Posts Tagged ‘online backups’

Online backup, paradise or perdition.

June 11, 2009

Online backup has become very popular over the last two or three years, with a large number of companies now offering a whole range of services.  This growth had been driven primarily by the increase in low cost, high speed internet access provided by DSL services.  While there are obvious benefits to using an online backup service, there are also a number of considerations that should be taken in to account when planning which service to use and how to use it.

Some of benefits of online backup services are quite obvious, whereas others are less so.  By giving your data to someone else to backup you are saving both the time and money of running your own backup infrastructure.  Additionally, many online backup services allow for continual backup during the day so rather than just being able to restore a file (or email - many services offer Exchange and SQL backup) from last night's backup, you can go back to 30 minutes or an hour ago.  They also normally keep multiple versions of backed up files so you can choose which to restore.  Lastly, the restoration process is usually very simple via either a web browser or a Windows Explorer like interface to the backup application.

However, there are a number of potential drawbacks which must also be considered when looking at these services.  The main point is that these services are generally geared to backing up your data, not your infrastructure.  This makes then great for recovering that accidently deleted file or email, but not much use when your Small Business Server crashes and you need to do a full restore.  While some companies do offer full server backup, would you really want to try and restore 50GB, 100GB or maybe even 500GB over your 8Mbps ADSL internet connection?

The costs of backup services can also vary widely, and its often quite difficult to estimate how much backup space will be needed.  Every company's data storage requirements increase over time and this will clearly lead to an increase in backup costs.  Additionally, once you start to backup files that change on a regular basis, such as you Exchange or SQL databases, the amount of online backup space used can grow quickly, along with the costs.

There are also Data Protection issues to be considered.  Does the online backup company you are using comply with the UK Data Protection legislation?  If you are backing up customer data or information offsite, are YOU complying with UK Data Protection legislation?  These areas will need to be clarified before using an online backup service to avoid potential problems.

Lastly, there are a very large number of companies now offering online backup services that didn't exist two years ago.  Online backup is still a relatively new technology and its highly likely that a number of these companies won't be around two years from now, especially considering the current economic climate.  If you're backing up your data online, you need to have the assurance that the service is still going to be available when you need to do a restore.  Some of the existing, established backup companies such as EMC and Symantec now offer online backup services.  Unfortunately, the Symantec Protection Network is currently only available in the USA and Canada and while EMC's Mozy is available in the UK, it still appears to be geared towards the US market.

Online backup certainly has a lot of benefits and, when used correctly, can be a very cost effective solution.  However, it clearly shouldn't be seen as a replacement for traditional onsite backup solutions, based on tape or disk, but instead be used to complement these solutions and provide an additional layer of protection for your business.