The mid-market has been confronted with the challenges of backing up critical company data. According to a February 2012 Gartner report, IT departments are struggling to understand and manage data growth. “Data is growing at an out-of-control pace,” the report said, “storage infrastructure costs continue to be an IT pain point and data management is becoming more complex.”
Given this deluge of critical corporate data, a well-thought-out backup and data protection strategy is vital today. In the light of this, the bright and shiny object in the room right now is cloud backup storage, or commonly referred to as online backup. However, business leaders need to know that they should incorporate online backup carefully.
Before a business moves data to the cloud for online backup, whether independently or though the work of an integrator, reseller or managed service provider (MSP), they should carefully consider vendors and weigh opportunities versus risk to determine if the cloud could be a practical and safe storage tier.
A few technological advancements have made cloud storage more accessible:
Deduplication has dramatically improved data transfer speed
Deduplication is an intelligent data compression technique for eliminating redundant data prior to transfer and restoring it when it “lands” at a server, data protection appliance, or cloud infrastructure. Thus, data deduplication reduces the bandwidth necessary to perform backups, and many traditional and cloud-based storage vendors incorporate deduplication technology into their storage offerings.
The cost of online data storage has decreased
This is primarily because hosting providers’ datacentre and hardware costs have decreased, the deployment of data deduplication technologies, as well as reduction in internet bandwidth costs. As recently as 2006, it would have cost SMBs eight pounds per gigabyte of data storage, perhaps even more if the business worked with a VAR or MSP that would provide additional management services with associated costs. Today, online storage could cost as little as 30p per gigabyte of storage. The savings add up as SMBs move more data online.
While there are many cloud storage options, and new technologies paired with more efficient pipes reduce data transfer costs, SMBs and the VARs that service them have several important points to consider in order to make online backup through cloud storage practical. Two of the most important criteria for incorporating cloud storage into an overarching data protection strategy are determining the best process to initially “seed” the cloud and securing the data in the cloud.
Cloud Seeding – when weeks for data transfer won’t do
While deduplication and backup policies reduce the amount of data that needs to be backed up, the initial seed, which is the first full backup of all of a company’s data, is still cumbersome and costly. To do so over the wire, SMBs or their VAR/MSPs will require a significant amount of bandwidth and the process will take a significant amount of time. It is estimated that using a typical DSL Internet connection, it could take SMBs weeks to seed one terabyte (TB) of data.
Not only does this seem like a large amount of time for an initial backup, these data transfer rates also apply to data recovery. If a catastrophic event happened at a company’s site—for example, a web or e-mail server crashed and all data was lost—weeks to restore that data would be unacceptable for any growing business.
This challenge is met head on by the availability of removable disk devices, which can be used for the first initial backup to the cloud. Copying terabytes of data to onsite removal disk drives and securely shipping them to the online backup or cloud storage provider dramatically reduces the amount of time and bandwidth required to implement a cloud-based data protection solution. Taking full advantage of the data transfer speeds available for local copying can reduce the initial backup time, including shipping, to only one or two days.
In the event of an onsite failure, an SMB’s ability to get back up is only as good as the backup strategies they’ve implemented. Much like initial seeding, downloading data back over the wire can prove to be slow and cumbersome. Again, in a major recovery scenario, removable disk technology can mean the difference between success and failure for a business in that critical, vulnerable position. Most online backup solution providers can restore the required data from the cloud architecture onto removable disk drives and can return those drives to an end user for quick reinstallation.
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