Try to put a price on what your business relies upon, day in and day out. If there is a risk, you need to address it. But what to purchase for your business, then?
The most desirable backup solution immediately copies updates made to critical data at your main data center to another location, automatically over a network. The second copy should be far enough from your primary storage location so that it is not exposed to the same environmental threats that impact the main data center. Some of the most frequent disruptions will come from construction mishaps, A/C problems, roof leaks and technician errors.
“I’d recommend a two tiered approach to address business continuity and mitigate the effects of regional disasters,” said Augie Gonzalez, director of product marketing, DataCore Software. “This is done by maintaining one copy in lock step within the same metropolitan area, usually no more than 50 miles away using a synchronous mirroring technique over a very high-speed network. Then asynchronously replicating that copy over a lower speed connection to a third location several hundred miles away where it can be absolutely clear of harm’s way.”
Alternative methods provide lesser degrees of data protection. One common approach is to take periodic snapshots of live data and place them on a separate disk. The snapshots are usually scheduled to occur once a day or more frequently. They require applications to be disabled momentarily to capture a known good point in time image of the data. Backup tapes can then be made from the snap shot without disturbing the applications and shipped offsite for safe keeping. “While adequate for some scenarios, this approach cannot recover updates that transpired since the last snapshot, which may be close to a day old. Some environments cannot tolerate being exposed to that kind of potential data loss,” said Gonzalez.
CDP (short for Continuous Data Protection) is another way to backup data. It is similar to snapshots, but continuously records all updates to a separate disk like a TV DVR. This is best used to “undo” the effects of a virus infection, application bug or user error, as opposed to being a disaster recovery alternative. You basically rewind the recording back to the point before the problem occurred, and restore over the corrupted or deleted information.
Cloud-based backup solutions do provide among the easier and faster options when it comes to restoring data, Andy Langsam, general manager of IASO, a part of GFI Software, added. “Tape and other physical means do have downsides in that accessing the data for recovery isn’t easy, especially if the data is secured at an off-site data center and it is still a step-by-step manual process. Cloud solutions do facilitate for faster restores since an administrator can easily access and select which files and programs will be done first,” he said.
No matter what your backup solution is, you need to be prepared for the worst – a backup failure. To help prevent that failure, backups should be monitored and tested, according to Jerry Irvine, CIO of Prescient Solutions, an IT outsourcer. “Industry-best backup solutions provide application event log messages stating the status of previous, current and future backup jobs. These logs need to be monitored and reviewed on a daily basis to define any know errors. Nevertheless, backup jobs may not complete successfully even though event messages claim they do or tapes or data locations may have problems that occur of which the backup solution is unaware. As a result, it is important to test backups with a standard process, performing selective restores and even full restores of data periodically.”
Sue Poremba is a freelance writer focusing primarily on security and technology issues and occasionally blogs for cloud service provider Rackspace Hosting.