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Online Backup for Effective Disaster Recovery

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Is tape backup the best solution for your critical information ?


The answer we are hearing from more and more businesses is an overwhelming No!   Numerous clients have referred to some of the many recent instances of stolen laptops that have contained thousands (or more!) of sensitive customer records that have potentially been compromised from their backup tapes.  Other clients have mentioned critical financial data being lost or damaged as a result of flooding.


With the recent advances in backup technology, there is an alternative to the common tape backup systems that can contain many hidden risks and dangers. Several organizations have reported that a large percentage of tape backup jobs contain errors and many more do not even test the restore function of their backups on a regular basis.  For those that do, they are often shocked to find that their disaster recovery capabilities are severely compromised. As such, most experts agree that tape is quickly becoming an inferior media for backing up data.  Furthermore, this approach requires significant manual intervention in addition to the need to be physically moved offsite.  In many cases, this means the IT person actually takes the backup tape home---Yikes!!


Organizations that are truly concerned about their data are rapidly evaluating alternative solutions.  Increasingly, organizations are looking at Online Backup Services from third-party providers.  In much the same way that Storage Area Networks (SAN) are replacing file servers, online backup is making tape backup obsolete.  The reasons include a significant drop in disk storage costs, a substantial increase in bandwidth speeds as well as dramatically improved security and recovery capabilities.  However, the real benefit of online storage is the flexibility to automatically backup your data securely to an offsite Data Center and provide your end-users with immediate access to files that need to be recovered. Even a file as small as a single email can be quickly and securely recovered. Now, contrast this with a tape backup approach in which end-users may need to wait hours or days to find and recover a single email. When you need to recover an email, which approach would you prefer?


In addition to faster recovery times, an online backup solution can be implemented relatively easily.  Automatic backups of your servers and desktops can be configured to a Network Attached Storage (NAS) Device on defined time intervals (i.e. every 15 minutes for email and transactional databases, once a day for other data).  The NAS device is comparable to a server with contains a disk array to hold all of your backup files as well as function as a traffic manager to encrypt and transmit your data over the internet to the offsite Data Center.   At this point, you will actually have two backups, one on the NAS device and one at the offsite Data Center.  An additional copy of your backup can also be sent to a redundant facility in case a catastrophic event occurs at one of the Data Centers.


The price of using an online service provider is very reasonable although there can be significant pricing differences in the marketplace.  In general, the prices should be in the $5-$10 per compressed Gigabyte (GB), per month range.  Some vendors charge for uncompressed versus compressed data which can result in a large variance in the cost of your solution as most data can be compressed as much as 50%.   There is still some confusion in the marketplace around this issue, so make sure you understand all the variables before committing.


Lastly, increased legal, compliance and regulatory issues need to be considered when organizations secure their sensitive and critical data.  For many an organization, an online backup solution was the saving grace in a catastrophe.  Let’s hope you never need it!


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