DATA PROTECTION

Immutable Backups: What Are They and Why Are They Important?

October 11, 2023By Luke Boland

As ransomware attacks continue to rise in frequency and sophistication, a “defense-in-depth” approach to data security is more important than ever. Data breaches can cause major headaches, from big monetary losses to destroying an organization’s reputation. A successful ransomware attack can land your organization intact safe in legal hot water, or even put you out of business. So, keeping your data safe and secure, yet easily accessible when you need it is a big deal. That’s where the cool concept of immutable backups in hot cloud storage comes in. 

Immutability for backups and storage 

Immutable backups are designed so that not even the most tech-savvy hacker or an accidental click can mess with them. An immutable backup is written in stone, unable to be changed or deleted by anyone during a set period of time. So, even if some digital villain tries to mess with your company’s data, they're out of luck. With this strategy in mind, combined with top-notch encryption and accessibility protocols, you can keep your data safe and sound against any number of threats. 

mutable-vs-immutable graphic

What is an immutable backup? 

An immutable backup or storage system ensures that your data remains fixed and unalterable, with no possibility of deletion. It is a crucial asset for any organization seeking to maintain a consistently recoverable and secure copy of their data, safeguarding against unexpected mishaps. Once you've established an immutable backup, it becomes impervious to any alterations or modifications, which is especially vital in the context of malware or ransomware threats. Maintaining an archive of immutable backups offers a reliable means of recovering data following a ransomware attack; you can confidently restore your systems by accessing and retrieving the most recent clean backup from your records. Ultimately, the practice of maintaining immutable backups eliminates the need to resort to paying cybercriminal ransoms for data recovery after a ransomware attack, ensuring data integrity and security. 

What is a mutable backup? 

A mutable backup, in contrast, is a backup file or storage system where the data can be altered or changed after its initial creation. In other words, a mutable backup allows modifications, additions, or deletions to the data even after the backup has been created. This flexibility can be useful for certain purposes, such as continuously updating backup copies with the latest changes or revisions. However, it also carries the risk of unintentional or malicious alterations to the data, making it less suitable for scenarios where data integrity and protection against unauthorized changes are critical, such as in safeguarding against ransomware attacks.  

A deeper dive into immutable data 

Immutable backups establish a form of data that is considered WORM-protected. WORM stands for “write once, read many,” and means that once the data has been saved and stored it can be viewed many times, yet can’t be changed. This requires that the user have proper authorization and authentication before being allowed to access the data. Immutable data is also stored in a compressed format which can help to reduce storage requirements thus allowing faster operations. Additionally, immutable backups provide a chain-of-custody tracking solution. This means that by registering every data transaction, the source of every security breach can be traced back to the unauthorized user via an audit trail.  

Why are immutable backups important? 

Immutable backups are your ultimate defense against ransomware threats. Picture this: ransomware takes your data hostage by encrypting it and demanding a ransom for decryption. However, with immutable backups, your data remains completely untouched and invulnerable to ransomware or any other cyber threats. So, in the event of a ransomware attack, you can easily restore your data from these unchangeable backups, sparing you from the need to pay any ransom. It's not just a matter of saving money, but also ensuring a fail-proof data recovery solution that doesn't involve negotiating with cybercriminals. 

For businesses, implementing immutable backups is paramount. These backups don't just shield against ransomware but also act as a safety net against accidental data deletions. Furthermore, they establish a clear data retention trail, a critical aspect for adhering to legal and regulatory requirements. Immutable backups go the extra mile by employing encryption to fortify your data's integrity, making it virtually impervious to unauthorized alterations. Be it unintentional errors or deliberate data tampering, your data remains secure and unaltered. In essence, immutable backups emerge as your data's guardian, consistently ensuring its protection and reliability. 

Preserving an unchanged data version enables businesses to meet stringent compliance mandates. Certain sectors, like government entities and healthcare institutions, must adhere to extended data retention regulations, ensuring the integrity and authenticity of both data and backup copies. 

