The past, present and future of data backups

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Almost every piece of data a business holds today, from customer information to critical financial and operational business processes , is stored digitally. 

The importance of backing up data has been reinforced to IT teams across businesses for decades now. Today, they understand that data backups are a critical component of their job role in order to ensure business continuity. 

If businesses don’t backup their data, the risk they are taking be catastrophic. Research found that 70% of small businesses go out of business within a year of a large data loss incident.  

Nathan Carroll, Product Lead at M247, reflects on the history of backing up data, sharing significant milestones for data backup technology, as well as indicating what the future may hold for this crucial digital activity.  

Data backups can be traced back to the Industrial Revolution 

Data backups are a common practice in the digital age but in fact, they can be traced back to the Industrial Revolution. As businesses across the world transitioned to more widespread and efficient manufacturing processes, this era saw the invention of punch card technology to collect and store vast amounts of data.  

This technology drove to the formation of the Tabulating Machine Company, which would merge in time to merge to become International Business Machines (IBM). This would lead to punch card tech being the staple tool for data entry, processing and storage – powering everything from clocks, voting machines and computer programming devices.  

Dawn of the hard disk drive 

By the 1950s, shortly after the development of tape drives, the first hard disk drive (HDD) was introduced for the storage of data. Although they were extortionately expensive to hold just a few megabytes of data at the time, by the 1990s, HDDs had majorly increased their capacity whilst becoming more affordable.  

As transportable media such as floppy disks, USBs and writable CDs/DVDs entered the market, the practice of HDD backups became increasingly more important for businesses. Not only were HDDs faster at backing up data, but certain software, such as Cobian Backup or Windows Built-in Backup, opened the door for automated backup procedures to run – a monumental milestone in preserving data.  

21st Century cloud-powered backups 

Although cloud-powered computing was first introduced commercially in the mid 1990’s, it wasn’t until the turn of the century that cloud technology allowed businesses to capitalise on a cost-effective alternative to traditional on-premises storage. Now, businesses could maintain all of their data backups in multiple locations through the cloud, allowing them to access them anytime from any connected devices.  

By the 2010s, due to increased cyber-attacks, more and more businesses prioritised using the cloud to backup their critical data. Research found that by 2019, 84% of organisations worldwide had used the cloud for data storage and backup. Additionally, numerous Backup as a Service (BaaS) solutions were implemented by providers to aid businesses in safeguarding their data as cloud-powered storage became the norm worldwide.    

What does the future hold for data backups? 

As technology continues to innovate, the future of data backups is looking bright as more solutions enter the field to address the complexities of modern data ecosystems. With nearly 95% of enterprises using hybrid cloud environments, with about two-thirds of large businesses using multiple public cloud providers. As a result, we’ll likely see a drive for increased demand for backup solutions that can work across different cloud services from various providers. 

Additionally, it is anticipated that by 2030, there will be 25.44 billion Internet of Things (IoT) devices as more and more businesses continue to adopt the technology. As these devices constantly collect and process data, often sitting on the edge of a network or internal resources, it’s plausible that IoT will be leveraged as a solution for data backup in the event data is lost or corrupted. As the technology continues to develop and mature, these applications could be a vital tool in a business’s suite of data backup processes.