Air Gap (Backup) Explained

Air Gap (Backup) Explained

In data protection, air gap refers to a backup strategy that isolates critical data from any network connection. Imagine a physical air gap separating your data from the Internet and internal networks – that's the essence of this approach. By creating a completely offline copy, air gap backups offer an extra layer of security against cyber threats, particularly ransomware attacks that target online backups.

Figure 1: Example of a basic air-gapped backup setup.

So, how does it work?  There are two main methods: Physical and logical air gaps. Physical air gaps involve transferring data to removable media like external hard drives or tapes, which are then securely stored offline. Logical air gaps, on the other hand, utilise dedicated storage systems isolated from the network through firewalls or restricted access controls.

The benefits of air gap backups are clear. Since they're offline, they are virtually immune to malware and even sophisticated cyber attacks that breach your network. This makes them ideal for safeguarding highly sensitive information or data required for disaster recovery.

However, air gaps also come with drawbacks.  Managing offline backups can be more complex and time-consuming compared to online solutions. Additionally, restoring data from an air gap backup might take longer as it requires transferring the media back online.

Ultimately, air gaps are a powerful tool for robust data protection, especially for organisations handling critical information. Whether a physical or logical approach is best depends on your specific needs and resources.

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