June 2010: The Evolution of Backups

Posted on: June 7th, 2010 by billp | No Comments

From a technology perspective, your business’ servers, desktops, laptops, smartphones, etc. are not important. What is important is the business data that those tools are used to create and store. The tools are replaceable, but the data that they are used to create is often irreplaceable, or at least very difficult and time-consuming to replace.

A recent study discovered that, of companies experiencing a “major loss” of computer records, 43 percent never reopened, 51 percent closed within two years of the loss, and a mere 6 percent survived over the long-term (Cummings, Maeve; Haag, Stephen; and McCubbrey, Donald. 2003. Management Information Systems for the Information Age.). For small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) in particular, these statistics suggest the necessity of crafting a Business Continuity Planning (BCP) strategy grounded in a robust data backup and recovery solution.

BCP is the blueprint for how businesses plan to survive everything from local equipment failure to global disaster. Data-oriented BCP, an indispensable component of business planning regardless of organization size, poses many challenges. Smaller businesses generally lack the in-house IT resources to achieve these demanding planning, technical, and process requirements. Therefore, many SMBs either neglect to implement any data-oriented business continuity plan or else approach data backup and recovery in a sporadic, rudimentary fashion that fails to conform to the best practices of BCP.

Unlike enterprises, many smaller companies cannot afford optimal in-house strategies and solutions in service of BCP. These companies are consequently at an elevated risk of being put out of business due to any major loss of data. Loss of data could mean emails lost, accounting data lost, patient or client files lost, company records lost, client legal records or orders lost and so on.

The need to protect your business data created an entire industry around data protection and backup technologies. I can personally remember days when backups were performed using 5.25″ floppy disks, swapped in and out one at a time until your entire PC was backed up. The amount of data we create and store required that backup technologies evolve to accommodate higher storage capacities and faster backup times. Business needs for constant access to data created shorter backup windows (i.e. the time available to back up data without business disruption).

For many years, tape has been the backup medium of choice due to its convenient size, relatively high (and always increasing) storage capacity, and ubiquitous support by backup solution developers. However, tape is slow, requiring ever-longer backup windows to protect your business data, resulting in decreased systems performance or even downtime during backups. Tape capacities are not keeping pace with the rate at which businesses are increasing their data storage requirements, requiring businesses to swap tapes during a backup cycle (taking us back to the days of floppies) or investing in expensive tape auto-loader systems. Our data protection needs are quickly out-pacing the old tools that we used to protect our data; it’s time for new solutions.

Analyst Dave Russell of Gartner believes that “recovery will move to online disk-based storage in the future. This will cause a major shift in the backup market during the next four to five years.” Smaller companies in particular will benefit from the shift, as recent advances in design and manufacturing lower the total cost of disk-based storage in terms of storage per bit. Falling prices, combined with the various performance advantages that storage industry analysts cite, render disk increasingly attractive. Gartner Group highlights the suitability of disk for these organizations by explaining that “the need for high-performance online recovery of data, combined with the availability of low-cost disk arrays, has influenced enterprises and small and midsize businesses to adopt a disk-based approach for backup and recovery.”

Tape, in contrast to disk, is physically delicate and easily compromised by environmental factors such as heat, humidity, and magnetic interference. Moreover, tape cartridges must be replaced frequently (every 6-12 months). Tape’s innate sensitivity contributes to high failure rates, with analysts estimating that anywhere from 42 to 71 percent of tape restores fail. Even when magnetic tape backups are successful, tapes themselves are subject to loss or theft, and may be in the possession of an employee or vendor unable to reach a recovery site. Thus, even when physical backup and restoration processes succeed, tape may not prove to be as timely and appropriate a medium for data storage as disk. Time is a crucial consideration because each hour of server, application, and network downtime endured until data restoration comes at a high cost, especially to smaller businesses.

While disk offers advantages over tape, it is not a panacea. After installing disk technology, businesses will still be responsible for monitoring and managing backup processes, encrypting and safeguarding backed up on-site and off-site data, restoring data to new hardware, and other functions. Without implementing a layer of governance over disk-based data backup, these businesses court the danger of failed backups and delayed restoration of data, thereby jeopardizing their chances of successful recovery from major data loss.

Colden Company has Backup-as-a-Service (BaaS) solutions that can address these shortcomings and help businesses of all sizes and budgetary requirements develop enterprise-class BCP. Our solutions range from simple, hassle-free, and low-cost data protection solutions to rapid-recovery solutions for critical systems. Most importantly, our solutions are designed to remove cost and complexity burdens from your staff.

Colden Company’s entry-level BaaS solution provides hassle-free backup of your business data by securely backing it up over the Internet to a privately-managed, secure, encrypted “cloud” owned and operated exclusively by Colden Company. Colden Company delivers total privacy, total recovery, and total mobility to your data backups, whether your data is living and working on servers, desktops, remote offices, traveling laptops, or home computers. You can choose to back up a single server, multiple servers, or all of your servers and workstations to the Colden BaaS cloud. If you have a large number of mobile/remote users, their business data can be backed up over any Internet connection; they can be at home using their home network, or at a coffee shop using a public Wi-Fi hotspot. No matter where your business data resides, it can be securely and automatically backed up, monitored, and restored by Colden Company.

Colden Company’s high-end BaaS solution combines the performance and rapid-recovery of a local, on-site, disk-based backup appliance with the redundancy and security of off-site cloud storage of your business data. This solution is targeted at businesses with servers or workstations that must be protected against extended downtime. Rather than backing up only your business data, this solution creates an image-level backup of your entire business system(s) to a secondary backup server at your office. Incremental backups are performed as often as every 15 minutes, protecting your business against large data and productivity losses. Backups are fast and produce no noticeable impact on the systems being backed up. In the event of a total system failure, the image-level backup can be brought online as a virtual machine in minutes, returning your business to productivity and profitability. Compare this to the hours or days necessary for recovery using traditional backup technologies.

In addition to the local image-level backup, Colden Company’s high-end BaaS soluition offers secure off-site cloud backup of your most recent system images to two geographically separated data centers. These data centers are owned and operated by a carefully selected and trusted partner of Colden Company. Your business data is secured via high-grade encryption both in-transit over the Internet and on-storage in the data center. If you are concerned about your data’s security while in storage at the data center, rest assured that your data is useless to anyone without the privately managed encryption keys created by Colden Company during the installation of this solution. In the event of a total site disaster which results in the loss of your system and the backup appliance, your most recent off-site system images can be sent from the data center for rapid recovery within days.

Whether you need hassle-free backup of critical business data on a few PCs or highly-available BCP solutions, Colden Company will help you. Contact Colden Company today to assess your current backup solution and BCP. Let us help you develop a customized plan for your business using our BaaS solutions to ensure your rapid return to profitability after even the most catastrophic data disaster. You can contact us at 518-885-2857, info@coldencompany.com, or http://twitter.com/coldenco.

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