Backups have always been an important part of organizational cybersecurity. However, most backup technologies and protocols focus on servers and data, not the endpoints generating the information themselves. As remote work becomes the norm, endpoint backup should also play a core role in enterprise cybersecurity.
Endpoint Risks With Remote Workforces
Flexible work environments were rare not long ago, but 58% of American jobholders today can work remotely at least part time. The pandemic-induced boom in remote work has resulted in a reported 98% of current remote workers preferring to have the option for the remainder of their professional career.
This shift has created a surge in endpoints connecting to businesses’ systems and data. Consequently, attack surfaces are also rising. Remote work’s cybersecurity risks go deeper than the sheer size of attackers’ possible entry points.
Employees most likely aren’t using company devices when working from home. Instead, they use their own computers and phones on their personal, potentially unsecured networks, making it difficult to assess and secure endpoint-related vulnerabilities. Conventional approaches to cybersecurity are no longer sufficient in the face of these distributed, low-visibility networks.
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How Endpoint Backup Helps
Endpoint backup systems don’t necessarily eliminate these vulnerabilities, but they can mitigate their impact. Securing a bring-your-own-device (BYOD) system across potentially thousands of different networks and locations the same way as a conventional office structure is virtually impossible. You can’t ensure the same level of protection on these devices, so it’s more important to lessen the damage of a potential breach.
Endpoint backups ensure any attacks against a single device won’t cause systemwide disruption. They enable faster recoveries, minimizing costs and lost productivity, and prevent breaches from leading to data loss or significant downtime.
Considering how 68% of IT professionals experienced at least one successful endpoint attack in 2020, it’s too risky to assume your remote workers are entirely safe. The average cost of these breaches has risen to $8.94 million, so mitigating successful attacks is crucial.
How to Implement Endpoint Backup for Remote Work
You can find endpoint backup solutions from many software vendors today, but successful implementation requires careful forethought and strategy. Here are a few steps to make the most of endpoint backups.
1. Determine the Scope of Endpoint Data
The first step in establishing an endpoint backup system is determining what you need to protect. Some SaaS solutions may have volume limits or require higher pricing tiers for given amounts of data. Not understanding what you need before comparing vendors could result in increased costs or reliability issues.
Ideally, you can back up every piece of information on each device, but that’s not always viable. The average enterprise manages roughly 135,000 endpoints, so storing copies of all data on each machine would require massive storage infrastructure.
If backing up everything isn’t possible, perform a risk assessment. Determine which endpoints and data are the most vulnerable or critical. Prioritize backing these up first, then dole out resources accordingly to lower-priority devices and data.
2. Identify Backup and Recovery Objectives
Similarly, IT teams must determine their goals for backup and recovery systems. What information or endpoints do you want to bring back online first? What recovery times do you need to meet for minimal damage?
Like the previous step, the answers to these questions should hinge on risk assessments. Meeting timeline objectives will likely mean focusing on high-value targets instead of bringing the whole system back online. Consequently, backup and recovery solutions should prioritize the most vulnerable or mission-critical systems before anything else.
It’s important to involve all relevant stakeholders, even those outside of IT departments, to determine these goals. Think of what has the largest impact across the organization, not just your specific operations.
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3. Automate as Much as Possible
As with many processes, the most effective endpoint backup systems employ extensive automation. Humans must decide what devices and data are most crucial to back up, and automated systems should handle the actual process.
Ideally, your system should upload new copies every time an endpoint’s data changes. Doing that manually would significantly decrease productivity as workers stop what they’re doing to save backups regularly. Instead, the solution should automatically back up files and recover the affected endpoint if a successful attack occurs.
Automation is about more than just efficiency. Stress and distractions lead to heightened cybersecurity risks, which may be more common in remote workforces. Given these threats, you can’t rely on error-prone human workers to manage the backup process. Automating it minimizes the chances of a security-jeopardizing error.
4. Emphasize Performance
It’s also important to ensure the endpoint backup and recovery system doesn’t hinder employee productivity. Solutions that disrupt normal processes fail to achieve the ultimate goal of minimizing downtime. You may be safe from attack-related disruption, but losses from slower regular workflows may negate that victory. Ensuring higher performance will also help reduce errors and glitches.
Automated backups will improve performance, and balancing these with larger scheduled backups will achieve even higher results. Another way to boost system performance is to reduce the amount of data you back up, especially at once.
Narrowing the scope of backups in the first step will help, but you can go further. Backup systems should include deduplication, whether in-house or from a third party. Consolidating data and reducing redundancies beyond what you need for reliable backups will help manage costs and improve performance.
5. Secure Backups
It may seem obvious, but ensuring endpoint backups are also secure is critical. If attackers breach the data center or cloud environment where you store your backups, they won’t be of much use.
The first step is encryption. You should encrypt backups in transit and at rest. Most IT departments already employ these protections on devices like computers, but it’s important not to overlook Internet of Things (IoT) endpoints. Reports suggest as much as 98% of IoT traffic is unencrypted, creating massive vulnerabilities.
Tools like network monitoring software and anomaly detection can help, too. It may also be best to keep offline backups of highly sensitive data.
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6. Don’t Overlook Endpoint Protections
IT teams must recognize that endpoint backups aren’t a replacement for security. These solutions are essential to mitigate the impact of a breach, but you should still try to prevent hacks.
Securing remote environments is difficult, but it’s not impossible. About 84% of organizations have experienced data breaches stemming from human error, so employee training is one of the most important steps. Employing zero-trust architecture to minimize lateral movement and improve identity management is also helpful.
7. Review Backup Programs Regularly
Businesses should embrace a spirit of ongoing review and improvements. As remote workforces grow and evolve, your current system will likely become insufficient at some point. That could create dangerous vulnerabilities without regular review.
It’s a good idea to reassess backup requirements, goals and tools at least annually. If any breaches occur in that timeframe, use them as an opportunity to improve. Review what worked well and what could’ve been better to inform adaptation and prevent or mitigate similar situations in the future.
Endpoint Backup Is Critical for Remote Work
Remote cybersecurity is complicated but essential. In light of this challenge, endpoint backups for remote work are becoming an increasingly important part of running a business.
Every organization has unique risk landscapes, but backup and recovery systems should have a place in every security plan. Teams that follow these steps and create reliable backup solutions can ensure their remote workers don’t jeopardize the business’s security posture.
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