Immutable backups vs. traditional backups? 

Immutable backups compared to traditional strategies remain unparalleled for protection against ransomware attacks, providing unbeatable protection that outshines traditional backups. Because immutable backups are designed to be unchangeable, they become your ace in the hole in recovering your data without ever having to give in to ransom demands.  

But that doesn’t mean traditional backups have no place in your data protection strategy. In fact, they are a healthy part of a balanced data ecosystem. Since immutable backups can’t change, they are incompatible with incremental backup strategies, where new data is added to an existing backup over time. This backup method might be what works best for your business, and it’s exactly the kind of thing that traditional, mutable backups were made for. Your traditional backup will be what you most commonly access, update, and check. Think of your immutable backup as a “golden copy” that you can always restore from should the need arise.  

Immutable backups aren't just about ransomware; they prevent data loss caused by accidental slip-ups or deliberate mischief. A traditional backup is susceptible to these issues; the difference here is that immutable backups are intentionally crafted to remain unchanged, ensuring your data stays reliable throughout its time in storage.  

Best practices for immutable backup implementation 

When it comes to making sure your backups are completely secure, here are some smart moves to consider: 

First off, you want to make it a rule to use Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA) for anyone who has access to your backup. It's like having two or more locks on your door instead of just one. This way, only the people who should be getting in can do so, reducing the chances of someone messing with your backup. 

Next, you have got to keep an eye on things. Regularly checking and watching over your backup system is crucial. It's like having a security camera in your house – if anything fishy happens, you'll know about it right away. This helps you catch any problems early and keeps your data safe and sound. 

Now, here's a cool idea: think about using a cloud-based backup system. It's like keeping a spare copy of your data in a secure vault, safe from anything that might happen at your primary location. Plus, it's easy to access from anywhere. This way, you're following a smart rule called the 3-2-1 backup strategy – it means having at least one backup stored somewhere offsite in case of a disaster. Cloud backups help you do that. 

Oh, and don't forget about alerts and notifications. Having your backup system give you a heads-up if something looks weird can make all the difference in your security strategy. These real-time warnings let you jump into action if there's a problem. With today's ever-evolving cyber threats, staying informed is a smart move. 

Lastly, teach your team about the importance of data security and how to handle backups like a pro. It's like making sure everyone on your sports team knows the game plan. When your crew understands why backups matter and how to use them right, they become your backup champions. They'll help keep your data safe and make sure nothing goes wrong. 

So, there you have it – some straightforward tips to supercharge your backup game and keep your data protected. It's like putting on a solid suit of armor for your digital world. 

Data immutability with S3 Object Lock and Bucket Lock  

Wasabi Technologies has revolutionized cloud storage with its innovative features, such as S3 Object Lock and Bucket Lock, both of which play a crucial role in the concept of immutable backup. The S3 Object Lock applies immutability directly to individual files (called “objects”), preventing any modifications, deletions, or alterations to these objects once Object Lock has been applied. This feature is especially significant for businesses and organizations that rely on secure and tamper-proof data backups. By utilizing the S3 Object Lock, Wasabi users can protect their data from accidental or malicious changes, ensuring the integrity and authenticity of their backup copies.  

In conjunction with Object Lock, Wasabi's Bucket Lock is another essential component for immutable backup strategies. A bucket is essentially a container for organizing and managing data within Wasabi's storage infrastructure. With Wasabi's Bucket Lock, users can establish strict access controls, versioning policies, and retention periods for their data, further enhancing the security and durability of their backups. Immutable backups rely on a combination of S3 Object Lock and Wasabi's Bucket level immutability to create a robust and unchangeable archive of data, safeguarding against data corruption, data loss, and unauthorized alterations. This approach to data protection ensures that businesses can rely on Wasabi's cloud storage for their critical backup needs with confidence and peace of mind.  

Important factors to consider  

When evaluating the crucial factors to consider when selecting an immutable backup solution, it's essential to consider a variety of aspects to ensure the safety and accessibility of your data. Beyond the technical considerations that we have covered, financial prudence and compliance with industry standards play a pivotal role in making the right choice. 

