Data Backups

The increased use and availability of the Internet, combined with technological breakthroughs, has pushed for and successfully allowed most businesses to seamlessly transition from a paper office to a digital office. These critical files, such as documents, faxes, emails, drawings, audio files, and photos are then stored on servers, workstations, laptops, and smartphones. In particular, there has been a significant growth in usage of Email. Online order confirmations, faxes, and voicemails are just some examples of the uses of this reliable technology. As a result, we rely heavily on the availability of our data. In turn, this reliance calls for a sound backup strategy. How important is your data, what happens when our data is deleted, lost, overwritten or damaged, and how fast do you need your files recovered are essential questions to determine your backup strategy and needs. Failure to accurately answer these questions could result in compromised data, short data retention, and decreased business productivity.

NetCal has successfully implemented numerous backup strategies to meet the demands of varying businesses. Our experience allows us to develop a solution that can reliably maintain the data on your servers, workstations, laptops, and other devices. Depending on your needs, a secure and reliable backup strategy consisting of Backup-2-Disk, Backup-2-Tape, Disk Imaging, Synthetic Backups, Remote Backups, Disaster Recovery, or a combination of these could be configured. Furthermore, these configurations can be applied to Microsoft, Linux/Unix/Solaris, and Macintosh operating systems.

NetCal is confident we can provide you with a backup solution within your budget. Click on the Sales Information Request form to have our Sales Engineer team contact you!

Introduction to Backups::

Backups, in general, have been ridiculed for being complicated, time-consuming, inconvenient, and unreliable. Coupled with slow restores, it’s not a surprise headaches evolve from this subject. Unfortunately, this task must be dealt with because a business cannot function properly without each of its components operating at their fullest potential. In the event of a failure, quicker recovery times could be the difference between a minor inconvenience and a disaster.

Backups have also become the focus of risk-management strategies that encompass data availability, data retention, and data security. Ultimately, a strict backup policy must be defined and upheld in order to achieve efficiency and reliability for business continuity.

List of backup challenges faced by businesses today:

  • Exponential data growth
  • Smaller backup window
  • Increased Hardware/Software costs
  • Performance bottlenecks
  • Compliant with federal regulations

 

List of guidelines to ensure the D2D solution will meet your needs:

  • Recovery Time – How fast do you need to recover your data after a failure occurs?
  • Backup Frequency – How much data loss is acceptable in the event of a failure?
  • Backup performance – How much time do you have to backup the data

Software Backup Technologies

Along with the further acceptance of Disk backups, several software-enabled technologies have been developed. Below is a compilation of terms available for current disk backup strategies.

  • Virtual Tape Libraries (VTL) is a data storage virtualization technology that emulate tape libraries, making management and integration with existing backup software seamless.
  • Data Deduplication is an important new technology that is quickly being embraced by users as they struggle with issues of data proliferation. By eliminating redundant data objects, an immediate benefit is obtained through space efficiencies. When choosing a deduplication product, however, it is important to consider all aspects of design, including space savings efficiency, performance overhead, and resiliency against failure/saves.
  • Disk imaging is making an exact copy of a computer’s hard drive. The copy includes all the partition information, boot sectors, file allocation table, operating system installation and application software.
  • Continuous Backup/Continuous Data Protection (CDP) is a service that allows for the backup of multiple versions of data by automatically saving a copy of every change that is made to that data.
  • Compression looks at a stream of data using a sliding window. Usually, a compression ratio of 1:2 is normal.

 

Local Backup Technologies::

Backup to Disk

Storage professionals can attest that D2D backup is increasingly seen as the antidote to the reliability and performance problems that characterize tape backup solutions. Low-cost SATA drives, combined with advances in data management technologies, make D2D backup a vital component of any data protection strategy today. Assessing the wide array of D2D options can be daunting, often introducing new technologies such as deduplication, snapshots, and continuous data backup.

Advantages of Disk backup (B2D):

  • Reliable media
  • Improved recovery performance
  • Multiple backup streams available for higher aggregated throughput

Disadvantages of Disk backup (B2D):

  • Acquisition costs for large backup sets
  • Drive + Media aggregated in one
  • Management of multiple disk

Backup to Tape

Backup to tape remains the most widely deployed backup solution in use today. Looking back at the history of backup solutions, you would find that backup to tape has a long history and is tightly integrated with backup applications. Due to this long history, most businesses design their backup strategy for the tape environment. Tapes can serve multiple purposes, including operational backup/recovery, archival storage, and disaster recovery. Most importantly, they allow for reliable offsite transport. Offsite tape vaulting services are available to systematically pickup from your business and drop off to a secure remote site.

Advantages of Tape backup:

  • Low media cost for large data sets
  • Portability
  • Offline storage for archiving

Disadvantages of tape backup:

  • Restore time is very slow due to sequential characteristics of tapes
  • Cataloging of files are required to access data on tapes
  • Tape medium and mechanism must be maintained for proper functionality
  • Performance is limited by number of tape drives supported
  • Shoe-shining effect associated with repetitive stopping and rewinding of the tap

Disk Imaging

While most people think of backing up data, disk imaging programs back up not only data but also the computer’s systems and configuration. In effect, a disk imaging program captures an ‘image’ of an active computer system – its structure, registry programs, partitions, software, etc. This is especially useful in case of problems encountered during the life of the system – deliberate virus attacks which may erase systems or data, software or hardware glitches which may require formatting or erasure of the hard disk, installation, catastrophic incidents like man-made disasters or accidents (e.g. fire, floods, and the like). Based on block level backups, disk imaging provides a fast method of backing up and restoring complete systems; even on to different hardware.

