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MSP Backup Security: Top Strategies for Protecting Client Data

Backup security is more than a technical necessity — it’s essential for shielding business data and systems against threats and disasters. Whether it’s financial records, customer details, or proprietary information, any business that stores data needs a way to protect it. That can be a challenge for any business, especially for managed service providers with multiple clients.

MSP clients may need a bespoke backup strategy, with a mix of onsite, offsite, and cloud storage to ensure comprehensive data recovery options for different departments or types of data. The complexity of these setups can be difficult to manage, and MSPs need to choose a platform that can handle this critical task.

In this post, we’ll talk about key considerations for backup security solutions and best practices for protecting your client’s data.

The significance of backup security

In addition to backing up client data and keeping it secure, MSPs need to think about how they’d restore data in the event of a worst-case scenario. The methods of backing up data influence timelines for restoring it, and that’s something clients might not realize.

There’s no one-size-fits-all solution for secure data backup, so MSPs need to understand how their clients work and whether their data priorities require different types of backup and restoration plans.

Essential backup methods every MSP should know

There are three primary backup methods that every MSP should be familiar with: full backup, differential backup, and incremental backup. The primary differences between them are how frequently they occur and how long they take to execute.

Full backups

A full backup, as the name implies, involves copying all data files in a single operation. This might include:

  • Folders, documents, and images
  • Content management systems
  • Websites
  • Software systems
  • Databases
  • System state

Although a full backup is time-consuming and demands substantial storage space, it’s the fastest option for data recovery. However, without supplemental backups between full backups, data is at risk.

Differential backups

Differential backups capture all data that changed since the most recent full backup. So, for example, if a business runs a full backup the first and third week of the month, they might use differential backups on weeks two and four to ensure data is protected between full backups.

These backups are faster than full backups because they’re copying less data. And they use less storage space.

Incremental backups

An incremental backup captures only the data that changed since the last backup, which could be either a full or another incremental backup. This efficiency makes incremental backups the easiest way to continually backup data. The downside of incremental backups is that the recovery process can be complex.

To restore data, MSPs need to start with the original full backup and sequentially restore data from all incremental backups. Despite this complexity in recovery, the storage efficiency and speed of incremental backups may outweigh the potential drawbacks.

Backup storage options: cloud, on-premise, and hybrid

Most MSPs prefer the “3-2-1” backup method: storing three recent copies of data, two on different local storage mediums, and one with a cloud provider. This approach offers flexibility and significantly reduces the risk of physical threats like floods and fires.

Here’s an overview of these backup options:

Cloud backup

Cloud backup solutions are highly scalable and cost effective — you don’t pay for storage unless you need it. A cloud-based solution also allows MSPs to restore data from wherever they are, so it’s a good option for remote teams.

Despite the flexibility of cloud backups, it’s important to remember that internet connectivity and server downtime can interfere with backups, or even critical business functions. If a client customer database is stored in the cloud and connected to real-time daily processes, those processes may “break” when platforms can’t access the database.

On-premise backups

On-prem solutions allow businesses to maintain control over data with direct access, enabling quick responses to any data retrieval needs or issues. Despite the substantial initial investment in servers and backup equipment, smaller companies may find on-premise solutions more cost-effective by avoiding ongoing cloud service subscription fees. However, for MSPs, these backups are more difficult to manage because they can’t be accessed remotely.

Hybrid backup strategy benefits

Hybrid backups store data both in the cloud and on-site and offer a high level of customization. For example, a business could use cloud backups for essential business systems like Microsoft 365 or Adobe Creative Suite, but keep sensitive customer data on-site.

How client needs impact backup strategies

Choosing the right backup security solution involves more than just selecting a software platform. It requires a thorough understanding of your client’s needs and a strategic approach to meeting those needs.

Recovery time objective (RTO) and recovery point objective (RPO)

RTO is the maximum acceptable time for restoring normal business operations after a data event. RPO is the maximum acceptable data loss during RTO. MSPs typically collaborate with each client to define RTO and RPO needs in service-level agreements.

A lower RPO implies the need for more frequent backups to minimize data loss. A short RTO might make full data backups the best option for a client — but again, while these backups facilitate quick data restoration, they do leave data vulnerable between backups.

Data volume and connectivity

Any data backup strategy must consider two pivotal factors: the volume of data and the quality of internet connectivity. Large data volumes can increase the time required for backup operations and may necessitate more storage space. And adequate internet bandwidth is critical for backing up data to offsite cloud-based locations.

In the event of data loss or system failures, the restoration process is heavily dependent on internet connectivity. Recovery could be significantly delayed if the available bandwidth cannot handle the volume of data being restored.

Considerations for data backup and security

To truly safeguard your client’s data, it’s crucial to implement industry-standard encryption protocols, multi-factor authentication, and regular testing. These practices not only improve the security of backups, they also ensure compliance with various data protection regulations.

Complying with privacy laws and regulations

From GDPR to HIPAA, businesses must comply with regulations specific to their industry or as part of a broader legal requirement. Managing and storing data can trigger compliance violations if not managed well.

Secure location and encryption protocols

Data encryption protects sensitive information by using encryption protocols like AES-256, which is essential for cloud-based backup security. The length of encryption keys impacts the duration of data security, with 128-bit keys being sufficient for short-term and 256-bit keys for longer-term protection. Key management practices, such as using individual keys for different objects and restricting access to these keys, significantly increase the security of encrypted backups.

Regular testing and verification

Without regular testing and verification, even the best backup strategy can fail when it matters most. Performing regular recovery tests on data backups ensures data can be successfully restored when necessary.

Testing should account for all the different ways data may need to be restored. That might include restoring years of data, a single document, or even data stored on a client phone or laptop.

How Syncro simplifies backup security

Backup security is incredibly complex, and MSPs might not have the resources to handle this critical task. With Syncro, MSPs have the option to add Acronis Cyber Protect Suite at a special partner rate, then sell backup management as a service. The ability to offer this in-demand service can substantially boost revenue for MSPs.

Find out more about Syncro helps MSPs boost efficiency and revenue at every turn. Schedule a demo today!

Jillian Ho-Lung