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Zero Trust Model: The Best Way to Build a Robust Data Backup Strategy

In recent years, the concept of zero trust has emerged as a powerful new cybersecurity approach, and now plays an important role in disaster recovery planning.

Even though the term “zero trust” was born in 1994, it mostly gained traction only after COVID-19 forced organizations to shift to a remote-first work policy. With many users accessing confidential organizational data from outside the network, administrators need to fix the holes left by traditional security policies suited to employees working from a single location.

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A zero trust model changes your primary security principle from the age-old axiom “trust but verify” to “never trust; always verify.” Zero trust is a security concept that assumes any user, device, or application seeking access to a network is not to be automatically trusted, even if it is within the network perimeter. Instead, zero trust requires verification of every request for access, using a variety of security technologies and techniques such as multifactor authentication (MFA), least-privilege access, and continuous monitoring.

A zero trust environment provides many benefits, though it is not without its flaws. Trust brokers are the central component of zero trust architecture. They authenticate users’ credentials and provide access to all other applications and services, which means they have the potential to become a single point of failure. Additionally, some multifactor authentication processes might cause users to wait a few minutes before allowing them to login, which can hinder employee productivity. The location of trust brokers can also create latency issues for users. Despite its limitations, a zero trust environment offers significantly more protection than the traditional perimeter-based security architecture and should be a key factor in planning your data backup strategies.

Why Zero Trust Should Be Part of Your Disaster Recovery Strategy

Disaster recovery is a critical component of any organization's IT strategy, helping to ensure that business operations can continue even in the event of a major outage or cyberattack. At its core, zero trust is about ensuring that only authorized users and devices can access a network or application. In the context of disaster recovery, by adopting a zero trust approach, organizations can ensure that only authorized personnel are able to initiate or modify backup tasks and perform restorations, and that the access granted to them is revoked once the operation is complete.

One of the key benefits of zero trust is that it can help minimize the risk of insider threats. This is because zero trust assumes that all users and devices are potentially compromised, and each of them requires continuous authentication and verification to access resources.

How to Implement Zero Trust in Your Disaster Recovery Strategy

Implementing zero trust in your disaster recovery strategy is a complex process that requires careful planning, execution, and ongoing maintenance. Here are some key steps that your organization can take:

Step 1: Assess your current environment

The first step in implementing zero trust is to conduct a thorough assessment of your current environment, including your network infrastructure, applications, and data. This will help you identify any potential security gaps or vulnerabilities that could be exploited in the event of a disaster. It's also important to evaluate your current disaster recovery plan and ensure that it is aligned with the principles of zero trust.

Step 2: Define your zero trust architecture

Once you've assessed your current environment, you must define your zero trust architecture. This will involve identifying the types of security controls and technologies you will need to implement, such as MFA, micro-segmentation, immutable backup storage, and continuous monitoring. You'll also need to determine how these controls will be deployed and integrated with your existing infrastructure.

Step 3: Implement zero trust controls

With your zero trust architecture in place, implement the necessary controls and technologies. This may involve deploying new hardware or software, configuring access policies and rules, and training your staff about how to use these new tools effectively.

Your disaster recovery solution should always require users to authenticate themselves via MFA before any operation is performed. When users are authorized, access to configure and operate the backup and restoration modules should be provided for a limited duration.

Step 4: Monitor and review your zero trust environment

Maintaining zero trust is an ongoing process that requires continuous monitoring and review. You'll need to establish metrics and KPIs to measure the effectiveness of your zero trust controls and regularly review your environment to identify potential weaknesses or areas for improvement.

Step 5: Test and refine your disaster recovery plan

Finally, it's important to test and refine your disaster recovery plan on a regular basis to ensure it is aligned with the principles of zero trust. This may involve conducting regular tabletop exercises or full-scale simulations to test your response to various disaster scenarios. Based on the results of these tests, you can refine your plan and adjust your zero trust controls as needed.


Implementing a zero trust strategy is not without its challenges. It requires a significant investment in security technologies and expertise and may require changes to existing IT infrastructure and workflows. However, for organizations serious about disaster recovery and business continuity, zero trust is a powerful methodology that can help ensure the security and resilience of critical systems and data.

About the Author

Dhilip R is a product consultant at ManageEngine, the enterprise IT management division of Zoho Corporation. In his current role, he spearheads marketing activities for ManageEngine's IAM solution, AD360. He focuses on understanding the recent trends in the IAM space, understanding the requirements of organizations, and facilitating them to secure their data from the various threats that a modern organization faces on a daily basis.

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