Archives for : September2010

The Difference Between Archiving and Backup

When talking about data protection, there is often some confusion around the definition and roles of Backup vs. Archiving. So I’d like to give a few short examples to illustrate how the 2 are not only different, but complimentary.
There are 2 ways to think about the concept of Archiving.

Performance Protection

  • Archiving is a tool to improve server performance
  • Archiving is a data protection tool

Let’s start by looking at the first example, since this is where most people get confused.

Archiving for Server Performance

Let’s suppose that I showed you 2 vehicles that each cost $100,000. One is a bulldozer, and the other is a sports car. Which would you say is of higher quality? Of course, that’s a trick question. The quality of the vehicle depends entirely on its ability to meet its intended purpose.

Bulldozer Sports Car

Your primary server is a bit like the high-end sports car.

It’s designed to get work done very quickly. But in order to have the best performance, you need to remove any excess weight. This might mean taking extra weight out of the trunk (such as luggage or the spare tire), making sure you ride alone without any extra passengers, and (if this is a short trip) only filling the gas tank part way. Every unnecessary pound you shave will improve the car’s performance.

In much the same way, your server accumulates a lot of files over time. And most of these files are either rarely used, duplicates, or completely obsolete. Storing this kind of data on your primary server will slow it down and decrease its search speed and performance.

In order to maintain optimal performance of your primary servers, you need to regularly take older or less active data and move it off to another archival storage system.

Archival storage is like a bulldozer. It’s big, slow and clunky, but it can handle very heavy loads without a problem.

If someone needs an old log file from the archival storage, the search process might require sifting through multiple terabytes of data. Having a separate archival system in place allows this laborious search to be performed in complete isolation… without slowing down or otherwise affecting the performance of the critical primary live server.

This is similar to how your laptop uses slow disk drives for storage, and fast RAM storage for live working data… but on a much larger scale.

Much in the same way that you should go through your closet once a year and throw out any clothes that you no longer wear… you should go through your computer every six months and archive data that is no longer being accessed.

Archiving For Data Protection

The biggest difference between backup and archiving are that:

  • Backups give you multiple versions of files so that you can recover from a previous time frame
  • Archives only store a single version of the file since archival files will probably never change

The 2 biggest problems associated with enterprise backups are recovery times and backup windows. It should be pretty simple to see that the easiest way to improve both of these processes would be to back up less data.

Archiving VS Backup

That’s why you should only be backing up the most critical data from your primary server on a daily/continuous basis. And data that is doesn’t change on a regular basis (Videos, Log Files, Emails, Pictures, Scanned Documents, System images, etc…) should NOT be protected as part of your regular backup routine.

Since they never change, they should be protected using archival storage and moved off of the primary backup cycle. By splitting up your data protection in this manner, you can often archive up to 80% of your data… leading to significantly faster backup/recovery times.

Another advantage of archival storage is that it can be optimized for rapid search and legal compliance. But I won’t go into this topic since it can get very complicated.

This should hopefully give you a good idea about the difference between backups and archives. Because corporate data is currently growing very quickly, I predict that archiving should become much more important within the next few years.

Why Your Business Should Consider Switching To Linux

windows-to-linuxYes, I know… When you read this title, you probably thought “Great, here’s another geek who wants to complicate my life. I get it, Linux is better… But it’s also lame.”

I don’t blame you for feeling this way. But, unlike other articles, I’m not trying to get you to switch your home PC to Linux. Instead, I want to try and illustrate some of the business benefits of converting your office desktops to Linux.

Typically, there will be two types of businesses that will want to switch to Linux.

  • Businesses that want to break free from Microsoft’s restrictive licensing policies.
  • Companies that are tired of dealing with spyware, malware and viruses.

And if your company is struggling with (or at least devoting significant time to) either of these two problems, then there may be a significant cost savings in switching to Linux.
Of course, they will be a few objections that come up.

My employees will have to re-learn the new operating system.

This might’ve been a problem 10 years ago. But today’s Linux desktops are incredibly user-friendly and intuitive.

It won’t detect my hardware.

