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On-line Backups — Pros and Cons

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Online backup services use software that automates the uploading of selected files to a remote computer, and the ability to restore files, using your Internet connection. With the widespread availability of high-speed Internet access, backing up your data to a remote location is becoming easier. With this ease of use, many organizations see online backup as a viable component in their backup strategy.

We don’t need to spend any space discussing the need for backups. You probably have heard (or have your own) horror stories.

Online backup services can be used as an alternative or in addition to traditional methods such as magnetic tapes, CD-ROMs, DVDs and external hard drives. After September 11, some organizations put policies in place that dictated the requisite distance between the data center and the off-site storage facility.

Online backup isn’t an option that is feasible for every organization — you need to weigh the costs and the benefits of this and other, more traditional, solutions. As with most things there are pros and cons.

Pros

  • The data is being stored securely off-site. If your company has a fire, is burglarized, or is damaged by a natural disaster, the backup files are still safe and viable.
  • Online backup systems have a relatively quick and simple set-up and installation.
  • After the capital costs of equipment, media, and staff, online backups may be more cost effective in the long term than traditional tape-based backup solutions. For example, if implementing a purely online backup solution, you would no longer need to buy tape storage hardware or software or storage media such as tapes, CD-ROMs, or DVDs. Nor would you have to pay for off-site storage of media.
  • Backup and data recovery can be simpler and quicker than more traditional methods. No one has to be the “tape monkey.”
  • Some services allow you to back up and restore multiple versions of files — this is useful if you need to review or revert to an earlier version of a document for any reason. With versioning, only block level changes are stored instead of storing unique copies of each version. Each version appears to be a full version. This saves space in the off-site storage therefore, time and money.
  • Some services allow for “record level” backup and restoration of individual email messages.
  • Some services allow for “common file elimination”. This process recognizes when 3 or more copies of identical files are backed up. The system uses pointers for the 3rd and succeeding copies instead of full file copies thus reducing storage costs.
  • Most services allow for web access for remote administration of the data store.

Cons

  • Ongoing monthly charges, which may be prohibitively expensive if your company needs to back up large amounts of data. The better online storage systems charge for “compressed Gb” of files instead of native file sizes. With most data types this represents a 50% savings in data size.
  • The nature of online backups means that it relies on a working Internet connection. If there is an outage, you won’t be able to backup your data unless you also have a local copy of the backed up data. To counter this most systems, have provisions for an local copy of the backed up data as part of the process.
  • The speed and amount of data backup is limited by the speed of your Internet connection. The initial seeding of your online data store can be speeded up by sending a copy of your data via a locally connected USB drive.
  • Your company will be relying upon an external provider to keep your data secure. If you choose online backup as your sole backup method, you’ll be entrusting all your valuable data to someone else. Any risks involved with this handoff of data can be mitigated to some extent. Most of the online backup services offer several security features like encryption and strict permission gateways for data access.

Overall, it appears that online backup can be a crucial component to any comprehensive data protection strategy. It is absolutely critical that a copy of all your business critical data be stored at a remote location to ensure against acts of God as well as acts of men. Using online backups, either in combination with local copies of the data offers your organization a solution to its data storage needs.

Like all Managed Services, you can (and should) “try before you buy.” <unabashed commercial>If you want to see if online backups are for your organization, call us at 877-603-0301 or via our web page request.</unabashed commercial>


Experience with Online backups? Comments?


Next Post: The Evolution of Application Delivery


Posted on : Jul 01 2008
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Posted under Managed Services, On-line backup, SaaS, Security |


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