The Backup and Recovery Conundrum
The lack of a strategic approach to data backup and recovery is creating an enormous challenge for IT organizations.
Continuing with my "Eight IT Projects for SMBs" series, I want to touch on the topic of data backups for small- and mid-sized businesses. I have lost track of the number of friends who have, at some point or another, approached me with failed hard disk drives (HDD) or flash drives containing corrupted files. The problem is exacerbated when it happens to businesses, as important budget spreadsheets, documentation and stock records become inaccessible.
Implementing backup is a very broad topic. So, for this post, I want to focus on some of the common misconceptions related to data backup and some recommendations to help SMBs.
Protected over Non-protected Storage
NAS over DAS
A common point of confusion deals with the difference between Direct Attached Storage (DAS) and Network Attached Storage (NAS). DAS is a storage device that is connected directly to a workstation, usually via a USB 2.0 port. It typically offers reasonable performance, ease of use and portability at a lower price point. On the other hand, NAS, as its name implies, is a storage appliance that can be simultaneously accessible over a network by two or more users. Once belonging to a specialized niche, modern NAS has grown more powerful and capable, with new higher-end models incorporating a level of performance that outstrips dedicated storage servers of just three to five years ago.
NAS is especially suited for SMBs that require workgroup-level access to storage, from a couple of terabytes (TB) to 10 or 20TB of storage. While some configuration is necessary, NAS can be used to perform routine backups of servers and workstations over the network. Take the Synology 1511+, for example. It's a five-bay NAS that can be expanded to 15 HDD by daisy-chaining a couple of expansion units together. On a gigabit Ethernet network with link aggregation, a back-of-the-envelope calculation shows that the Synology 1511+ can back up data in excess of 500GB of data per hour-much faster than a USB 2.0.
The Value of Offline Backup
The recent Gmail outage that saw Google scrambling to restore its tape backup underscored the intrinsic advantage of offline tape backup. Though it won't help in your business continuity, having an offline backup tier helps defend against outright sabotage or corrupted data. Of course, businesses with older tape technologies might lament the slow speed of backing up. For these SMBs, it might make sense to upgrade to a hard-disk-drive-based Virtual Tape Library (VTL) appliance to replace old tape-based devices so as to reduce the duration of the backup window.
Finally, most businesses are probably familiar with cloud-based backup, a subject that has gained prominence in recent years. As I've mentioned before, I'm a paying user of SugarSync, which offers real-time replication of all my written articles and reviews in the cloud. When evaluating cloud-based solutions for data backup, SMBs need to ensure that they pay specific attention to data security for the vendor as well as the estimated backup window. The latter is especially crucial if the business is an architectural firm or design shop that generates a high volume of large data files on a daily basis.