Once again, this is another area where Linux has greatly improved over the years. In most cases, you can simply plug in a device and have it detected automatically.

The applications available for Linux are very limited

99% of the time, your employees will use no more than four or five common business applications. And most of these have free Linux-based alternatives.

  • Open Office can replace MS Office
  • Firefox can replace Internet Explorer (You should be using this anyways)
  • And there are many Linux-based media players available
  • And in the few cases where only a Windows version will do, you can still run windows programs using Wine.


Of course, Linux is no good for gaming. As a business owner, this should actually be a major plus for you.
Also, Linux is not very good when it comes to professional-grade graphic design software. But if this is what you need, you should probably be switching to Mac anyways.

If you’ve been a reluctance to test of Linux for yourself, you don’t need to format an entire computer and reinstall from scratch. Instead, you may want to consider running a live CD version of Linux. In other words, these are versions of Linux that run directly off of a CD. This allows you to try the operating system without making any major time commitments.

Even if you aren’t a super geek, Linux desktops still have a lot to offer for business users. I would strongly recommend giving it a try.

What’s the Difference Between Grid and Cloud Computing

“Grid computing” and “cloud computing” are terms that get confused and mixed up a lot. Although they’re somewhat similar in theory, they’re also every different… and not interchangeable.

Cloud computing is the one that most of us are familiar with. This is where you get access to the resources of an independent 3rd party over the internet. In other words, they are remotely hosted applications.
Common examples include:

  • Web-based email
  • Web-based accounting systems
  • Web-based credit card software

Also within the “cloud computing” family, are what’s known as “Software as a Service” or SaaS applications. These are lightweight software clients that are installed on your server, but do all of their heavy lifting using someone else’s infrastructure. Some common examples include:

  • VOIP phones
  • Online backup
  • Video games with online play capability

Grid computing, however, occurs when the processing power of an application or service is distributed across multiple systems. This is usually done in order to increase processing capacity or improve system resiliency.

Some common grid computing examples include:

• SETI @ Home
• Peer-to-Peer file sharing

Grid computing also has special applications within the enterprise space. For example, a company may decide to virtualize their database system so that the application could be hosted across multiple redundant datacenters. In the event that one of these systems should fail, the application could keep running without interruption.

This may seem like a small difference, but it’s important.

If, instead of hosting their database across multiple servers, they decided to host it with a third-party company that specialized in hosting these types of databases… then it would be a Database-as-a-Service.

This is a type of SaaS.

It’s no longer distributed because their role has changed from systems operator to client. Someone else is handling the entire infrastructure for them.

With cloud computing, your company gets cost-savings and convenience. With grid computing, your company gets power and flexibility. When developing your IT strategy, consider the benefits of both approaches. When applied with the appropriate strategic focus, each of these strategies can be effective tools in helping to meet your cost, quality, security and efficiency objectives.

Top 25 Enterprise Online Backup Solutions for Business Cloud Data Protection

UPDATED: Online backup solutions aren’t just for laptops anymore. The best modern enterprise cloud backup services are able to deliver complete backup & DR functionality for multi-platform server environments with data sizes up to 100TB and beyond.

Here’s a quick checklist of what to look for:

1. Performance – Performance is the Achilles heel of practical cloud backup in the real world. Test performance in your environment, the biggest mistake is to buy without trying.
2. Cost – Evaluations of cloud backup cost work best when the total costs are compared, not only the “teaser” price per-GB-per-month.
3. Security – Checking that data is encrypted in flight and at rest in the data center. Also look for audited data handling standards like SSAE-16.
4. Local backup capability – This is an obvious part of enterprise backup, a must have.
5. VM and Physical server backup capability – To be considered among the best enterprise backup solutions, a product should be able to backup both server types.
6. Disaster Recovery – This is why offsite backup is done in the first place. Best practice is to evaluate recovery performance during a trial period.
7. Archiving – Not the most critical component but large amounts of company data are never accessed, and storing it offsite frees up primary storage.

Below, I’ve made a list of what I consider to be the 25 most important backup services for business-class server backup.

