Highly Reliable Systems: Removable Disk Backup & Recovery

Use a Backup Appliance with the Cloud to Create Hybrid Solutions

By Kevin Hamacek

When it comes to where a company stores their backups there are lots of options. Do they opt for a cloud based provider like Amazon’s S3, Dropbox, or Microsoft Azure? Or do they buy local storage solution like an 8 bay Netswap plus backup appliance that can replicate to one of these cloud services and keep the data onsite? I’d strongly advocate both….Use a Backup Appliance with the Cloud to Create Hybrid solutions.

Backup Appliance with removable drives allows multiple points-in time to separate drives

Backup Appliance with removable drives allows multiple points-in time to separate drives

There are pluses and minuses to local and the cloud storage.  Combining them gives you the positives of both while offsetting negatives. There are hundreds of “cloud storage services”. I like to think of them in two general categories: Horizontal and vertical. The horizontal storage services like Amazon S3, Microsoft Azure, or even Dropbox are usually less expensive than vertical storage that are designed for enterprise backup.  Horizontal storage services like S3 leave it up to the user to figure out how to send data to them and don’t provide backup software. Vertical backup clouds and cloud vendors like Egnyte or Vembu are “made for backup” and typically include licenses of backup software. Many of these such as Mozy or Carbonite were originally built for consumer backup (workstations) and don’t have good support for Active Directory, SQL, Exchange, and other “always on” enterprise applications. While typically more expensive per Gigabyte per month, vertical backup firms can also provide needed backup services like handling of physical seed drives or spinning up virtual machines (VMs) in an emergency.

The questions users are asking about cloud include: What happens if we need our data during the rare cloud outage? Will my cloud vendor stay in business? Is my data susceptible to compromise by being subject to subpoena in either the U.S. or a foreign country by government officials? HIPAA and other laws would dictate data stay in a United States data center. What happens if we simply have an internet outage? Depending on the circumstances this could be a minor nuisance or a major catastrophe. The business failure of Nirvanix in 2013 and the relatively short time customers had to find another provider has people thinking.  Even solidly funded players continue to have outages.  For example Dropbox was off line on January, 11th & 12 of 2014.  these are a kinks in cloud services’ armor.  A local backup appliance addresses some of these concerns.

As compelling as the cloud is, none of them are as fast or priced lower over a 3 year ownership window than SATA drives used in a High-Rely backup appliance.  Local storage can solve the problem of initial replication off site for large data sets, which otherwise can be time consuming and expensive.  In addition declaring an emergency and getting a physical copy of your data (usually on a USB drive) from your provider can be costly and slow (due to the wait for shipping). Using a local appliance along with the cloud is referred to as a “Hybrid” backup solution. It is estimated that 98% of the time restores will be done from the local appliance, with the cloud providing an off-site backstop for that rare fire, hurricane or other natural disaster. The local copy also provides peace of mind for these nefarious cloud outages we keep hearing about.  Backup Appliances such as the NetSwap Plus and RAIDFrame allow for the data to be there at your fingertips when you need it.  Features to assist in seeding the backup to another location or the cloud are an added plus.

An easy way to reduce risk is by using one of the removable media solutions currently offered by Highly Reliable Systems. These systems allow a copy to be stored separate from the DAS or NAS device in a safe or offsite. Additional features like mirrored disks or even removable RAIDs can give you further piece of mind by adding redundancy to the solution. While the upfront costs for onsite solutions vary based on what your company needs, dynamic telephone support and expanding storage are both very low cost.

Low upfront costs of cloud services can be deceiving. Try to use at least a 3 year window to determine costs.  For example, a cloud solution backing up 500GB might cost $175 per month since $.35/GB/Month or more is common for end user storage fees at a vertical data center specializing in backup.  That’s $6300 over 3 years.  If that includes backup software it is well worth the money to a medium size enterprise to provide that additional 2% protection.

If you’re considering lowering storage costs by using one of the lower cost horizontal storage solutions mentioned above, you’ll want to keep an eye out for Highly Reliable Systems upcoming release. The popular NetSwap line of NAS appliances will be adding cloud syncing services. The data will replicate to numerous horizontal cloud storage vendors or even to another NetSwap that is kept offsite.  We call this innovation BYOC for “Bring Your Own Cloud”. The added ability to mirror locally to removable drives means you can easily have 3+ copies of your data to keep you covered in case disaster strikes; A local copy for the quick recoveries, an offsite copy that can be securely stored, and a cloud based copy for that extra piece of mind.


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