Tag Archives: data security

Why Backup Data and How to Backup on Windows – A Simple Solution

WHY BACKUP DATA?

The most precious thing on your computer is the data. No, not the latest and greatest computer you have purchased recently. The most valuable asset on your computer is all the data stored on it, especially what you have created, collected, processed, organized for your work, learning, or even entertainment. Now here are some cold hard truth about data and the associated risks.

  1. More than 95% computer users have experienced data loss in some point of their life.
  2. Data loss cost US businesses $11.8 billion in 1998. 6% of all PCs will suffer an episode of data loss in any given year.
    Reference: http://gbr.pepperdine.edu/2010/08/the-cost-of-lost-data/
  3. An article from Boston Computing, provides the following statistics:
    • 30% of all businesses that have a major fire go out of business within a year. 70% fail within five years.
    • 93% of companies that lost their data center for 10 days or more due to a disaster filed for bankruptcy within one year of the disaster.
    • 31% of PC users have lost all of their files due to events beyond their control.
    • Every week 140,000 hard drives crash in the United States.
    • A 2013 poll found that 30% of computer users had NEVER backed up their data.
    • According to a 2013 report, 55% of disaster-related downtime stems from hardware failure, 22% from human error, and 18% from software failure.
    • More than half (53%) of the SMB organizations surveyed revealed they do not conduct daily backups.
    • According to a survey of SMB organizations, 32% responded saying backup is not an efficient use of their time.
    • Simple drive recovery can cost between US$5,000-10,000 and still success is not guaranteed.

  4. Refer to a USA Today 2006 News article.
  5. Refer to an Information Week 2011 News article.
  6. For many businesses, data is their lifeline. Data loss can make them to go out of business.
  7. Accidental delete, virus attack, hacking, disk failure are some of the common reasons for data loss.
  8. Fire, earthquake, storm, flood are some of the natural calamities which result into data loss.

As it shows above, data loss has been known and documented to be a major problem for long time — for about 20 years (definitely a lot more than that). The volume of problems has increased with growing ubiquity of computers among households and businesses. The widespread use of mobile devices has made the risk potential even higher. Add to that the recent rise in malware attacks and cyber-crimes, e.g., WannaCry, Petya, Bad Rabbit etc. It seems there is no end in sight for security breaches, information leaks, and data loss / damage. All this is scary. So, how to address such risks to your precious data? The best option is to practice “Safe Computing” (outlined below), and also take regular backups, which is a simple defense against data loss due any reason.

Here are a few basic points related to backup:
a) In case of a data loss, recovery of an earlier version (that is close to the latest) is the main reason for backup.
b) “Sync” vs. “Backup”: Sync is convenient and popular, but Backup is more robust, dependable, and legally compliant.
c) Network Attached Storage (NAS), especially with RAID, is a common and good backup medium.
d) Regular backup is a legal requirement for businesses in some countries.
e) Backup, preferably automated / scheduled, should be part of every business’s Disaster Recovery plan.

Backup is in general of two types — full and incremental.

  • Full backup saves all the files and folders selected for the backup. It generates a bigger archive and takes longer, but has the full data snapshot.
  • Incremental backup saves only the files that have changed or are new since the last backup (full or incremental). It’s smaller in size and less time to complete, but it depends on the last full backup and any incremental backups in between.

It is a good practice to take a full backup after a significant number of incremental backups. E.g., if incremental backup is taken every day, a full backup can be taken once every month.

Earlier restoration involved restoring the full backup, followed by differential backup, and then all the incremental backups – a tedious and time-consuming process indeed! Now all that can be achieved in a single step, such as “Structure Restore”.

Here are some trends / observations for the data management and backup area:

  • With the prevalence of offsite / cloud-based email services, on-site email servers are reducing and email backup is becoming less important.
  • Permission issues and PC unavailability are the biggest reasons for backup failure.
  • Automatic data backup is much better than manual backups as the latter takes extra time and can be forgotten or skipped under pressure.
  • A well-defined data retention policy is as important as the backup policy and arrangement.
  • In general a business should have a different backup and data retention policy for each of its departments.

For the sake of your business, it’s a must to follow the Safe Computing Principles

  1. Use legal and up-to-date Operating System and other software
  2. Use a reputed and current anti-virus / anti-malware software
  3. Install the latest released stable updates to all your software, especially the Operating System
  4. Use automatic / scheduled regular backups of all important data
  5. Be paranoid… OK, just be super careful — do not trust random email attachments, links in emails, unknown websites / tiny URLs etc.

