Disaster Recovery: which backup technology is best for your business?

First published in Business Blogs Droitwich Advertiser: Photograph of the Author by

The two previous blog posts have identified 1, why your business needs a robust data backup and disaster recovery plan and 2, key considerations you need to make to build a secure disaster recovery (or DR) strategy. This post will elaborate on the key technologies you may wish to consider in your plan, looking at their pros and cons.

Tape backup.

Tape backup remains the most common form of backup employed by SMEs and for a long time tapes have been the backup norm. The actual hardware is, relatively, an affordable option for many businesses and another plus to tapes is that they are small and portable. Following the last blog post, this means that they can be easily transported each night to a secure, offsite location, where storing your data backup offsite is a vital aspect of any DR plan.

However, as with any magnetic tape-based media, tapes are liable to wear and they should be replaced at least every 12 months on recommendation from OGL’s Engineers; failure to do so could put the integrity of your data at risk.

To ensure a robust process, creating a backup with tapes can involve relatively high resources in terms of management. While a backup should be completed each night as a minimum, the most robust tape backup system is known as the ‘Grandfather, Father, Son’. In basic terms, the process involves a daily backup supplemented by a weekly and monthly backup, with at least 20 backup tapes required. This process requires a higher level of management and while time consuming, it has the considerable advantage of creating an archive which your business can refer to in the event of a worst case scenario, such as a fire, flood or theft, striking your business. Remember too that your business must employ resources to check that each backup has been successfully made; failure to do so is leaving your DR plan to chance.

As per selection of any data backup technology, it’s also crucial that your business must also consider the recovery time following a potential disaster. In the event of a disaster and the need to reinstall your data, providing you have a working premises and necessary hardware, a data reinstall from a tape backup could take from two days or more to complete. If this delay is unreasonable to your business operation, considering a different type of technology could be the preferable option.

Disk backup.

Utilising a disk-based backup, such as an external hard disk or perhaps a NAS (Network Area Storage) box, which are used by some SMEs as part of their backup process, can provide greater reliability over tapes as the media isn’t liable to wear in the same way that tapes are. In addition, disks can provide scalability of larger quantities of data over tapes, with hard disks exceeding over a terabyte (1,000gb) of data storage capacity as standard.

Some dedicated disk-based backup systems can however lose portability in contrast to tapes, considering that size of the physical hardware can be an issue, and as with tapes, a disk based backup must still be transported offsite to protect your vital data. That said, there are plenty of options now available in small, easily portable hard disks.

Like tapes, the actual backup process of the hard disks also requires management to ensure that a backup is created every day and, ideally, at scheduled intervals thereafter.

In the event of a disaster, while a disk backup can ensure a faster data restore in comparison to tapes, the process will still take from a day or more to complete, providing your business has the hardware and infrastructure readily available. Again, you must decide if your business could tolerate this level of downtime in the event of a fire, flood or theft.

Offsite data backup.

An offsite data backup solution is a system which, generally speaking, creates an automatic data backup at regular intervals, usually every night, and sends it offsite via internet to a secure, purpose built data centre. The system frequently incorporates a managed service, meaning that the backup is carried out by your service provider, removing the need for the resources required to control the backup yourself. In the event of a disaster, your data, and ideally your operating system and e-mail too, can be accessed remotely from the security of the data centre by your workforce or selected members of staff from one or more broadband internet connected computers. Alternatively, service providers may not provide a remote access facility but may resupply you with your data by other means, such as a hard disk.

An offsite data backup system is seen as the most robust system from a data protection perspective, as the backup is created automatically and stored in a safe place. Obviously it pays to investigate the level of security of the actual data centre and the reliability of the backup procedure and software used. Data centres range in a security ranking system from tier one to tier four, with tier four providing the most stringent level of security.

An offsite data backup system can also provide the fastest return to service, with the possibility that access to your data – even in the event that your business premises are destroyed – can be possible in less than 24hours. For such speeds, a broadband internet connection is required.

However, if remote access to your data is not provided online by your service provider, it’s obviously worth bearing in mind the location of the data centre. Should your chosen data centre be located overseas with data returned to you by means of a disk rather than internet in the event of a disaster, the duration of the recovery time will obviously be increased.

Office premises needs.

Finally, as a contingency against a potential disaster, your company will also demand physical resources for key workers, including PCs/laptops, internet connection and perhaps office space, and this should also be factored into your disaster recovery plan. If your business has only a single building, office space can be hired or, depending on your needs and the technology you choose for your DR plan, remote access working may be preferable in the short term following the unhappy situation of a disaster.

For further information on the most suitable disaster recovery plan and backup technology for your business, feel free to contact OGL’s Disaster Recovery Consultants on 01299 873 873.

Alex Byles is Marketing Manager at OGL Computer www.ogl.co.uk

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