There Is a 50% Chance Your Data Backup Will Fail

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Data protection problems are hobbling digital transformation efforts, according to the latest study by Veeam Software. And that is bad news for many chief digital officers looking to speed up their digital transformation efforts.

The Veeam Data Protection Report 2021, which surveyed more than 3,000 IT decision-makers at global enterprises, painted a grim picture. Fourteen percent of all data is not backed up at all, and 58% of recoveries fail.

Anthony Spiteri, the senior global technologist for product strategy at Veeam Software, feels that the real problem is attitude: “Backup has traditionally been an afterthought when it comes to budgets. That is until an event happens and you need to recover… only then does the value of backup become realized in most organizations’ eyes. That said, I think any part of a modern approach to digitalization will include backup.”

This modern approach sees backup like insurance. “With the rise of sophisticated attacks and the criticality of data becoming more and more known, companies have to start listening. Though for most, the strategies are only really tested when it is too late,” Spiteri adds.

Inadequate backup makes data vulnerable to outages due to security attacks. And the rising number of unexpected outages will only mean more data exposure.

The report noted that 95% of organizations experienced an outage in the last 12 months. One in four servers had at least one unexpected outage in the prior year. On average, APJ organizations reported that an outage lasts 83 minutes (almost an hour and a half). This is slightly higher than the global average (79 minutes).

So why are backups failing us? The report pointed to two reasons: Backups are ending with errors or are overrunning the allocated backup window, and restorations failing to deliver their required SLAs. These two reasons topped the global data protection challenges for 2021 at 40% (up from 31% in 2019), beating out all other metrics.

“Simply put, if a backup fails, the data remains unprotected, which is a huge concern for businesses given that the impacts of data loss and unplanned downtime span from customer backlash to reduced corporate share prices. Further compounding this challenge is the fact that the digital threat landscape is evolving at an exponential rate,” says Danny Allan, chief technology officer and senior vice president of product strategy at Veeam.

Part of the problem is the rampant use of cloud — 93% of organizations increased their cloud services usage (28%) significantly, said the report. Many companies bootstrapped their digital transformation journeys by bringing together different SaaS tools and migrating their infrastructure to the cloud.

As a result, backup is shifting from on-premises to cloud-based solutions managed by a service provider. The report highlighted a trajectory that goes from 29% in 2020 to 46% anticipated by 2023.

However, moving to the cloud or a service provider is not going to solve your backup headaches. “Moving to online platforms doesn’t change [the backup and recovery challenges] and even makes it more challenging as there is less awareness of data growth and sprawl. Recovery is more important now than it was 5 or 10 years ago because now it does impact brand and trust,” says Spiteri.

The misconception that SaaS providers will address the gaps in backup and recovery compounds the problem further.

“Initially, businesses have made an assumption that their cloud providers support their backup and recovery needs, but it’s clear that often this is not meeting their internal requirements. This realization has been very clear as Veeam has seen extraordinary demand for our Backup for Office365 product — in Hong Kong, for example, we have seen triple-digit growth in Backup for Office365 — shows cloud adoption is accelerating rapidly here in Hong Kong,” says Spiteri.  

The inadequate backup and recovery are creating what Veeam calls an availability gap. It is the difference between how fast companies can recover applications and how fast they need to recover them. In the report, the global gap is at 80%. It means four in five companies are facing a gap. For Asia Pacific companies, the gap is slightly wider at 82%.

This availability gap feeds into the protection gap, which is how frequently data is backed up versus how much data a company can afford to lose after an outage. The global average is 76%, meaning three in four companies face this gap. In Asia, the gap is a close 76%.

When drilling down to country numbers, some Asian countries show improvements.

For example, Hong Kong’s availability gap of 76 is better than the global and Asia Pacific average. It is also a clear improvement over 2017; the gap was 93%. Singapore, Japan, and Thailand also tracked better than the global average at 78%, 79%, and 66%, respectively.

In the end, closing the gap comes down to how well companies categorize their workloads to ensure the most critical data is recovered first, says Spiteri.

The right RTO based on where the backed-up data lives and how it is backed up also helps. “If it’s a key Tier 1 workload, maybe replication is preferred over backup,” he adds.

Winston Thomas is the editor-in-chief of CDOTrends and HR&DigitalTrends. He is always curious about all things digital, including new digital business models, the widening impact of AI/ML, unproven singularity theories, proven data science success stories, lurking cybersecurity dangers, and reimagining the digital experience. You can reach him at [email protected]

Image credit: iStockphoto/SIphotography