Why immutable backup recovery for your Data Backup and Recovery Strategy? In a disruptive digital age, with rapidly growing cybersecurity threats, many IT leaders are looking to go beyond cloud backup and data recovery for a more comprehensive disaster recovery strategy (DRS). Data backup and recovery are critical for businesses and their applications to stay online and recover quickly from a breach or a natural disaster. Until recently, backing up to the cloud was the most secure option to safeguard your organization from ransomware disruptions.
Small-to-medium-sized businesses and organizations across the enterprise have moved data to the Cloud for safekeeping. Taking this approach positioned organizations to sidestep any fallout following a cyberattack. You can usually restore your data and applications from the cloud in minutes. That’s growing more critical daily, with experts at the International Data Corporation (IDC) estimating that the global datasphere will leap to 175 zettabytes in the next two years. So, how did we get here? Let’s start with some basics.
Backup and Data Recovery and Cloud Computing
What is backup and recovery? Backing up data keeps an active copy on the cloud. The actual process of backing up data is copying and uploading computer data to the cloud. The data, including user profiles, emails, files, and applications, is saved on the cloud for data recovery in the event of a loss. Traditional cloud backup and data recovery are mutable versus immutable backup.
Data loss is a worst-case scenario for any business. Even if there isn’t a cybersecurity attack, networks go down, software bugs create issues, and extreme weather events take organizations offline. Service and network disruptions can happen anytime. A recent survey found that 80% of respondents listed backup as a majority IT priority. Before immutable backups were trending, Cloud Data Recovery and Backup (mutable or not) were the best practice for IT departments and a mandate to secure and maintain cybersecurity insurance.
Backing data up to the cloud versus on-prem helps businesses make deep budget cuts without needing expensive on-prem storage devices or a secondary data center. That saves your company time and resources. But. with the latest advancements in cybersecurity threats, more than cloud backups are needed. While the last sea change moved the masses to the cloud for flexibility, availability, and scalability, the next wave of change is here to add an extra layer of protection.
That’s because advanced cyberattacks now enable bad actors to corrupt data backups on the cloud, so when they are restored, it’s unusable. Cloud Data Recovery and Backup can still promote a lower risk of data loss, but now with the risk of backup corruption, more IT leaders want to take it a step further.
Let’s define immutable backup and clear up some common misconceptions.
What is an immutable backup?
An immutable backup is a backup copy of your data that can’t be deleted or updated in any way. Users, system administrations, systems, and applications that created the original data cannot alter it with an immutable backup.
Like cloud backup, immutable backup helps you restore data quickly after a data loss due to a natural disaster, network issues, or a data breach by bad actors, so you can return to business as usual. Having an immutable backup copy of your data is essential. Ensuring your immutable backup is immediately recoverable as needed in the event of a data breach or loss is also mission critical.
So, what makes immutable and mutable backup so different?
What is immutable versus mutable backup?
In contrast, it’s easy to modify, delete, or encrypt mutable backups. Mutable backups are data backups that enable administrators to apply patches and upgrades as needed and quickly scale up or down with business needs. While mutable backups offer greater flexibility when it comes to more advanced ransomware attacks, mutable backups are also more vulnerable to corruption because of their adaptability. Mutable backups, once the leading data backup and recovery strategy, are now increasingly becoming targets for bad actors looking to make post-attack data unusable.
Immutable backup seals data from any changes or corruption. It’s untouchable. That means ransomware attackers cannot modify or delete your data following an attack. If a ransomware catastrophe strikes, immutable backups empower reliable data recovery—that data hasn’t been changed since the backup. While less flexible than mutable backup, immutable backup is more resistant to security vulnerabilities without the ability to update or delete applications and data. These limitations make immutable backup a critical component of a modern data backup and recovery approach.
Immutable backups are quickly becoming the best practice for IT leaders because they are resistant to malicious software built for corruption or any malicious encryption.
What makes air-gapped data backups different?
First, let’s define air-gapping when it comes to storage. Air-gapping is the process of disconnecting your server or other storage outlet from your network. Air-gapping takes the storage method completely offline for protection against malware, ransomware, or viruses that can quickly spread across your connected systems. This should sound familiar.
