Offsite Backup and Disaster Recovery Systems – Sending Data to the Cloud!

Jul 2013

Offsite Backup and Disaster Recovery Systems – Sending Data to the Cloud!


The following is a guest post from Douglas G. Hafford, V.P. Consulting Services – Afinety, Inc.

AfinetyIn the last year, and especially in recent months, there have been a host of new offerings for both offsite backup and disaster recovery systems. When considering these highly desirable options, it is extremely valuable to truly understand what you are getting. Many offerings appear to be similar, yet have wildly different cost structures, so a bit of education on what questions to ask and how to evaluate can help you make a wise recommendation for your firm.

Is Your Data Safe in the Cloud?

Without getting too deeply into terms like SAS70 and the various security certifications, the answer is generally a whole hearted yes! Assuming you are considering a major name brand supplier, the data centers which store your data are far more secure than your own internal network is, can be or ever will be. These companies spend vast amounts of money on hardware, software and security engineering to achieve the proper certifications they need to allow them to service highly demanding corporate clients. Far more than you will ever spend, or need to spend on your local Sonicwall or other firewall. Often we find smaller firms with only rudimentary firewall capabilities enabled on their Internet router so this should not be a major concern for you – again if you are using a trusted name brand. In addition, your data is encrypted by these suppliers before it ever leaves your site so that even during transmission to the offsite facility, the data is safe and secure. In fact, many of these suppliers - while they can verify backups and ensure the integrity of your backup-cannot actually see the data itself.

What about low cost solution providers?

There are a handful of low cost providers that offer “small business backup systems.” The “small business” part of this refers to basic application support – usually Exchange (email), SQL (database) and Active Directory (Windows Server objects). Evaluation point number one should be “does the backup solution support my applications?” The examples above are light duty backups that offer a very low cost however there are some rather significant disadvantages to systems like this. First, these are only Offsite Backup and not Disaster Recovery Systems (in the opinion of this humble reporter). Meaning, you can backup to the cloud, but they cannot host you or even provide a backup device to restore from in a major disaster situation. That however, would be okay if it were not for the most significant issue, which is the speed at which these systems perform backups. Let’s imagine that you have 200GB of data on your server(s). Let’s further imagine that you have a full T1 line running at 1.5mbps which is a common connection speed today. Your initial backup is sent over the Internet connection with these products so in this scenario, it might take two to three weeks (yes, you read that right) for the initial backup to complete. Until it is completed, you have NO backup at all. So, is that something you are willing to risk? With this in mind, let’s imagine a disaster where you have to restore that 200GB. Guess what? Data comes down at the same speed it went up so; can your firm go 3 weeks without computers, data or applications? I’m sure I know your answer. Thus, these solutions don’t really work unless you have a very small amount of data and a very fast connection speed. Please remember that any Internet connection has both an UP and a DOWN speed. Cable connections for example often have very fast DOWN speeds, sometimes near 20mbps or more, but the UP speed – which is used by your backup solution – might be less than 1mbps. So while web surfing is fast, pushing data UP to the web can be quite slow.

We have now arrived at evaluation point number two: Does the backup solution allow “seeding?” This means that an initial backup is run – usually to a large USB drive – and shipped off to the data center. The initial backup time is shortened to a day or so and recovery can be done in the same way. In a disaster, a USB drive or other device is shipped to your recovery location and your system can be quickly restored to its full operational capabilities.  This is a highly desirable feature and most would call it an essential feature to any offsite backup system.

In our next installment, we’ll discuss the differences between Offsite Backup and Disaster Recovery.

About Afinety

Since 1987, Afinety has been a leader in IT services for small to medium size businesses. With a focus on law firms, Afinety provides standardized networks that simply work. Other services include hardware and software sales, consultation, cloud based services including disaster recovery, training and support, as well as proactive services that are designed to keep your network running smoothly, without interruptions. For more information, please visit our website at

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