Highly Reliable Systems: Removable Disk Backup & Recovery


Backup to Cloud – 17 Tips for Doing it Right

By Darren McBride

Backing up to the cloud makes a lot of sense.  There are a broad spectrum of vendors and prices and we always like to encourage people to do both local and cloud backup (hybrid cloud).  I think the cloud vendors are different in different countries and it makes sense to pick one nearby (but not too nearby so that disasters affect both primary and data backup location simulaneously) .  You may want one that accepts (and sends) seed drives if you have more than 1TB of data.   You might want to consider a distributed cloud vendor such as Symform or Cleversafe.  This article has some good reasons why.  I’m not saying these vendors are always cost effective, but the concept is worthy of review and the white paper is well reasoned.

Some things to think about cloud:

  1. Always supplement with a local backup (preferably 2) to a local appliance or drive. Look to our DAS or NAS products for your local storage
  2. Always encrypt with AES or better encryption. Protect keys and keep copies.
  3. Supplement local backup a second time by nightly or weekly copying data to a workstation using crude robocopy or similar type software, even if that means you have to install a big SATA drive or 2 in the workstation. We have recommended batch files, ways to log results, and windows scheduling instructions.
  4. Ask about cost & ability to create and send seed drives to data center and cost of creating and sending you a hard drive Fed-Ex in server down emergency.  It takes too long to move large amounts of data when you’re completely down and need a bare metal restore.
  5. Speaking of which, ask about bare metal restore unless file restore is enough for you.
  6. Ask if their incremental backup engine is file or block based.  In other words, if a file changes does the whole file get re-transmitted or just the blocks that change?  Programs like Exchange might have a huge .edb file that changes constantly.  Retransmitting the whole file on every change means you never “catch up”.
  7. Ask if defragging your server hard drive messes up the incremental backup scheme (hint: Yes it does)
  8. If you care ask about virtualization features.  In other words can I spin your backup “in the cloud” to verify my backup is good and/or use in an emergency?  Note this is a very high end feature that very few vendors have and that costs a lot.
  9. Ask about SAS-70 or other security and redundancy certifications of data center, how they back themselves up, whether they include a 2nd location (those with 1 location might be able to charge low price like 25cents per gig per month.  Those with multiple and lots of support might charge $1 per gig per month or more).
  10. Ask  “Where is my data”.  Is it outside the country?  Do I care?
  11. Ask about version retention.  i.e. can I restore a file from last January or do I have only 1 copy of my backup (the latest).
  12. Ask if one bit gets flipped in transit or when reading off the drive, how would you know about it (ie does software do CRC or optional verification pass?)
  13. Ask whether the cloud vendor is profitable, whether it is venture capital funded.  For example Carbonite lost money last quarter, even though it has a very high advertising profile here in the States.
  14. Ask if cloud backup software supports active directory, exchange, granular or brick level Exchange (ability to restore single messages or mailboxes), open files, SQL, VSS.
  15. Ask how they recommend testing the backup is restorable.
  16. Consider bandwidth costs and whether you need to pay for more.  This is part of the hidden cost of cloud.  You may have to schedule bandwidth to only be used at night to avoid slow internet during the day.
  17. Ask when the last time they were down, what their SLA looks like (send a copy), whether they have a data rider on their E&O insurance that protects them if they lose your data (For example we carry 1 Million dollars per “glitch” and we don’t even offer a managed backup service at this time).  You will find most vendors include language that says “we make best effort to backup your data but ultimately we are not responsible if you can’t restore it”.

What do you think?

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