However, air-gapped applications and data are not as resistant as immutable data backups. Air-gapped backups sound a lot like immutable backups, but there are some major differences that can raise red flags when it comes to alleviating the most risk possible. Both air-gapping and immutable back-up strategies are popular data backup and recovery methods. Each are approaches to protect data from corruption and serve similar IT use cases.
Air-gapping a storage outlet like a server gives the data stored a level of immutability by blocking anyone from accessing it. Air-gapped data cannot be accessed through the network or modified in any way.
Air-gapping is similar, but it isn’t completely immutable because while it isn’t connected to the network, it doesn’t protect you against any administrators or malicious actors at your business from accessing the server. That means data can still be deleted, encrypted, or corrupted on the server. Whether it’s an accidental disruption or someone who has socially engineered their way into your business, your organization is still open to a certain amount of risk.
So, while air-gapping safeguards your data from being accessed remotely, immutability arms your data more aggressively so no one can access, modify, or delete it. No matter where immutable backup is stored and who the administrators are, it cannot be accessed or modified in any way. It is exactly how it sounds—immutable. Immutability essentially means your data is on lock down.
How do immutable backups work?
When you create an immutable backup you are putting an “object lock” on that data that other data backup and recovery options cannot offer. The object lock prevents anyone from accidentally or intentionally modifying or deleting data for a certain amount of time. The amount of time that data is locked is usually determined by the admin user who creates the data backup. The immutable data backup is also known as WORM-protected.
What is WORM? WORM is the acronym for “write once, read many,” and means that saved data can be accessed at any time, but cannot be modified. When the time period has passed, the object lock is released and the WORM-protected data is no longer immutable or unchangeable.
With immutable backups you can make a data backup immutable indefinitely. Most IT leaders set specific expirations for the object lock to be adaptable for fast-moving and growing organizations. Data constantly changes, and with a long enough period of time it can become extremely outdated. Outdated data can still leave businesses in a nightmare situation when they recover data after an event only to discover they don’t have the most up-to-date versions. Outdated files and applications slow businesses down and have a negative impact on customers or in healthcare settings, patient outcomes. Having the latest data backups available is important for any business.
Mutable backups are less secure, but more flexible. Meanwhile, immutable backups need to have shorter time frames to promote the most up-to-date backup possible.
What are the benefits of immutable backups?
As cyber threats have rapidly grown and evolved, there’s been a significant contrast drawn between mutable and immutable backups. With an immutable backup you can literally freeze your data in time. Immutable backups put an object lock on your data. Immutable backup provides one of the most effective forms of backup protection you can have. Immutable backups cannot be encrypted, modified, or deleted by anyone in our outside of your business during the admin-determined period of time.
A helpful analogy for immutable data is being able to restore your phone settings and data from the cloud after the smartphone is damaged or stops working. When you restore your phone you’ll have the data and settings from your most recent cloud backup. In this case, the time specified is the length you wait between your cloud backups.
Immutable backups offer more protection against advancing cybersecurity threats.
More IT leaders are actively assessing immutable backups to keep up with the constant onslaught of ransomware attacks and new and evolving cyber threats and trends like WormGPT AI. When it comes to ransomware attacks, your organization’s data, applications, and/or systems are encrypted by a cyber criminal. Next the hacker demands ransom so you can restore your data.
Advanced hackers know how to encrypt, corrupt, and delete backups to pressure you into paying the ransom for your own hijacked data. If your data backup cannot be encrypted than the ransomware attack is less dangerous. And while no barrier immutable or otherwise is 100% safe from cyberattacks, immutable backup can limit the odds while making your data less attractive to bad actors who are looking to make fast cash.
Immutable backups can prevent most data breaches and attacks, including malware, viruses, and other cyber attacks. Hackers who come across immutable data backups are more likely to move onto companies with mutable backups that are easier to delete and corrupt. They are looking for the easiest targets to spend the least amount of time while making the maximum amount of ransom profits possible.
