The Data Explosion
Over the past twenty years, data has completely reformed the way that we work, live and play. It encompasses every area of our life from how we read books, to how we communicate, and how we do business.
The creation and use of data has become so ingrained into our everyday lives that many people overlook how prevalent it has become. Access to data is just like the lights in the building. When you flip the switch, you expect it come on. You never expect your data to go away, and when it does the world comes to a screeching halt.
Innovative Proven Backup
We all need to backup our data. We need to be protected against those accidental deletions or corrupted files. We also need to be sure we can recover from something more disastrous. For years, we have relied on file based backups and a tape drive. We have all been looking for something better and easier.
The technology has been around for some time that offers a different approach. The issues were performance, affordability, and workability had all fallen short, when applied to small and medium sized business environments. In the last year, we have researched, tested, and successfully deployed a new solution to some of our customers. This new solution out-performs the old way of backup. I believe it will replace the old file based tape backup systems entirely.
Why Do We Need This New Technology?
This new method of backup is very much in need for the small and medium sized business. The reasons go a little deeper than just the average business owner or manager’s dislike for tapes.
We are all dealing with massive amounts of data. A recent statistic from a June 19, 2012 mit.edu article says that data volume for most organizations is expanding between 35% and 50% yearly, and that we process 1000 times more data than a decade ago. Just the sheer amount of data makes it very difficult to backup to tape nightly. This is because tape is linear and file based backups must evaluate everything on the drive by enumerating each file. Many companies using the old technology are facing very long backup times that often stretch into the work day and slow systems down.
Many businesses are finding that, because so much data is changing every day in their business, a nightly backup is not enough. Iterations of changes are needed during the day, so that in the event of a failure, the whole day’s work is not lost. The old style file based tape backup just is not cut out for backing up more frequently than every night. Some attempt it, but it usually bogs down the system and is ineffectual.
Because our information has become such a key asset, our tolerance for downtime has also decreased. Most of these old solutions, in the event of a complete server failure, require reload of the server and data. We just can’t afford to be down for the 12 to 24 hours that it may take to recover from a file based tape backup.
In contrast to the old, the new solution is built around a new software platform, along with hardware technology, and offsite solutions that provide a much more robust backup. Much of this is possible simply due to new software innovations that have reached a mature and reliable stage
What Does the New Solution Offer?
Screaming fast recovery. The system takes a snapshot or image of your servers at a point in time. This means that recovery is VERY fast. Full recovery can occur in as little as 30 minutes, depending on the circumstances.
Short backup times. Rather than backing up your whole server every night, the system simply updates the backup image with the bit-level changes. It keeps track at a lower level than the files, and does not need to scan your system for changes. This allows for a very short backup window, so there is no business interruption.
Frequent daily updating. Because the backup only sees things at the bit-level and backs up the changes, it does not slow your system down. This means that it can be run multiple times throughout the day. Hourly updates, or even more frequent updates, to the backup set can be completed without speed degradation, and with everyone working. There is no more risk of losing an entire day.
Great Failover. This new solution can create virtual images from the backup, so that you can recover to a different server, or even startup your server in a test environment on different hardware. This can dramatically improve disaster recovery. It can also allow testing that was very difficult in the past to complete.
Faster, Easier Hardware. We pair the new software with a unique disk drive enclosure. This disk solution allows the server to backup to the same hard drive every night, which eliminates disconnection issues with swapping media like tapes. The disk solution is setup to store the entire backup retention on one drive or drive set. This drive never leaves the system. If a carry-offsite solution is desired, a disk mirroring mechanism is employed to mirror the master disk to a swappable disk, which can be carried offsite. The speed and reliability of the hard disks makes them superior to the old linear tape.
Cloud based offsite solution. There are several options for backing up to the cloud. The first option is for hosted storage that can either simply house your data, or act as a hot-site that allows you to bring your server up in the cloud as a virtual. The second option is to use another location under your control, as the cloud storage location. Companies with two or more offices can designate a second location, as the offsite “cloud” destination. Keep in mind, backup to the cloud ONLY is not considered best practice for most businesses. This is because of the lengthy time it takes to recover large datasets over the Internet. Local storage and cloud together are what we consider best practice.
Even with this new technology, it is still important to follow a few basic rules of backup. Check your system daily to insure that it backed up successfully, or have someone monitor it for you. Make sure you have the appropriate retention schedule in place. By some means, get your data offsite. Make sure there is a process in place to verify your backup regularly by performing a test restore. Make sure your backup data is secure and meets and compliance requirements, like encryption, or secure, locked storage.
If you have an interest in this proven technology, please contact us. We would be glad to discuss your needs and customize a solution for you.
Scott Hirschfeld is the President of CTaccess, an Elm Grove IT support company that has been helping small businesses stop focusing on IT and getting back to doing business since 1990. Under his leadership CTaccess provides the business minded approach of larger IT companies with the personalized touch of the smaller ones. Connect with Scott on LinkedIn.