By Alexander Eiriksson, COO at SecurStore Online Backup
September 09, 2011

SecurStore Online Data Backup Expert Tips: Retention of Data in Online Backup

If you believe that online backup service providers allow you to retain data of only the last thirty days, you are mistaken. Most online backup service providers facilitate versioning of data and allow you retain historical versions of every file. This is considered to be a very important safety feature in the backup application. In fact, these service providers sometimes make it difficult to delete a backed up version of the file; automatically create new versions of a file, unless the authorized administrator of the back up gives express consent to the deletion and non-maintenance of versions of the file!

So what is versioning? Versioning is the process of ensuring that all changes made to the document are preserved with a date and time stamp in the data repository. This is not to say that the original file is overwritten and only the changed versions are preserved! In fact, the original version is not tampered with. It continues to reside in the backup (typically for 30 days), while changes to the file are recorded and either a new version of the file is created and saved or the changes alone are saved with pointers to the locations where the changes are to be included in the original file if the user calls for a revised version of the file, indicating the date and time stamp or the saved name of the version.

Consequently, the version controls and version security features are very important adjuncts to a successful online backup service. Of prime importance is the fact that the document management system of the online backup service provider comes with a built in central administrative panel from which the administrator can create access permissions for documents, individually or collectively. Added to this is the document lock and unlock functionality that prevents the original documents from being overwritten or deleted by unwary individuals. The document version rollback feature provides an additional facility of rolling back a changed document to an earlier version of the document.

Some online backup service providers also have the technology to collapse all document versions into the original version or rollback the versions to a specific point in time. Document commenting allows users to add comments to a document to enable other users understand the changes that have been made to the original version of the document.

The Document Audit trail provides a quick view of the different versions of the document; the ownership of the version; the date of creation of the version; the read-history of the version; the comment-history or the access-history of the document as relevant for the audit. Documents that have been erroneously deleted can also be restored to the data repository from the recycle bin just as you can do so on your Windows desktop.

In this context, it is also important to understand the difference between backup and file versioning systems.

While a backup allows you to save large volumes of data on to a separate storage repository, versioning only works on stored files and creates versions of the file within the folder in which the file resides or elsewhere as specified by the user. A backup is a time bound process that is scheduled by the organization to happen on a fixed schedule. File versioning happens only when a backed up file changes. Backups are system wide or partition wide, whereas versioning is a process that is done on a file- to-file basis.

Therefore, the belief that a backup of files to the online server will automatically delete the earlier versions of the file is erroneous. If versioning control has been implemented by the administrator, the administrator or other authorized persons, will have to specifically override the settings to overwrite and delete earlier versions of the file in the backup. The earlier version expires after the 30 day or whatever the retention period is. After the 30 days, only the latest version will be left in your backup.

In short, versioning allows users retain data or versions of data in online backup servers. It involves a process of recording and managing changes to data and maintaining a persistent view of the database without creating multiple copies of the database. So, if you have already backed up your data on to online backup servers or plan to subscribe to a service check out how many versions of a file they will permit you to retain in the backup. Your administrator can set the versioning requirements using the central administrative console provided by the backup service provider and you can rest assured that your data will not get deleted. It will be retained as a new version every time you make changes, subject to the version limitations specified by the online backup service vendor.

SecurStore provides a bespoke offsite backup solution catered for customers who have both mission-critical data and non-critical data i.e. it provides customers with a secure & efficient backup and recovery solution which is sustainable over time. This coupled with agentless technology and advanced support for all environments and applications makes it suitable for any type of business, data centre provider or reseller.

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About the Author: Alexander Eiriksson is the COO of SecurStore, an Asigra based cloud backup provider certified by British Standards Institute for ISO 27001 and ANAB. Established in 1991, SecurStore provides businesses and enterprise customers a technically advanced solution in UK, Europe, USA, Africa, Asia and the Middle East.

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