  • Cost — The cost of storage should be a primary concern when choosing an immutable backup solution. Immutable backups can require significant storage capacity, and costs can quickly escalate. Therefore, it's imperative to assess your budget and opt for a solution that aligns with your financial constraints. The importance of understanding and committing to the object lock expiration date is also extremely important to consider. Sometimes, it's better to set a shorter duration of lock and extend the data, rather than make it a long duration. In this context, Wasabi Technologies' competitive cloud storage pricing model, with no hidden fees for data egress, makes it an attractive choice for cost-conscious organizations. Wasabi is also the only major cloud storage service provider that does not charge users API or operations requests including immutability features like Object Lock, saving our customers money. 

  • Compliance — Ensuring that your chosen immutable backup solution supports the required retention period for your industry is paramount. Various industries and data types may necessitate different retention periods to meet regulatory obligations. Failing to adhere to these requirements can lead to legal and financial issues. Wasabi's high data durability and security features, along with its support for all major compliance certifications, make it a viable option for maintaining data integrity throughout the required retention periods. 

  • Scalability — Scalability and flexibility are vital considerations, especially in a rapidly evolving business landscape. As your organization grows, so will your data storage needs. Therefore, opt for an immutable backup solution that can seamlessly scale to accommodate future growth, such as Wasabi Hot Cloud Storage, which is designed for scalability and low-latency access to frequently used data. 

  • Storage Account Security— Even though your company’s data is protected with immutable backups, the cyber criminals know a trick around this, and although they can't delete the immutable data, many cloud storage services allow them to delete the account. Multi-User Authentication (MUA) protects that account by making up to 3 security contacts authorize the deletion of an account. To date, Wasabi is THE ONLY Cloud Storage company to offer this, and better yet, at no cost.

Lastly, practicality and ease of use should not be underestimated. Choosing a storage service that does not charge for egress, like Wasabi, is particularly beneficial when testing and restoring your backups without incurring unexpected costs. The selection of an immutable backup solution should encompass considerations of cost, retention requirements, scalability, compliance, and simplicity. By taking these factors into account and leveraging services like Wasabi Hot Cloud Storage, you can ensure that your data remains secure, accessible, and compliant while effectively managing storage costs and accommodating your business's growth. 

Future Trends in Immutable Backup Technology 

Looking ahead, the landscape of immutable backup technology is poised for some exciting developments. These emerging trends are set to transform the way we safeguard our critical data.  

Artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) are poised to play a pivotal role in the future of immutable backups. These smart technologies will take on the task of proactive threat detection, analyzing historical data patterns to identify potential security breaches or data corruption early on. This proactive approach will enable rapid response and recovery, ensuring the safety of your business’ data. 

Efficiency and cost-effectiveness are other key areas of focus for the future. Expect to see advancements in storage optimization techniques such as data deduplication and compression, which will further reduce storage requirements while preserving data integrity. Lower storage costs will make immutable backups accessible to a wider range of businesses, regardless of their size or budget. Furthermore, the evolution of APIs and integration capabilities will simplify the seamless integration of immutable backup solutions into existing IT systems. This will streamline data management workflows, making it easier for organizations to incorporate immutable backups into their overall disaster recovery and data protection strategies. Speed and accessibility improvements will be a significant priority. Future advancements will aim to make data retrieval faster and data access more efficient, ensuring that critical information can be restored promptly when needed. These developments are set to redefine how we approach data security and backup, providing us with more robust and user-friendly options to protect our data assets. 

Conclusion 

At the end of the day, if you aren’t incorporating immutable backup strategies in your data protection plan, your organization is at risk. If you want to be as safe as possible with your data, then take initiative and use the available immutable strategies provided by your backup software. It is important to note that the storage and software work together to provide immutability. The Wasabi+Veeam solution is a fantastic example of storage and backup software working seamlessly together to offer multiple layers of data protection.  

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