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Back to Basics: The importance of data retention - Months not Days

Thu, 04/13/2017 - 09:18
Cloud Storage

With organizations managing so many threats to the security of data, backup and recovery are important aspects of data protection. How long data should be kept for is still questioned however.

  • Data Retention is the amount of time an organization keeps data for by policy. Industry standards and legislation may mandate long-term data retention, such as 7-year or 10-year retention.

With different solutions and providers recommending their own retention periods, it can be difficult to know which is correct for your organization. Retention can often have a direct effect on the cost of a solution due to a need for additional storage.

For example, an organization backing up 500GB to tape daily (Mon-Fri) with 2-week retention will need a minimum of 11 LTO4 tapes and the appropriate facility to store them (securely and off-site). If the same organization changes its retention period to 4-weeks, then the number of tapes increases as will the cost associated with storing them securely off-site.

This is not only the case with tape or on-site based deployments, some cloud based backup services will charge based on the total data (Gigabytes/Terabytes) stored and the longer data is retained the higher this number will become, causing an increase in cost over time.

Why having suitable retention is important despite cost

The idea of increased cost could be off putting to some organizations but the benefit is increased security and compliance. As data is managed through the data lifecycle, its relative importance will be decided. This will help organizations decide how long the data should be retained for. The importance of data may be the difference between the data being retained via backup or archived to longer-term storage.

Although short-term retention may be suitable to recover data in the event of a disaster or the need to do a full restore, such as a Ransomware recovery. Individual file restores or restores for audit and compliance purposes may not be.

Different states and industries have their own compliance regulations around retention, organizations need to have the flexibility in their backup solutions to be able to adhere to these. 

Advantages of cloud based solutions for long-term retention

Typically, cloud backup solutions offer a minimum of 14-day retention, and have the ability to more easily amend retention periods to meet an organization’s requirements, all without the need to buy additional storage hardware.

Although tape based backups can offer long term retention, they come with their own challenges. Retaining tapes for long periods securely offsite will increase storage costs; an accurate and easy to use tape identification system will also need to be implemented to ensure that when it comes to recovery the right tapes are being recovered.

An advantage cloud based backups have over tape is the flexibility to restore individual files or folders. Cloud solutions offer a searchable index that can locate and restore on demand, where as tapes have to be restored fully before an individual file or folder can be extracted and accessed.

Configuring retention

The process of increasing retention of tape based backups involves identifying the amount of additional tapes that will be required, having to buy additional hardware (the additional tapes themselves) and increasing physical storage space to allow for the tapes to be stored securely.

With cloud based solutions increasing retention is usually as simple as clicking a few buttons and these can be configured differently for different data sets.

 

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