Please refer to Ransomware (in Wikipedia), in particular the “Mitigation” section.

Our two other posts related to this may also be informative and helpful:

  1. How to Handle Ransomware Threat: Be Cautious and Backup Data
  2. How to Create a Folder Accessible to only a Specific User (Data Backup User)

HOW TO BACKUP DATA ON WINDOWS?

SARANGSoft offers two software products for data backup on Windows:

  1. filexpertez for backup of individual Windows PCs and servers
  2. WinBackup Business for backup of all Windows PCs and servers in a Windows network (domain or workgroup)

SARANGSoft filexpertez is one of the first applications to
a) provide “Structure (one-click) Restore”, reducing the restore effort by up to 99%.
b) allow versioning of the backed up files.
c) enable backup to cloud as well as various local storage.
With the use of “Structure Restore”, the need for differential backup is almost eliminated.

SARANGSoft WinBackup Business performs decentralized backup with centralized control — providing best of both worlds.
a) The backup effort gets distributed across all the computers and is not imposed on a single computer. This results in more flexibility as well as faster backups.
b) The network remains clog-free as the files are not examined or transferred over the network.
c) Enables configuring multiple backups – use different backup specification for different computers or even for the same computer.
d) (Unlike many other backup products) Doesn’t force the users to put their files (to backup) in a single folder. Multiple folders on a user’s computer can be specified to backup.
e) No need to have a single folder-set apply to all computers. Specify a different folder-set to backup for every computer.
f) It’s a rare backup software that provides both Individual (flexible) and Common (easy to use) Selection of folders to backup — see more on that below.
g) Specify a different backup destination for each backup specification. It helps categorize the destination depending on backup contents or the department.
h) Get access to a number of important reports. Click on individual column headers within the reports to sort the data, toggle between ascending and descending order the same way.
i) To backup data locally (not accessible even to the administrator), set the backup destination to local storage media such as External USB Hard Disk / CD / DVD.

Individual Selection vs. Common Selection

Individual Selection
Specify a different folder-set for every computer to backup; not necessarily the same folder-set to backup for every computer.
Common Selection
(If Individual Selection is tedious) Specify a common folder-set for all the computers to backup.

NOTE: If there are permission issues in the network and you are unable to perform Individual Selection, you can still go for Common Selection of the folders to backup.
Individual Selection offers you flexibility, whereas Common Selection offers you ease of use. It’s you who decides what you want.

It is important to remember a few points about Backup Scheduling:

  • Use the same User Id to launch the “Admin Console” and configure backups as what was specified while installing WinBackup Business Server.
  • Scheduling may fail due to permission issues or unavailability of the remote agent computer. Use the ‘Failed Schedules’ report to retry scheduling at a more suitable time.
  • To re-schedule an existing backup, load it in ‘Manage Backup’, go to the schedule options page, modify the schedule, and click ‘Start’ on the Progress page.

CloudScape‘, bundled with WinBackup Business, helps upload backup archives to public cloud storage ‘Amazon AWS-S3’ and ‘Microsoft Azure’ for added resiliency and protection.
NOTE: The AWS and Azure accounts must be your own. SARANGSoft does NOT provide such accounts along with its backup products.

If you feel lost at any point, or do not find what you need, or for any other problem, use the context sensitive help on any topic by just pressing the ‘F1’ key on the keyboard or the ‘Help’ button on the toolbar.

Network Backup
There are two technology options for corporate level backup – push and pull.
a) Push mode backup: Backup agent runs on individual PCs to collect the files, packages, optionally compresses and encrypts, before sending to backup destination. It is more

  • Secure: data can be encrypted before sending over the network
  • Bandwidth Efficient: Data can be compressed before sending over the network
  • Faster: Backup effort is distributed across the workstations, thus achieving better overall throughput
  • Better Load Balanced: Backup effort is not put on a single machine and is distributed across multiple machines

b) Pull mode backup: Backup software pulls the data from individual PCs and then backs them up. All work is done by a single “Backup PC”.

WinBackup Business: Advanced Backup Options

  • Backup open files too (except on Windows XP, Windows Server 2003/2003-R2); no need to close files before backup.
  • Use Backup-on-the-Go for users who remain disconnected from office network for major part of the day (e.g., sales, field support team members etc).
  • Most backup applications fail to backup if the target computer is not in network at the scheduled backup time, but WinBackup Business backs up at the scheduled time to a local disk and automatically transfers the backup archives to backup destination when the computer is back in the network.
  • Configure for the powerful AES encryption for every backup, so that only the intended user can open the backup files.
  • Get email notification when the backup process completes on a computer.

