Graphical depiction of data aggregation and storage.

Data backup dramatically reduces the damage stemming from a breach.

Data backup: A preeminent component to business continuity planning

Running a business is hard enough as it is, from inventory chores and sales campaigns, to managing employee dynamics and handling vendor relationships. There never seems to be enough hours in the day to fit everything in. Add natural and man-made disaster to the mix – such as data breaches – and it exacerbates the management madness.

It's for these reasons and many others that business continuity planning is so important. One crucial element to business continuity is backing up your on-file information – and in more than one place.

"The average cost of a single data breach was $3.86 million in 2018."

2018 was a great year for businesses in many respects, as both small companies and large corporations benefited from a robust economy. But it may also go down as the Year of the Hack, as hundreds of organizations experienced breaches, some of them quite significant in terms of data and money lost. According to IBM Security and the Ponemon Institute, the average cost of a single data breach was $3.86 million worldwide. That's a 6.4 percent surge from 2017.

Some of the hardest hit industries – in terms of frequency – in recent years have been health care, banking, and business, according to the Identity Theft Resource Center. Mega breaches – defined as those where between 1 and 50 million records are lost or stolen – were quite common as well, the number nearly doubling in 2017 from 2013, according to the Ponemon Institute report.

Bad publicity exacerbates the damage
Data theft is a major complication for the obvious reasons – loss of money and/or customers' information – but a less apparent adverse impact is the loss of recurring business when word gets out that an organization has been infiltrated. As the joint study found, data breaches carry a host of after effects that require companies to go into repair mode, such as identifying where and how the hack occurred, plugging the gaps and – perhaps most important of all – addressing customers' concerns if they were exposed. The earlier a businesses can get ahead of the incident, the better off everyone will be.

Backing up your data can stanch the bleeding even further. Here are a few best practices to keep sensitive information protected should you encounter a breach:

  • Define and identify the most vulnerable data.
  • Systematize your data backup procedures. Experts say data backups should be ongoing (meaning more than once per year), be stored on reliable systems (off-site, on premises and in the cloud) and be archived in more than one media form (e.g. an external hard drive and USB flash drive).
  • Ensure onsite data backup is kept in a safe location, such as a fireproof lockbox or someplace concealed.
  • Your backed-up data should be readily obtainable, whether online or offline.
  • Make sure all backed-up data is safe from environmental hazards, such as flooding, fire or wind damage.

There are many elements to a reliable data backup procedure. But these points hit the essentials. Including them in your overall business continuity planning is both good business sense and common sense.