Advantages of Disk Imaging

  • Quick byte-level backup
  • Capable of restore entire system to different hardware
  • Incremental/Differentials takes significantly less time
  • Easy to use

Disadvantages of Disk Imaging

  • Doesn’t work with defragmentation software well
  • Doesn’t work with newer hardware without software patches
  • Does not scale well

Remote Backup Technologies::

Effectively backing up and managing business-critical information, particularly the growing amount stored on distributed desktop, remote and laptop computers, represents one of the greatest challenges in today’s corporation. Complicating the problem is the fact that while the importance of business information is increasing, so is the difficulty of protecting and keeping it available. This is due, in part, to the increasing data volume on desktop and laptop computers and the increasing complexity of the software and hardware on these machines. Fortunately, there is a solution that addresses local storage on desktops and laptops as well as distributed server storage. It also allow quick and easy recovery from any type of information loss, including simple user errors, failed software installations, hardware failures, and lost or stolen laptops.

Features of a solid Remote backup solution:

  • Continuous/Automated scheduling
  • Mirroring and versioning
  • Compressions
  • Encryption
  • Transparent operation
  • High performance over the Internet
  • Centralized administration
  • Self-serve file recovery
  • Bare-metal disaster recovery
  • Network and firewall-friendly HTTP-based architecture

As we move towards a virtual/mobile office, businesses are faced with the dilemma of backing up important company data from a remote source. In the form of corrupted data, user error, or theft of laptop computers, offsite users need to reliable restore their data from a remote location quickly and easily.

Traditional remote backups involve a secure connection to the backup server via a VPN and require user management of the backup jobs. Furthermore, due to bandwidth constraints, only the backup of data files would be transferred. Although this method is very effective for advance users, it isn’t automated and centrally managed. It also doesn’t help for bare metal restores or boot issues. Fortunately, there are many solutions that address these limitations.
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Disaster Recovery / Business Continuity Plan::Disaster Recovery (DR) starts from a collection of policies and best practices that are designed and applied to multiple processes and technologies. This makes it possible for businesses to bring up an acceptable “interim” operation within a timeframe that enables employees to be effective thus reducing losses. Often times, hardware would have to be rebuilt and software would have to be recovered. Having a Disaster Recovery / Business Continuity plan is often conceived as expensive and time consuming, but that’s usually far from the truth. Disaster Recovery is not a one-size fits all solution, but a dynamic plan that varies between businesses and their needs.[jacc/]
Data Backups/Disaster Recovery Backup Solutions Case Study::

IT Needs:

Maxford Technologies, a leading multinational manufacturer of thermal solar films, had an urgent need. They wanted to protect their Active Directory servers and their File Servers containing engineering drawings, emails, and other documents. Their main priority was to have an automated backup solution that was managed with the least amount of effort. They also wanted to have their data backed up to a remote location regularly, with security a priority. Lastly, they overspent their yearly budget so they were in need of a solution that was fiscally appropriate.

How NetCal’s Backup Solutions solved the problem:

NetCal Consulting, an IT Consulting and Services company, lead the way with their proven backup solutions. Senior consultant, Brendon Baumgartner explained, “Our backup solutions are designed based on industry standards and experience. We find that most of the time, a traditional backup solution is overly complicated. Backing up only necessary data can eliminate 95% of issues associated with failed backups.”

NetCal’s first task was to develop a budget minded backup solution. They went to work by assessing Maxford’s current environment using metrics such as storage capacity, data usage, estimated yearly data growth percentage, backup window availability, and Internet bandwidth. Once gathered, NetCal developed a backup to disk solution that would prove efficient and effective. Since data usage wasn’t high enough to validate the cost savings of a tape backup system, a Backup-2-Disk solution was put in place. They recycled an existing server with a RAID-5 storage configuration. A separate Gigabit network was established between the server. These little changes allowed for redundancy, additional capacity in the future, and wouldn’t saturate the existing network. For the backup software, NetCal used BackupAssist. The simple backup software uses Microsoft’s backup technology (NT Backup) to backup user files as well as system states. It performs automatic and scheduled backups of Windows servers, including Exchange and SQL data.
With a remote backup solution for offline disaster recovery purposes, the main concern is security and efficiency. NetCal’s engineers implemented a secure solution using SSH v2 and byte-level backup software RSYNC. The initial Full backups were ran locally then transported to an existing remote server at a data center, thus alleviating bandwidth issues during normal business hours.

Once the entire solution was setup, NetCal measured backup sizes and bandwidth usage to verify optimal network operating efficiency. Best practice dictates that an initial test restore was to be performed. Using virtualization software, a test restore of system states and random data was performed on both the onsite and offsite backups. The president of Maxford Technologies stated, “I now have 2 less stresses in my life. I couldn’t believe NetCal was capable of devising a solution that fit our needs and low budget. I’m amazed by their resourcefulness in using our older equipment.”