In our article about how to choose the best backup hardware for your business, we identified some of the viable options for business class backup hardware. Because the hardware is just a container for your valuable data, you also need to examine your needs to select the proper software that you will need to put your data into your backup medium of choice and to manage and restore those backups.
Workstation backups can be made onto a variety of media, from CDs to external drives. Ideally, in a business setting, all data should be stored in a corporate file server, and the server then backed up. For managing local backups, one of the options available is a combination of hardware and software supplied by the vendor together, such as the Rebit drives that monitors changes in the background and continually backup files. Additionally, a variety of software has become available. Linux has a variety of tools, and the Mac OS has Time Machine built-in. On the Windows side, the backup software supplied by Microsoft has typically been rather basic. A free option worth checking is the Comodo Backup, which is a feature-rich application. Acronis also makes a commercial backup and cloning software version.
Servers have some unique requirements. Some file servers also function as email and database servers. Some are in constant use, making it a challenge for some backup software to create copies of files and databases that are open. Some backup software has this capability build-in, while others make it available for an additional charge. Windows Server has a basic backup utility, but it has been very basic, cumbersome, and lacking in functionality for anything but basic backup operations. If you are using robotic tape libraries, you will certainly need higher-end backup software, such as the Symantec BackupExec or CA ARCserve. These packages also have a “bare metal” function, which allows the complete restore of a server in a single operation without having to install the basic operating system first. On the lower end, the Comodo Backup is very capable, and the Open Source Areca backup is also effective. Some of the more important features to look for in backup software (and depending on your needs) include, in random order:
- Bare metal recovery capability for faster restore in case of complete failure.
- Ability to perform full, incremental, and differential backups.
- Support for tape backup drives and robotic libraries if you are using this type of medium.
- Automatic, continuous backups at regular intervals to backup files moments after they are changed.
- Ability to backup files in use (VSS – Volume Shadow Service in Windows).
- Automated backup scheduling to allow jobs to run off-hours.
- Backup of the machine’s system state (registry, system settings and critical system files).
- Support for removable media (ie: external drives, DVD).
- Specific support for the operating system version of your server.
- Data encryption.
- Data compression (the average is a 50% compression rate).
- Reporting capabilities, including emailing alters and reports.
- Backup and restore of individual files or folders.
- Backup virtual machines, MicroSoft Exchange Server, Microsoft SQL Server.
Online / Cloud Backup
The various online backup service providers that have appeared on the market will typically provide backup software to be used with their service. In some cases, their service will also work with other backup software, but most often, it required the use of their own software. If you are confined to use their software, be sure to check its capabilities and use the list above as a guide. They absolutely must provide encryption of all data before it leaves your system so it cannot be intercepted and decoded. The ability to back up the systemstate and back up open files and databases can be limited, so check for that also. One particularly irritating “feature” that has been observed is that they will sometimes take a complete snapshot of your data and store it on your system/server before sending it up “to the cloud.” This means that if you’re backing up 300 GB of data, you will need a minimum of 300 GB of additional, free disk space.
The mantra is backup, backup, backup. Chose a backup strategy that addresses your business needs in as far as what machines you need to backup, identify what you need to backup, what budget you have available, what convenience you need, and how quickly you would need to restore from a simple file or folder deletion as well as a full restore. Once these factors have been identified, select the type of hardware and software that best fits these needs.
As a Toronto IT company providing a comprehensive suite of IT services and IT solution, we will be pleased to work with you to analyze your needs and help you implement the best solution and best backup strategy for your business.