How the pandemic changed backup

by Jeremy

Remote working is now a permanent arrangement for a growing number of businesses after the Covid-19 pandemic pushed organizations of all sizes to move to home working on a wide scale in a brief timeframe. And the shift to remote working is no longer viewed as a temporary measure for dealing with public health restrictions. Management consulting firm McKinsey believes more than 20% of the workforce can operate as effectively from home as in the office. If employers allow it, it says four times as many people could work from home than in 2019. The impact of home working on IT systems is well documented. Businesses have had to invest in laptops and tablets, and even printers, for remote staff. They have also had to re-engineer networks and applications to allow remote access on a large scale.

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Are they protected by being remote?

From a business continuity perspective, an organization with a highly distributed workforce can be more resilient than one where most employees are office-based. The apparent difference is that there is no need to invoke physical disaster recovery (DR) planning, such as moving to emergency office space. As long as datacentre or cloud-based applications remain accessible, work carries on.

But taking work off-premise forces changes to backup and recovery. Are backup systems configured to run on remote devices? And do employees have enough bandwidth to run backup tools?

At the pandemic’s start, organizations found the bandwidth of their virtual private network (VPN) under stress, so they had to invest in improving capacity. Anecdotally, supporting technologies such as backup were viewed as less critical than line-of-business applications.

“For remote workers, all of a sudden, their home became their office. They may not even have had a desk for their laptop. These effects created a domino effect of networking, security, and data protection consequences,” says Christophe Bertrand, a senior analyst at ESG.

But although some organizations opted for local solutions for their backup needs – including USB sticks, hard drives, or even employee-purchased online storage – Bertrand believes that Covid-19 has accelerated existing trends towards cloud backup and reliance on online office suites and software as a service (SaaS).

Applications such as Microsoft Office 365 became much more critical during the pandemic,” says Bertrand.

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