What is the Best Data Backup Strategy?

How to implement the most effective data backup strategy for your healthcare business, with tips on 3-2-1 backup, disaster recovery plans and more.

In healthcare, the best data backup strategy is essential for the safety of your patients’ data, their trust in your practice and your compliance with HIPAA data storage regulations.

Loss or theft of patients’ electronic protected health information (ePHI) continues to be a major problem for healthcare providers in 2021. June 2021 saw an increase in data breaches of 500 or more records for the third consecutive month – an 11% increase on May and the highest monthly total since September 2020.

line graph indicating US healthcare data breaches

(Image source: hipaajournal.com)

Having your data backed up securely is an essential precaution you can take against data breaches. But how do you back up your data and what’s the best strategy for doing so?

There are many types of backup.

Many organizations make a choice between cloud backup and on-premises and leave it there.

The best data backup strategies, however, go further than that and require an active commitment on the part of every employee whilst remaining simple to follow and implement.

At Central Data Storage, we’re big fans of the ‘3-2-1 backup strategy’ for this very reason. Simple, fast and secure, the 3-2-1 method provides a reliable way of ensuring your patients’ ePHI is safe no matter what.

What Is the 3-2-1 Data Backup Strategy in the Cloud? 

The 3-2-1 backup strategy is a backup strategy template for ensuring you can recover your critical data in the event it is compromised.

In terms of backup, ‘3-2-1’ means that:

  • You have at least three copies of your data
  • Two of these should be onsite, on different storage types in different locations
  • One of these should be stored safely offsite, for example cloud or online backup

For step two, it’s vital that you store additional copies of your data on a device that isn’t attached to your main computer or primary data source. Such devices include:

  • External hard drives
  • Optical disks
  • Digital tape
  • USB drives
infographic describing the 3-2-1 back up rule

(Image source: securityboulevard.com)

A 3-2-1 Data Backup Strategy Example

Let’s say you had a database of patient contact details. To follow the 3-2-1 backup strategy, you could maintain:

  • One copy on your desktop computer
  • One copy on an external hard drive
  • One copy on an offsite, HIPAA-compliant, cloud-based server

This gives you backup options for all eventualities. If your computer crashes, you can restore the database via your external hard drive. If you lose both via theft or natural disaster (for example, floods or storms hitting your practice), you can restore from the cloud. If, somehow, your offsite backups are corrupted, you still have the two local copies to hand.

Cloud storage, indeed, provides that crucial third element of your 3-2-1 backup strategy. By storing patient records, contact and payment details, etc. offsite with a HIPAA-compliant cloud vendor, you can always recover them if your onsite data is compromised.

A traditional, on-premises approach to data backups and recovery doesn’t offer this assurance. If your on-premises server room is in the same building as the other copies of your data, it is subject to the same threats. These could be from physical issues like theft or weather damage, targeted cybercrime attacks, or human error on the part of one of your employees.

Backing your data up in the cloud reduces this threat significantly. It’s not just the geographical distance that’s useful for maintaining reliable backups, either. Third-party data centers employ top-of-the-range IT experts (and extensive CCTV, surveillance, guards and other physical security apparatus) to ensure your data is kept safe.

4 Best Practices for Backing Up Your Database

The 3-2-1 framework is an invaluable tool for database backup and crucial for creating a truly robust data backup and recovery strategy.

So, what actions can you take to ensure your 3-2-1 backup strategy is as effective as possible? You will need to conduct advanced planning, adapt your approach based on data type and ensure your staff are well trained.

Here are three best practices for backing up data to the cloud:

Ensure Employees Are Clear About Their Responsibilities

Your entire practice has a role to play in your data backup process. As well as knowing the basics (setting strong passwords, for example, or reporting phishing emails), employees need to know exactly what their responsibilities are regarding data backup.

As such, it’s essential that you provide introductory training to all new employees and refresher training frequently throughout the year.

Set Data Recovery Objectives

Recovery objectives are central to any database backup strategy. These are:

  • Recovery time objectives: Recovery time objectives help you understand how quickly you need to recover your data and systems before downtime has a major financial impact on your practice. Can you survive an hour, a day, or a week before the point of no return?
  • Recovery point objectives: Recovery point objectives are based around how much data you can afford to lose (for example, an hour’s worth). Use recovery point objectives to determine how often you need to make backups to minimize data loss between backup and failure events. Backing up on a regular basis will drastically reduce risk here.

Establishing RTOs and RPOs for your practice will help you build a backup plan that minimizes damage and costs caused by data loss or theft.

Make Detailed Disaster Recovery Plans

Map out exactly which sort of failure events you might need to recover from – for example, natural disaster, cyberattack, or hardware failure – and create disaster recovery plans for each.

Revenue loss starts the second your systems go offline, so it’s essential to know:

  • Which data you will prioritize in a failure event
  • How long it will take to restore your data
  • How your approach needs to differ based on each situation

UnisonBDR: Compliant Cloud Storage for Your Practice

If you want to store patient data offsite, it’s vital that you find a storage partner with significant experience working with healthcare providers.

At Central Data Storage, we specialize in providing safe cloud backup software for HIPAA covered entities.

With UnisonBDR, not only do we automate your backups straight to the cloud, we can protect all your files on laptops, desktops, servers, databases and external devices right around the clock with our 448-bit beyond-military-grade end-to-end encryption. Your data is always safe with CDS and no matter what happens to the data at your office, we can restore your entire file history – every single version – to any device when you need it.

Sign up for UnisonBDR today, call 1-888-907-1227, or email info@centraldatastorage.com to learn more about UnisonBDR (and WisperMSG for encrypted communications) and how we can help you develop a watertight backup strategy for your business.

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