Backups. They are arguably the least glamorous task for any IT team. And yet, they are also one of the most critical. In fact, according to Gartner, 43% of companies go immediately out of business after a “major loss” of computer records. Even worse, only 6% of companies survive longer than two years after a significant data loss.
Software as a Service (SaaS) applications have become “cloud backup applications”, and are increasingly popular. According to a survey of enterprise customers by Aberdeen Group, around 1/2 of firms are using the cloud for Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software and email (with Exchange making up 19%). The high adoption rate reflects software manufacturer’s focus on recurring monthly revenue models versus the older sales models where software was purchased with yearly support or maintenance fees. By hosting their applications, software vendors such as Microsoft CRM and Salesforce.com create higher profit margins and create tighter linkage to the end user. This model will eventually diminish, and disintermediate the importance of trusted consultants and IT resellers which account for approximately 30% of the traditional cost of IT.
In reality, most hard disks seldom see operating temperatures below the chill of a server room or beyond the warmth of rack space, and most disks will not commit an URE that crashes a RAID-5 rebuild. While it is agreed that better parity schemes exist, the exception is not the rule. My customer could have retained cold storage data to individual disks via removable drives, with no redundancy at all. In fact, most organizations already use a single removable disk or cloud container for their nightly backup routine. My customer choose a special backup appliance that fits three disks into a single cartridge, further protecting archived data and proving RAID-5 still has business applications.
As the size of information stored in the cloud grows increasingly larger, IT managers must plan on getting data out of the cloud when it’s critically needed during disaster recovery. For some businesses, the cloud is a place to deposit a second copy of data already retained locally. For others the cloud is primary storage, where unique data is created and modified. Problems arise in both cases: when local data is lost due to fire, flood, or theft, when the data is too large for a timely transfer across limited Internet bandwidth, or when a cloud provider shuts down. This all begs the question: is redundant data in place?
Not long ago network administrators would backup their data to tape storage, and later onto hard disks. As managed service providers evolved with technology, IT professionals began replicating to the cloud. Online storage services such as Amazon S3, Google Cloud Storage, DreamHost DreamCloud, and Dropbox became popular destinations for offsite data retention. It seemed like such a good idea at the time, since local disks were small and cloud servers were large. Storage technology has continued to improve, and 8TB hard disk drives are now available for local retention. As free space has increased on servers, so have the storage needs of its users. Internet bandwidth has not kept up with improvements in storage technology, and slow speeds or high prices have made it necessary to “reverse cloud” backup data from online containers to local disks.