Thursday, March 19, 2009

Online Backups

They've been around for several years and are one more means to and end in a sea of options - online backups.  The term Backup has many traits that must be defined by business in order to architetch and execute a 'Backup' successfully (RTO, RTP, Copy, Archive, CDP, Onsite / offsite, etc...).  I'm not looking to dig into those any more than necessary, but more so the concept of online backups and why or why not anyone out there has decided to use one.

First an assumption - few if any businesses have less than 50GB of data that needs be backed up over a given week. One small file server with its operating system and data can quickly tally up 50GB of space.  Space is cheap right - let's use it!  This data volume figure is important because it is going to determine how much an online backup service will cost.  Bigger data = bigger cost (and possibly the need for additional Internet bandwidth; even more cost).

My current employer used an online service when I began there.  Over a short period of time it became quite clear data was growing and wasn't going to stop to the point were it was very unecconomical to continue with the service.  Besides costs, all those terms that a business defines  backups as were used to architect a new solution.  I'm happy to say the current backup solution meets the business' "backup" needs and also had a very short ROI.

I was recently cold called by an online backup provider and entertained the ensuing web presentation, and it perked my curiosity.  The service costs when considering today's modern volumes of data are still somewhat...staggering.  These services also generally offer supreme convenience, no hardware, near zero human interaction during normal operation, and are accessable via the web.  

I've came up with a few situations where an online service fits:
1) The data is so critical that even having a redundant(!=backup) DC is not sufficient
2) A local "IT" resource is not present / feasable
3) Onsite backup vs Online is not cost effective (I believe these are few)

What do you think??

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Adam Ruth said...

One thing to keep in mind with these services is restore. I tried Mozy for a while, but found out after some testing that restore was painfully, career-limitingly, slow.

It seems that most people aren't ever going to restore more than a handful of files, so they're not optimised to doing large restores. Obviously, a backup without a good restore isn't worth much, so be sure to test an actual restore of a realistically sized dataset before committing to any system.

Matt said...

I was once laughed at by an Iron Mountain rep. She asked how much data we had to backup (~400GB at that time, around double that now), and what kind of pipe we had (a single 1.5Mb/s T1).

Apparently, you need more bandwidth than that? Rubbish!