The data is the lifeblood that keeps organizations operating and innovating. From client records to internal communications, the data your business generates is integral to your operation. However, the digital landscape is fraught with risks, and without a backup plan, you are a single cyber-attack, natural disaster, or human error away from catastrophe. This brings us to a pertinent question: what data should you back up to ensure your business security and resilience?

Understanding Data Value: The Starting Point

Before delving into what data to back up, you must first understand the value of your data. Essentially, the worth of your data is determined by its impact on your business operations and continuity.

For example, customer databases hold the details of your clients – a treasure trove of information that is vital for marketing, sales, and customer relationship management. Losing this data could mean losing your entire customer base. Similarly, losing financial records could lead to non-compliance with financial regulations and significant penalties.

Ask yourself, “What data, if lost, would have a profound impact on our business?”

The Essential Data Categories to Backup

Although the specific data to back up can vary across organizations, certain data categories generally hold significant value:

  1. Business Operations Data: This includes data that is critical for your day-to-day operations. For instance, a manufacturing company might prioritize backing up their production schedules and inventory data to avoid disruptions in their supply chain.
  2. Legal and Compliance Data: Businesses are often required to maintain and protect certain records like financial reports, employee data, and customer information for legal or compliance reasons.
  3. Intellectual Property: Any data that constitutes your organization’s IP, such as patents, designs, and trade secrets, should be backed up. This data gives your business a competitive edge, and losing it could be disastrous.
  4. Customer Data: Customer databases, CRM data, and any information about your clients need to be safeguarded. This not only ensures you maintain your client base, but also helps maintain trust and comply with data protection regulations.
  5. Employee Data: This includes data related to your staff, like HR records, payroll information, and employee contracts.

As you assess these categories, keep asking, “What would be the business cost if this data was lost or inaccessible?”

Using a Data Mapping Exercise

A data mapping exercise can be instrumental in figuring out what data to back up. This process involves identifying where data is stored within your organization, who uses it, and what it’s used for.

Let’s take a retail company as an example. They might have sales data spread across various platforms – from physical stores to online eCommerce platforms. A data mapping exercise would identify these data sources and the departments that utilize them, like sales, marketing, or inventory management.

This exercise can reveal how data flows through your organization and help you understand which data sets are most critical to back up.

A Risk-based Approach to Data Backup

Adopting a risk-based approach can further refine your data backup strategy. This means evaluating the risk of data loss and the potential impact on your business.

For instance, customer data stored on an encrypted, secure server in-house might be less at risk than data stored on an employee’s laptop, which could be lost, stolen, or compromised. In this case, you might prioritize backing up the data on the laptop.

The impact of data loss also plays a significant role. Losing customer transaction data might lead to a slight dip in quarterly sales figures, but losing your entire product design database could cripple your business.

Remember to ask, “What are the risk factors associated with this data, and what impact would its loss have on the business?”

Final Thoughts

Determining what data to back up is an important step towards ensuring business security and resilience. However, it’s not a set-and-forget strategy. As your business grows, and as data usage and storage practices evolve, you should regularly review and update your data backup priorities.

Remember, the goal is not just to survive a data loss event, but to bounce back with minimal disruption. Understanding what data to back up is your key to resilience in the face of ever-evating digital threats.

To get started, checkout our Backup solutions in our Business Continuity section.