WinBackup Business: Advanced Restore Options

  • Restore operation on a large archive can take quite some time. WinBackup Business can notify through email when restore is complete.
  • Restoration is decentralized, thereby enabling respective users to restore according to own requirements without bothering the administrator.
  • Restoration is made easy using Structure Restore. Restore the latest version of all the files in one go.
  • To restore an older version of a file, use the Restore Point functionality.
  • To restore all files created or modified on/before a certain date, use the Advanced Filtering option.

Backup is essential for computing. Some of the backup tools are hard to use, or inflexible, or expensive, or all of those. Now you have options that work well and do not cost much.

How to Create a Folder Accessible to only a Specific User (Data Backup User)

Data backup is like taking an insurance on your data. Just as we cannot predict what will happen with our life and property the next moment, and take cover of a good insurance, the same is true for our data too. Our precious data may be lost due to various reasons – natural disasters (earth-quake, flood, storm, fire), man-made havoc (theft, arson, violence), equipment failure, hacker attack etc. Backup acts as a good insurance against all such incidents. So, let’s make sure to regularly backup data.

It’s most common take backups onto another storage device, such as an external USB drive or a network share. It’s definitely a good step, but such storage also can be targeted by malware and virus. For example, if you map a network share to a drive (such as map \\myserver\backupshare to the drive x:) or attach an external USB drive to your computer, malware can identify such a drive and do the same damage as it does to regular drives in a computer. To protect the backup drive from malware attack, take the following steps so that the drive / folder is accessible ONLY to your dedicated backup user account as explained in our other blog post “How to Handle Ransomware Threat: Be Cautious and Backup Data“.

NOTE: Though the following set of steps use the folder name “BackupShared” as an example, DO NOT use such an easy-to-guess account name. Choose something suitable for your case that does NOT include your name, username etc.

a) Right-click on the folder (in this case E:\BackupShared as an example), and from the context-menu click on ‘Properties’ option.

b) Click on ‘Security’ tab to select it. You will see the dialog below.
Create Secure Drive - Step B

c) Click on the ‘Advanced’ button. You will then see the dialog below.
Create Secure Drive - Step C

d) Click on the ‘Disable inheritance’ button, which will show the following dialog.
Create Secure Drive - Step D

e) Select the option ‘Remove all inherited permissions from this object’.

f) Remove all ‘Permission entries’ (if any) from the following dialog.
Create Secure Drive - Step F

g) Now click the ‘Add’ button in the above dialog, and you will see the following dialog.
Create Secure Drive - Step G

h) Click on ‘Select a principal’ and you will get the following dialog.
Create Secure Drive - Step H

i) Specify name of the backup-only user created in step (b) above and click on ‘OK’.
Create Secure Drive - Step I

j) You will next see the following dialog. In the ‘Basic permissions’ section, select ‘Full Control’. The other options within this dialog should be as shown below. Then click ‘OK’.
Create Secure Drive - Step J

k) Now click ‘Apply’ in the following dialog.
Create Secure Drive - Step K

l) Change the ‘Owner’ by clicking on the ‘Change’ link in the above dialog. This should be the same as the backup user.

m) Click ‘OK’ to close the dialog. You will come back to the following dialog.
Create Secure Drive - Step M

n) Open the ‘Sharing’ tab, and click ‘Share…’.
Create Secure Drive - Step N

o) Then you will see the following dialog.
Create Secure Drive - Step O

p) If the “backup username” does not appear in the box, click on the dropdown list and select ‘Find people…’. Specify the “backup username” in that dialog and click ‘OK’ to come back to the File Sharing dialog. Then click ‘Add’. Choose ‘Owner’ or ‘Read/Write’ as the ‘Permission Level’ for the user.

q) Click the ‘Share’ button to share the folder. Click ‘Done’ on the following dialog.
Create Secure Drive - Step Q

r) Click ‘Close’ in the following dialog to complete the security settings.
Create Secure Drive - Step R

Yes, you are really done! It took quite a number of steps to go through, but now you have secured a folder / drive from unapproved access by malware and hack attacks. This is a safe destination for your backup data. Go ahead, start the backup process now.