What happens when you lose your data in attack or disaster? If your business is impacted by a cyberattack, a network outage, or a natural disaster, an immutable backup helps you get up and running again sooner.
Why do multiple backups matter and how do you combine your immutable backups with cybersecurity solutions?
Immutable backups can also benefit your business by providing several copies of your data. Having multiple backups can help your organization meet cybersecurity insurance requirements along with industry regulations and compliance requirements. Even if the worst occurs for your organization, remaining in compliance with regulations can guard your organization against penalty fees and minimize negative news coverage that impacts customer retention and ultimately your bottom line.
Immutable backups are a key piece of your cybersecurity strategy and can bolster your security posture when combined with other security solutions to create a strong first line of defense. A comprehensive approach to data backup and recovery includes some or more of the following:
- A zero-trust model applying thorough identity verification for users
- Multifactor authentication
- Multilevel resiliency
- Backup encryption
- Backup verification via regular testing and updates
- Automated alerts and mitigation measures in the event of a cyberattack or threat is detected
- Role-based access control to limit and restrict unauthorized user access
Keep reading if you have more questions about immutable backup specifics, or contact one of our experts to learn how Fruth Group can support your business.
Can you store your immutable backups on the cloud?
Yes, you can store an immutable backup on the cloud. Cloud backup is the most common use case for organizations shifting to immutable backups. IT leaders have already moved to the cloud, and now they’re honing in on the differentiators between immutable and mutable backups.
Immutable backups on the cloud are equally effective as on-premise immutable backups. The major difference is the performance outcomes, scalability, and up-front costs. In the age of big data, the cloud provides a more flexible and scalable option. That’s why more IT leaders select a cloud-based immutable backup approach for their long-term retention instead of on-premise strategy that requires more heavy lifting, unpredictable costs, and time.
How long should your immutable backups be on an object lock?
The length of your immutable backup data object lock is different for every organization or business use case. You have to assess your organization’s data needs. How long do you have to retain data? How often do you need your data updated? If you’re in a highly-regulated industry like finance, healthcare, or government, you must retain your data for a certain amount of time. It’s also critical to ensure you are capturing and backing up current data as needed.
Whatever your business needs, you can set the time for object lock either indefinitely or for a specified amount of time. Remember, storing immutable backups for too long can result in your data losing relevance as your current production data quickly evolves. Unless you are using the backup for archived data, the best practice is to set a specific time for your immutable backup based on your unique needs.
There’s no set limit or occurrence. In the event of a system outage or compromise you have the backup to restore your data quickly. That means it’s critical to keep a backup that reflects your latest production data. For some businesses, the data requires daily or multiple times a day.
Based on your business needs, you can decide how frequent that immutable backup should be based on how current you need your data archive. To determine this span it’s important to determine if and what data you can afford to lose in the event of a cybersecurity attack or other disaster. You decide how many days or weeks of data logs are critical to your organization.
Updating immutable backups isn’t enough. You should be testing your immutable backups on occasion to ensure they are still effective. Why? Unexpected disruptions can occur. Equipment malfunctions unexpectedly, either on hard drives or other storage mediums. You can rest assured that you will minimize or avoid data loss altogether. This looks different for every IT team. You decide how often to test your backups so that you ensure you have the data you need when you need it.
How secure are immutable backups?
There’s absolutely no way you can prevent 100% of cyberattacks every time no matter how strong your defenses are. To maximize your security posture it’s vital to leverage immutable backups alongside other cybersecurity solutions and approaches aligned with your business goals and requirements. Immutable backups provide a robust defense against both accidental and malicious data modification, corruption, encryption, and deletion.
Immutable backups also bolster your protection against malware, viruses, ransomware, and other cyberattacks or data catastrophes.
Building out a complete cybersecurity strategy is critical to protect your data and your users. Paired with other cybersecurity and data protection tools and processes, immutable backups should be a priority for every organization
Assess your cybersecurity strategy. Fruth Group has you covered.
Connect with one of Fruth Group’s security experts and learn how you can protect your business from disruption. As an end-to-end managed services provider, our team members can help you evaluate your current backup strategy, and which approach makes the most sense for your industry, compliance requirements, and business goals.