You need a new Backup strategy for doing business in the Cloud
It’s interesting to observe how business has firmly latched onto the Cloud as an alternate for backup and replication. With the amount of data being stored by business growing by the minute, today, more than ever before business owners must find faster, more robust and convenient alternatives that can accommodate the volumes of data involved.
Just 10 years ago, a business could purchase backup solutions based on Tape drives, DVD or CD but these technologies are no longer capable of storing the Tera Bytes of data stored on today’s servers, nor is there a fast / convenient way to get the data onto or off these devices when you need it.
Furthermore when your restoring data from an off-site storage facility, you often only after one or two files, so you don’t want to restore everything and then have to sift through it.
Today the options are:
- Use a NAS or SAN device for centralised storage and then create a duplicate storage array (a secondary storage array) to keep a live copy of the information in a separate physical location
- You could use Amazon Glacier or equivalent long term storage but getting information onto and off these facilities is slow, in most cases requires that you have a spare disk located somewhere to parcel the information before it is sent or when it is restored and there are upload/download charges (cost per GB transferred) whenever your access your information.
- Use a number of separate off site cloud storage providers to keep multiple copies of your information in more than one place, so that if you cannot for any reason access your information on one cloud supplier you can always get the same information from an alternate storage platform.
In all of these cases, there is a considerable amount of coordination and automation needed to ensure all off-site storage units are a reliable backup of your information. Clearly that’s not always possible because large files take time to be parceled into a package for transmission, and then take time to send/receive at the destination and by then the information on your live server will have moved ahead making your backups at that moment in time partially outdated.
Technologies essential to a good backup strategy
Fortunately there is a well accepted method to overcome these obstacles using Network-Access-Storage devices. These devices have a number of unique features that play a role in your backup strategy as follows:
- The RAID disk drives.
Using a technology called RAID the storage drives inside the NAS are set up in an array, so that if one of the drives fails a new drive can be hot swapped into the unit and the remaining (good) drives will rebuild the new drives using copies of the files spread over all the drives in the array.
- Real Time Remote Replication (RTRR).
This is a software program that waits for any file to be added, change or deleted and then replicates that same action in a mirror drive or location on another machine in the same or on an off site location.
- Backup software
In this case a set number of locations, folders, volumes are periodically copied to another drive or location making an exact copy at a specific point in time. The backups are different to RTRR because a RTRR creates a complete mirror that is replaced the moment the information is changed on the source location. A backup by comparison creates multiple copies of the source data over a period of time, allowing you to recover data from a previous day.
- Snapshot software
Snapshots are unlike sync and backup that copy files between source and destination machines. Snapshot uses a specialized technology to create multiple recovery points for any Disk volume by comparing the file system at a record level. The technique allows you to create a snap shot of a volume at a specific point in time without the need to store the same amount of data in two locations. It can then restore all or part of the snapshot to exactly the same condition as it was when the snapshot was taken. You can think of a snapshot as more like a photocopy than a backup.
RTRR in action
Each of these technologies has its strengths and each are better suited to different aspects of the overall requirement. Additionally you will remember that your storage systems contain different types of data and information. Large files such as movies don’t need to be backed up all the time, perhaps only when created or changed is enough.
Shared network files such as documents and spreadsheets can change daily and databases change every second. So each type of file has a slightly different backup requirement, different size and a best time of the day/night for backups to be taken. Additionally when the backup has to be restored, some files can be restored over a few days, whereas more critical data will need to be restored immediately.
It is the nature of your disaster recovery plans that you need to include strategies that are appropriate for the type of data, frequency with which it is changed and the speed at which it must be recovered when needed.
One of the best ways to protect your information is with a multi platform backup and recovery strategy. It’s not as hard as it sounds and it's certainly a lot easier than recovering after loss of your important files or data.
How to develop a multi-vendor backup plan
A multi-vendor backup plan is simply a backup plan that replicates copies and stores your information in more than one location. The trick is to use a combination of locations that you control and others controlled by an established Cloud service provider that you can trust. This established provider can be a Tier 1 company like Amazon S3/Glacier or Microsoft. Additional suppliers added to the plan might be local companies or 2nd Tier providers. It is really up to you to decide the balance between risk of the supplier, the services, the locality and the technological used in each case.
There is no right answer for all purposes, but needless to say just as we are advised to have a balanced portfolio for investment; it also pays to have a balanced backup and redundancy strategy as well.
The pros and cons of each providers service are the contingencies you must cater for in your balanced strategy.
|Amazon S3 or Glacier||Supplier reputation||Cost and time needed to transfer large volumes in/out|
|A Local hosting company||Your data in the same country||May not always be price competitive after your “locked in”|
|Duplicate platform - Same building||Fast transfer fast||Theft, damage with premises|
|Cheapest way to store large volumes, easy to expand||Act of God or equipment failure destroying backups|
|Duplicate platform - Another building||Still reasonable fast and no cost to transfer|
|In a disaster the off site unit can be physically relocated to make recovery as fast as a local storage|
Note: In the above table we have not included the cost or time required to manage the environment for any of these options because there is always time and effort required managing any environment and the amount of time and effort in each case will be largely dependent on how you sets things up.
The next interesting option in your backup arsenal are the variety of FREE cloud services such as Google Drive, Dropbox, Box, iCloud, OneDrive, Owncloud and Qsync. Although these services do not provide unlimited free storage, they are still valuable for retaining off site versions of sections of your data. This allows you to access these sections from anywhere and integrate your data with other cloud services that use common API's for linking between products.
Having duplicate copies of the more frequently changed information is a good thing!
It means that even if information is required and your primary server is down or the access suspended, people can find other avenues to exchange information and keep the wheels of industry moving.
It does however also create a security risk in that you need to remember to make sure than when a person leaves your organization they are also no longer able to access company records (more on that later).
Remember: Each of these backup alternatives comes with it's own unique characteristics and each plays an important role in your backup and recovery strategy.
When implementing you new strategy it will more than likely included multi vendor technologies and you don't have the time to DIY the setup, you can use http://smikbox.com who will ship your NAS pre-configured and ready to switch on and go.
So what is a backup strategy?
Simply put its a table of the various types of information you have, how often they are changed, the roles of people who use that information and the frequencies with which they should be backed up. This is also set out in a table form with consideration of the ease and speed with which they would need to be restored in the advent of a small, medium, big problem or in the case of an all out disaster.
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