Data Backups 101: Intro to Backups for Business

Backups have one purpose, data protection. That said there are several considerations for data protection.
What is your data worth to you?

  • How long can you be in business without your data?
  • How much does it cost per hour / day to be without your data?
  • In what format do you require your data to be in? Paper vs digital (yes paper is data)
  • What is your retainment policy IE how long do I need to keep my data aka archives. (another topic: Data Archives including email archives have become a major pain point for companies because of legal ramifications and requirements for eDiscovery and compliance should an employee sue your company)

Because most people need data, in digital format readily available, we have backup systems.

Brief History

Backups are really just an extension of data protection methods put into place to protect data on paper. In the old days, data was created by typewriters or printed on massive green bar reports by the “data processing” department. Even though the data was warehoused on massive reels of tape, it was typical for this data to be “backup up” by printing it all off on paper and send off site for disaster recovery.

The last 15 to 20 years, the typical method of backing up data has been using automatic or semi automatic tape backup systems. Depending on the budget of the company, there would be either a single tape that required manual intervention or a tape library that could automatically change tapes as required. Early tape backups were analog reel to reel, then later digital tapes like DAT, LTO formats came along that gave better performance and larger capacity. The main reason for using tape was the cost. Hard Drives were very expensive per Mega Byte. Recently, with the cost per mega byte going way down, newer technologies that leverage D2D or “disk to disk” backups have become the best method of backup. A D2D2T or “Disk to Disk to Tape” method can also be used to simplify and automate backups, reduce backup times, but still allow for tapes to be taken off site for DR (see below). As the Internet has matured and bandwidth has become cheap, online backup systems and methods of replication off site have become the popular. This takes D2D to the next level by eliminating the need for antiquated tape systems altogether.

Disaster Recovery (DR)

Data Backup is only one piece of data protection. Disaster Recovery is the next. In short, “disaster recovery” as it relates to data backup is the method of ensuring your data is available in the event of a disaster, regardless of the size of the disaster. This can include a fire sprinkler flood, theft, coffee mishap etc. In most cases this is simply the act of taking your data off site. In the old days this was one person who had the job of manually ejecting and schlepping the tapes home. Today, it is leveraging the Internet to “automagically” copy or replicate the information to a safe place off site. The added advantage of this is the protection from regional disasters, for example an earthquake or hurricane where the entire region may be at risk, and yes, the tapes you took off site to your house are still at risk.

A sub topic of DR is High Availability HA or business continuance. This means, how fast can your systems get up and running in the event of an outage or disaster. Most basic backup systems do not provide for High Availability (this is also a new topic regarding server clustering and virtualization strategies).

Summary of recommendations

For the typical small business or SOHO

Check for online backup vendors that can give automated backups securely over the Internet. These methods backup to hardened facilities with Enterprise level data protection on the back end. Remember to test these systems periodically.

Smaller companies have many companies offering online backups today, but consider only business class services such as Verologix Online Backup (VOB) powered by SOS online Backup. It is built for business, and consistently voted PC Mag editor’s choice. VOB basically has options for managed online backup services and integration with SAN and NAS options.

Small to mid and some Enterprise companies with more mission critical data should consider a system that backs up locally first then offsite, such as Barracuda Backup appliance and online service, or a custom VOB solution with EMC, or Scale Computing's SAN.

If you cannot live without your systems, contact your Verologix rep at or call 800-403-8041 and ask about DR with High availability and virtualization options, but be prepared to spend a few bucks. These designs can range from several thousand dollars to over a hundred thousand dollars for extreme DR and HA.

If your brain is bleeding, feel free to ask for help!

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This Blog Article was originally published at Digital Avenger, sponsored by Verologix. backups-101

backup (Photo credit: Sean MacEntee)

Marc R. Potter 14-Mar-2012 1 Comments
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