Where are your computer backups tonight? And are they safe?

Small, medium and large businesses have typically relied on tape backup systems for the safe storage and recovery of lost or corrupt files. This practice has become antiquated and is quickly being replaced with online data backup services using cloud computing as its medium.

The main drawbacks to tape backup systems are that they require a lot of oversight and that your data will only be current to the last tape backup. Oversight means maintaining the tape systems cleaning, repair, etc.) as well as making sure someone changes and stores tapes. Tape media, drives, transportation and storage will continue to be problematic in variety of manners. Most non-technical people do not realize that tapes have a shelf life and a maximum number of read/writes before errors start accumulating. A basic backup system will not report these important events and can lead to a false sense of security.

Adding to this is the potential improper off-siting of the tape media. In many cases the tapes are given to an employee of the company to take home. To exemplify the problem even further, northern Nevada's extreme temperature differentials can have adverse effects on tape media, shortening the life or damaging the contents. Not to mention, do you really want an individual carrying around your company's data in the back of their car? Utilizing the Internet, cloud computing offers reliability and peace of mind to even the smallest of businesses by ensuring data is backed up on a scheduled basis and without regards to tapes, drives or human error.

Cloud-computing online backup services offer cost-effective, reliably proven and highly secure encrypted data transmissions. Setting up a system typically takes about one hour per server. Desktops can also be configured to backup to the cloud and are relatively quicker to set up. No special hardware is required other than a high speed Internet connection and the backup software application provided by the service.

The beauty of this concept is that the data is backed up during non-peak hours or at close of business, allowing you to take advantage of your previously idle Internet connection. Continuous backups that run 24 hours a day also are an option with most backup solution providers and are dependent upon your company's recovery point objective.

Companies should use a recovery point objective to determine how much data they can potentially lose during any given disaster. For example, if users update data in a real-time application (such as a Web-based purchasing system), your recovery point objective should be as close to zero as possible (within the limitations of your systems). Conversely, if your systems save data infrequently (such as a file server used mostly for read-only files), your recovery point objective can be 24 hours or more.

Keep in mind that solutions that ensure absolutely zero data loss nearly always require large-scale disk-based storage arrays and much more bandwidth than other types of data-protection systems.

Any business, small, medium or large will quickly realize the return in investment in online data backups. Through a combination of cloud computing, economies of scale and an Internet connection, your data can be safely off-sited at costs far less than what your tape media replenishing, drive service and maintenance and potential for data corruption could be. Most businesses have no idea how much data is actually worth until they lose it, which can be a very costly mistake to make in the event of a serious disaster.

Your company's worst-case scenario is a daily backup that someone didn't perform.

Rick Thomas is owner of ProTechnical, an information technology company in Reno. Contact him at 685-3786 or rick@protechnical.com.


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