Affordable enterprise-grade cloud backup, that’s faster than anything else out there, with backup stated backup speed up to 5TB a day. Includes online & local backup software, disaster recovery functionality, cloud storage, and plug-ins for SQL, Exchange, VMware, Hyper-V and NetApp servers.

2. MozyPro
The business-class counterpart to one of the world’s most popular low-cost backup solutions. Backing from EMC is a major plus or negative depending who you are.

3. CrashPlan
Offering both free and enterprise backup solutions with support for VMware, Sun, Linux, Windows and Mac. Large enterprises have had good results for endpoint backup, less so for servers.

4. eVault
Online backup backed by a strong name, and trusted by a broad client base. Requires an appliance for data sizes >1TB.
5. IDrive
Pricing and support is well reviewed, but “1TB per week” is too slow for even small enterprises.
6. Carbonite
Very popular with consumers for home backup, Carbonite’s server backup pricing is low, but performance is slow at “up to 100GB.”
7. DataBarracks
Serious business backup service with support for many different operating systems.
8. AmeriVault
Enterprise online backup from Venyu, helping to maximize both data protection and availability.
9. Novosoft Remote Backup
Online cloud backup that is easy, affordable, secure and practical. They also offer your first 5 GB for free.
10. SecurStore
An industry-certified leader in cloud backup and corporate disaster recovery.
11. LiveVault
Iron Mountain’s entry into the business online backup market.
12. BackupMyInfo
Online backup from a talented and diverse group of entrepreneurs.
Helping ensure that your company is thoroughly prepared for even the most menacing of data disasters.
14. GlobalDataVault
Advanced, full-featured backup service provider with a special focus on compliance.
15. Backup-Technology
A rapidly-growing innovator which has been providing online backup since 2005.
16. Intronis
Fast, secure online backup with an established partner network.
17. StorageGuardian
Award-winning backup provider, recommended by VARs for over 10 years.
18. CentralDataBank
A trade-only cloud backup provider, built on a network of over 50 independent reseller partners.
19. Storagepipe
The Canadian leader in online backup to the cloud, with a broad presence in the blogosphere.
20. OpenDrive
Business backup with additional services built in, such as file storage, synching and sharing.
21. Yotta280
Years of experience in providing scalable data protection to companies of many different sizes.
22. DataProtection
Fast, reliable premium backup company that offers world-class support at no extra charge.
23. RemoteDataBackups
A premium data protection provider that offers a free product trial. They have a long list of clients and testimonials available.
24. DriveHQ
Offering both cloud storage and IT services in the cloud, for a higher level of service.
25. OnCoreIT
Pure backup for service providers, businesses and individuals.

How Long Do Backup Tapes Last?

This is really a tough question to answer, because there are so many different factors involved. Although the manufacturer might recommend certain durability ratings, these will vary based on how you use the tapes.

Old Tape

For example, a typical “Linear Tape-Open” (LTO) tape might be rated for 5000 cartridge loads, 250 full tape passes, and 15-30 years of storage.

  • If you only fill your tapes to partial capacity, you can extend the number of tape passes significantly.
  • If you store the tapes in an environment where the humidity and temperature vary greatly, this can shorten the lifespan of the cartridge.
  • If your backup software goes back over your tape to check for errors after every write process, this will count as 2 full tape passes for each backup. You’d have to divide your total maximum passes by half.

As you can see, maintaining the integrity of your archival storage isn’t easy. Here’s a possible solution that I might recommend.

For the best results, you should be creating copies of all your archival data every 1-2 years. Of course, this isn’t ideal for very large organizations. So in order to minimize the work, I’d suggest implementing a deletion/retention policy that allows you to keep the minimum possible amount of data without violating any compliance rules. This should make the process much faster and easier.

Another approach would be to make 2 copies of each backup tape, and have them stored in 2 different locations. And of course, each should be kept in humidity/temperature controlled environments as suggested by the manufacturer.

If your company is charged with protecting large amounts of highly critical data, I’d suggest having a conservative disaster recovery plan that works well within the limits and constraints suggested by the manufacturer.

This way, you’ll be well within the safety limits for your data storage.

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