5 Reasons Your City Needs Offsite Data Backup

November 18, 2015

John Miller, Senior Consultant, Sophicity

This article is posted with permission from Sophicity’s CitySmart blog and shares non-technical, municipal-relevant insights about critical technology issues, focusing on how technology reduces costs, helps better serve citizens, and lessens cybersecurity risks. Sophicity is solely responsible for the article’s content.
This article originally appeared on Sophicity's CitySmart blog.

It’s safe to say that we still find too much uncertainty when it comes to data backup at cities. Typically, we investigate and find that the city has the potential for data loss.

For example, we often see the following common risks:
  • Onsite data backup but no consideration of offsite backup.
  • Not all data backed up. Data backups fail to include certain servers, databases, and files.
  • Failing backups. While data backup errors might be logged, no one is checking and resolving them.
  • Hope that data restoration will work, but no one is testing the backups.
  • Relying too heavily on manual backups. For example, when was a manual backup last performed? Who is carrying the backup, and where? What if someone’s briefcase or purse is stolen with the backup in it?
Cities often overlook or too lightly consider the critical offsite data backup component as part of an overall data backup and disaster recovery strategy. Why do cities need to re-think offsite data backup so badly? Here’s why.
  1. Power outages and natural disasters. Fire, floods, tornados, hurricanes, massive thunderstorms, and even a leaking roof or termites. When disaster strikes, onsite data backup may fail you. A days-long power outage means you (and the community you are serving) won’t have access to any of your onsite data, and a disaster may damage or destroy your onsite equipment. And because natural disasters often strike a large area, that’s why an “offsite” backup location only a few miles from City Hall doesn’t properly meet your needs.
  2. Open records requests. A city increases their risk for legal liability if they are not able to produce public records. Data loss from negligence or a lack of sufficient data backup investment is not an excuse for failing to produce a public record. Offsite data backup ensures that public records are safe and accessible even in the event of onsite data loss.
  3. Security. Offsite data is usually stored in one or more geographically dispersed data centers that adhere to the highest standards of physical security, information security, and encrypted data. But we find many cities are uncertain where their data is stored? Do you know if your data is stored within sovereign United States borders? Is it encrypted?
  4. Storage costs and limits. To store data backups offsite, cities often encounter storage space and cost barriers with their current setup. Fees increase quickly as the volume of data grows. If cities don’t switch to a modern offsite data backup platform, this data and associated costs will continue to grow at a faster pace—especially because of video and body cameras.
  5. Viruses. While related to security, we’re highlighting viruses specifically just because we’ve heard from cities that unfortunately did not have proper offsite data backup in place. When a virus hit their city, they permanently lost data because a machine had been completely compromised by a virus. With viruses becoming craftier over time (such as the dangerous ransomware virus), it’s essential that data is backed up and stored offsite just in case a virus compromises a server or workstation.
An offsite component to your data backup strategy that considers the points above will help to ensure that you have a mechanism in place that safeguards your data in the event of a disaster. The investment pays off in so many ways, encompassing disaster recovery, insurance, liability, security, and compliance. Onsite data backup is great, and it’s better than nothing. But offsite data backup completes the picture and gives you peace of mind.

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