Many new options exist today for protecting your data. New backup solutions can significantly reduce lost data and downtime in any type of disaster.
For years tape drives dominated as the solution of choice for data backups but they have some significant limitations:
- All changes made to the system since the date of the last backup are lost
- Tapes wear out and are easily damaged
- Procedures for keeping an off-site copy are easy to forget and not always followed carefully.
Data on tapes must be restored to new hardware before it can be accessed.
While tape backups can still be effective, newer technology can provide better overall protection for your critical data. The following are some important options to consider:
Online Backup – Inexpensive high speed Internet access has made Online Backups a reality for most businesses today. An Online Backup is any solution where your data is backed up over the Internet to an off-site location. Because there is no local media to manage, (tapes or hard disks), Online Backups are reliable and very simple to use. The major disadvantage to online backups is the simple fact that the data is not in your office. In order to restore you must download your data from the Internet, which can take days (or even weeks) depending on how much data you have. There are monthly fees with most Online Backup solutions although the fees have come down significantly over the last year or two.
Disk Based Backup – This simply means backing up to a hard disk instead of a tape. This is extremely inexpensive because an external hard drive is a fraction of the cost of a tape drive and has much higher capacity. Hard drives are also usually faster than tapes drives and they don’t wear out like tapes do. The drawback to a disk based backup is that there is no easy way to take a copy off-site. Most good Disk Based backups are combined with an Online Backup solution.
Virtualization – Some newer disk based backups have the ability to “Virtualize” your servers. With virtualization, if your server goes down, the backup can actually take the place of the original server. It becomes a “virtual” server that looks just like the original to all of your computers. Your users can continue to work off of the “virtual” server until the original server is repaired or replaced. This can almost eliminate downtime from hardware failures.
Off Site Replicated Servers – This is the Rolls Royce of backup solutions for those businesses that simply cannot tolerate downtime. Replication software is used to perform a snapshot or continuous backup to servers that are hosted at an off-site location. If you place a Terminal Server at the off-site location, your users can access your data from anywhere over the Internet in the event of a disaster. The only disadvantage of this solution is the cost. Not only do you have to duplicate your server hardware you must pay to have them hosted and the replication software itself can cost a few thousand dollars.
Don’t forget Restore Points! – Restore points are simply locations where you restore data. The classic restore point for a server crash is a new, replacement server. Unfortunately, waiting to get a new server before restoring your data can add a significant amount of downtime. Make sure you plan for having restore points before you need them. If you have multiple servers, buy each of them with extra drive space and memory and create a “virtual” server on each one. A “virtual” server works just like a regular server except that it is sharing hardware with another server installation. some “Virtualization” software is free, making this an easy and inexpensive way to provide restore points almost immediately. If you only have one server, consider buying a spare server and pre-loading it with your network operating system. This spare server can be less powerful and less expensive because it will only be used temporarily while you wait to get a new permanent server in place. A powerful PC can also fulfill this function if needed.
The Best Solution!
The best backup solutions combine these methods by running both Online and Disk Based backups with the ability to “Virtualize” your servers. This provides better protection for your data and it can often be done for close to the same money as a traditional tape backup. Whatever backup solution you choose, make sure to plan for having restore points readily available.
By taking advantage of new technologies you can significantly reduce downtime related to any type of disaster. Take some time today to re-think your data backups. Give us a call at Willits Technologies and we will be happy to help you evaluate your options.