Business Administration, 43% of all US businesses never reopen after a data disaster strikes, 29% more close within 2 years and 93% of businesses that suffer significant data loss are gone within 5 years.

The question remains, how will you secure your most valuable asset?

Contributed by:

Ryan Van Eijk
Dynamic Digital Solutions



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