Remote backup of data, applications and operating systems is becoming more important for companies of all sizes as they struggle to cope with a growing number of remote workers and a mountain of compliance and legal mandates. It is also becoming more important as companies realize that a tape backup plan is not enough to provide business continuity in the event of a disaster.
Most tape backups involve transferring data each day to a local disk or tape before shipping the data to a central office and perhaps to an off-site tape storage facility. But what happens if a disaster destroys the remote office? The raw data is useless without the applications and properly configured hardware.
Striving to solve that scenario, vendors created remote backup solutions using high throughput and affordable Internet data transmission that back up data and -- in some cases -- applications and operating systems to a distant location. Essentially, there are two options: do-it-yourself software and managed services, to which companies outsource their remote backup functions.
Remote backup options
Software-only solutions are available from many companies, including EMC Corp., Microsoft and Symantec Corp. Leading providers of managed services include Intronis LLC, LiveVault and Data Protection Services LLC. Experts agree that choosing a backup service is sensible for companies with facilities in only one geographical area, while companies with facilities in diverse locations are advised to allocate servers in one location to back up data in another.
Backup services are staffed by specialists and operate 24/7, allowing companies to access data at any time and freeing them from the need to have IT staffers or others entrusted with remote backup duties. Many backup services provide extra protections, such as locating their servers in extremely secure facilities with redundant power and connections to multiple Internet service providers.
"Companies have become increasingly aware of the value of remote office data," said Mark Diamond, president and CEO of Contoural Inc., a Mountain View, Calif.-based consultancy focused on compliance, intelligent data management and storage strategy.
"Companies have to find ways to manage and store remote data, because it is becoming more plentiful as more workers are working from laptops," Diamond said.
Even more important, he said, companies have to find ways to protect remote data because it runs a high risk of being lost or stolen and possibly becoming the subject of litigation.
"We all know about the lawsuits against banks over lost or stolen data containing personal credit and banking information," he said. "But the problem of lost or stolen data can affect any company, public or private."
Diamond noted that corporate litigation concerns mounted last year when the U.S. Supreme Court approved amendments to the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure (FRCP) concerning the discovery of electronically stored information.
Diamond said these amendments give enterprises incentives to retain complete email archives and to keep those archives for longer periods of time. A company that has destroyed its email records prematurely, or that cannot account for electronic records it does possess, is likely to face more problems in a court today than might have been true some years ago.
The FRCP amendments make it easier for the CIO or senior IT people to make the case for better remote backup, said Jim Addlesberger, president and CEO of NavigateStorage LLC, a Concord, Mass.-based storage value-added reseller specializing in backup, disaster recovery and business continuity.
"Now, the CIO doesn't have to make a technical or business argument for improving remote backup," Addlesberger said. "All he or she has to say to the CEO is is 'The federal government is forcing us to do this.'"
Outsourcing network backup
The White Pine County School District in Ely, Nev., recently outsourced its network backup needs to Managed Restore, a service offered by Connecting Point in Las Vegas.
"As a public entity, we have a fiscal and legal responsibility to protect data and computer systems that are paid by taxpayers," said Paul Johnstone, the district's CIO who oversees 22 servers and hundreds of PCs used by seven schools in nine locations.
"Protecting the integrity of our data was becoming an overwhelming job for my IT staff, who didn't have the expertise or the time to do remote data backup," Johnstone said. "I also knew that if we had a serious disaster that disrupted the network for weeks, it would cost us hundreds of thousands of dollars -- based on intermittent interruptions we had in the past."
Johnstone said he found a cost-effective solution in Managed Restore.
"For $5,000 per month, Connecting Point protects all our programs and data," Johnstone said. "If we go down, all we have to do is log onto the Internet from any location and we can run all our programs."
Herman Mehling is a freelance writer based out of San Anselmo, Calif. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org