The Online Data Backup Revolution

There is no doubt that in conjunction with online management and collaboration, online data backup and storage into the cloud has revolutionised the way organisations do business and in turn, these are reshaping the marketplace of business itself. This is part of the revolutionary change that cloud computing represents and is building a truly global market place where even small companies can trade throughout the world. A major benefit of this is that companies are no longer required to be confined to one physical office or location meaning employees can now be found scattered all over the world. In turn, this new “cloud marketplace” is brings increased opportunities for sales, as the global network enables connections with more and more companies and by extension, they are able to reach significantly more end users.

Until now all businesses have husbanded their data and controlled it as far as they can by keeping it exclusively on their own premises. The main change with the cloud is one of mentality; it’s now OK to have your data held and managed by someone else and the supporting economic justifications for doing so are now compelling.

To properly analyse this revolution and the drivers behind it we need to set this in the context of the way data has been backed up until now. Essentially backups are not a glamorous, high-profile task in any business and particularly in a small or medium-sized business, there is always something more pressing to do than to work on them. Consequently many businesses operate backup with processes that that are incomplete or in some other respect inadequate:

  • Critical data is not backed up or is backed up infrequently, putting recovery at risk.
  • Backup is a manual process based on tapes which are frequently over-written and seldom checked so consequently they may be impossible to read rendering the process pointless as restore is hopeless.
  • Backup processes rely on the expertise of one individual who may not be available if a recovery is needed.
  • Backups may be stored only locally, close to primary servers, putting the business at serious risk if that local site is compromised.
  • Backups may be taken off site but again this is a manual process reliant on human intervention.
  • Backups do not meet regulatory requirements or industry standards for data protection and retention

Most small and medium-sized business use some form of backup solution, however these solutions are typically time-consuming to operate, used inconsistently, or offer inadequate protection from disasters such as fires and floods. Lack of time, staff and expertise means many businesses have used a backup solution for years that is costly and/or out of date.

Here is where we see the true value of the online data backup revolution in delivering a quick and easy method of doing state of the art backup. Online backup aka “remote backup” delivers enterprise-class data protection to small and mid-sized businesses without the associated complexity and cost of management. Online backup runs as a service by sending backup data securely over the Internet to a highly available data center where it is held on highly available storage arrays which in turn are managed by data protection experts. High availability is a key element here; it specifically refers to redundancy built into the hardware and the data center such that any single part of the system can fail without losing either data or access to the data. So, every system will always have at least 2 power supplies, hard drives are held in arrays configured to allow for failure of individual hard drives and yet still deliver the data held on the array, data centers have redundant air conditioning systems, power feeds etc. In this way should your business suffer a disaster your data should be accessible at any time from any point in the world with internet access.

Like any cloud backup service, it should be self-provisioning with an administration console accessed on-demand through a Web browser. In this way the organisation eliminates the need to purchase hardware, manage complex installation, or manage software upgrades. The system adds new features seamlessly which are delivered automatically to all customers simultaneously. These services use a pay-as-you-go model based on storage usage with some optional cost features and the monthly or annual subscription fee includes 24×7 support. Most providers deliver an elastic service meaning customers may adjust usage up or down without penalty and costs are predictable.

The automated nature of online backup services delivers “always-on” protection with backups either triggered by file changes or run to a schedule, which means they eliminate the requirement for staff to perform manual backups or manage storage media. Once the initial backup has been performed, only block-level changes are sent over the Internet, which means bandwidth is used efficiently.

Online Backups run on all computers in your company – not just the file servers and even laptops not connected to the office network full-time can be backed up. Online backup software backs up all the proper files without needing to run several types of backup software to back up various file types. Online backups are properly versioned for point-in-time restores with multiple copies kept and automatically verified.

Using online backup services means files are encrypted prior to transmission, and are stored in encrypted form on the backup servers. In this way they are compliant with privacy and data security regulations. Backed up data are encrypted with a password known only to you which means nobody except you – not even the Backup Service Provider has access to your information which means nobody can steal your data. Reports are emailed after every backup and these can be used to audit business practices and to keep track of your backups. Should your backups encounter any kind of problems, you will receive an email describing the problem.

Restores can be achieved in minutes by the end user by choosing files from a list, or running a wizard. Restores can done from anywhere on the Internet using a web browser and operate 24/7/365 without the need for outside expertise or end user intervention. Restores can be done any time – weekends, holidays, and nights and so are quick and easy to test. Worries about running out of drive space, or replacing old drives disappear as the provider handles all that.