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The Challenges of Backing up Laptops: Creating a Strategy

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laptop-backup-strategyToday, employees are empowered to leave the office, taking laptops and mobiles with them. With organisational data being created and stored on these devices, the challenge of protecting the data that resides within them is a challenge faced by many IT teams.

Despite forming a large portion of the overall number of endpoint devices within an enterprise environment, it is not unusual for the data contained within them to be unprotected. Budget is often the most pressing reason that hinders the development of a comprehensive laptop and other endpoint device backup strategy.  

The challenge of creating a laptop backup strategy

The responsibility of laptop data backup and recovery

Determining who is responsible for endpoint backup and disaster recovery within an enterprise environment is not always straightforward.  Not only can the team responsible differ from those required to perform the enterprise strategy, but the duties for delivering the tasks associated with performing the data backups and then recovering the data can also be distributed amongst teams.  This wide distribution of responsibly can make finding a singular individual to take ownership of the creation and management of the endpoint backup strategy difficult. 

Creating a strategy which gives the endpoint user the responsibility

Along with budget restrictions, the assumption that the data contained on laptops is less vulnerable than other organisational data is a contributing factor in a lack of a centrally managed strategy. These two factors often result in the belief that the endpoint users can and therefore should assume the responsibility of backing up their data either through the use of an external storage device, the instillation of a backup utility or by manually copying it over to the server.

The benefit of this approach to data backup is that the laptop and other endpoint device users are self-sufficient when it comes to protecting their own data.

While it is not unreasonable to pass responsibility to the endpoint users, it is perhaps just wishful thinking to believe that a manual can suffice as a comprehensive strategy in the long term. Typically, without the necessary protocol and guidance in place backups may happen on a semi-regular basis at best by a portion of the workforce and at worse, not at all.

A strategy which puts IT in control

Developing a strategy where IT maintains control will most likely require a larger budget allocation, but it also dramatically increases the likelihood that data will be protected. This type of approach requires that all endpoint devices are incorporated into an IT-controlled backup process at a corporate level.

The challenges of connection & bandwidth

There are variety of challenges associated with backing up laptops, but the most prominent is the lack of a constant or stable network connection. As employees move and change location, it can become impossible to predict their IP address which is often the primary method of forming a connection. Laptop backups cannot be performed unless the device can establish a connection to the backup target.

In addition to the network connectivity concerns, bandwidth limitations also present a challenge for performing laptop and mobile device backups. While employees have come to expect high-speed internet connections within the workplace, employees travelling for work or making off-site visits can’t guarantee a secure or stable connection.

The interruptions to the endpoint user

Automated backups must be scheduled for a time when the laptop is likely to be switched on and is available for a connection to be made; effectively during prime working hours. This presents a challenge to endpoint users who may experience the frustrations of having an important work or tasks interrupted by a scheduled backup, limiting the performance of their device.

Best practices for creating an endpoint device backup strategy

It is important to be aware of all the potential issues that may arise, and the variety of options available. Evaluating and testing potential solutions is a key step in the deliberation process and shouldn’t be rushed. Working directly with those most likely to be impacted by automated backups can help determine how many of the backup processes features are realised in practice – eg: how it effects the running of systems or does it slow the internet connections? If the backup processes are likely to have a large impact on device functionality, users are increasingly likely to interrupt or shut down the process before it has had the chance to perform the backups – leaving data unprotected.

It is also important to determine how each option performs when required to restore data. Rigorous testing procedures under varying scenarios should be applied to determine how well each solution will perform when needed most.

Employee training and education is also a vital component of a mobile device backup strategy, as it will often rely on their co-operation to complete the backup processes. Employees should understand the importance of each of these processes in protecting organisational data and of any other necessary actions or tasks they should perform.

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Topics: Backup Strategy