Friday, December 2, 2011

Back up solutions for your Road Warriors

In this post I'm going to go through a few products that may fill your backup needs and desires. We're only going to go through a high level view of the pros and cons for each solution, though hopefully you'll end up with some applicable information for your own research. To this end, lets step through each of the three storage locations from the previous post (external drive, cloud, private cloud) and ponder two possible solutions for each.

For external drive backups I've chosen the Seagate GoFlex, and Western Digital My passport Essentials as products to consider. Bear in mind there are a large number of possible external drives to choose, these two just happened to strike my fancy for this purpose.

Seagate GoFlex

    Pros: Small and easy to carry, High performance at 7200 RPM and USB 3.0, interoperability as it comes with an NTFS driver for Mac OS X (10.5.8 or higher), backup/sync and encryption software included.
    Cons: Only capable of completing file level backups with out using 3rd party software, only comes in a 320GB capacity model.

    Comments: This looks like a good bet if your users are impatient as you should get some respectable write times given the USB 3.0 interface and that it's a 7200 RPM drive. The size of the drive will also make it slightly less inconvenient to carry around. If your organization requires anything more than file level backups you will need another solution to go along with this, and at $119 it is a tad expensive for the paltry 320GB it provides. You are more or less paying for the performance as opposed to the storage capacity.

Western Digital My Passport Essentials

    Pros: 500GB Capacity for around the same price as the GoFlex, USB 3.0, Easy to carry, backup and encryption software included.
    Cons: Slower performance comparatively to the GoFlex, requires a reformat for Mac support, and capable of only file level backup without an additional solution.

    Comments: If you are willing to accept standard external drive performance this will server your purposes well, as you do get a bit of a storage capacity boost for your troubles. Unfortunately as with the GoFlex, this drive can really only give you file level protection without additional cost.

The next location to consider is the 'cloud.' With this choice you store your data at a third party owned data center after your data is transferred over a WAN link. There are a fair number of cloud providers these days but for today we're going to discuss Carbonite and Mozy.

    Pros: Hands free user experience, Off site backup (good for disaster planning), central monitoring via a web browser, and easy setup.
    Cons: Limited to file level backups, only a 30 day retention period for data, and possible privacy concerns with having data stored with a 3rd party.

    Comments: Like other cloud services the big pro in this is the fact that your data is stored off site which protects you against disasters that could cause damage to your home office/headquarters. Unfortunately this particular solution is limited in that its only able to do file level backups, and only allows a 30 day retention which can be a deal breaker depending on the kind of industry you are working with. The pricing is a tad easier to understand than Mozy though with only a price per storage cap as opposed to usage and client licensing.


    Pros: Hands free user experience, central management, Exchange and SQL aware backups, option to backup to a local drive as well as cloud.
    Cons: Privacy concerns that go along with 3rd party storage, 30 day data retention, and pricing is a tad complicated and it appears that the cost could rise quite quickly.

    Comments: This solution gives you a bit more in the way of features than Carbonite as you can get SQL and Exchange aware backups. The same off site benefit exists for this option, and the ability to have a duplicate copy made to a local drive is pretty attractive. I do find fault with the 30 day retention window, and the complexity of the pricing however.

Lastly you have the option to back up to your private cloud. As I mentioned in the previous post I'm a tad partial to this method as I think it takes care of some of the short comings of both external drives and purely cloud solutions. I came up with two types of solutions for you to consider here, being the usage of an appliance, in particular one from 3X Systems, and the other being a Virtual Desktop scenario and the use of Veeam Backup and Replication to back up the virtual machines at your data center/headquarters.

    3X Systems Backup Appliance

     Pros: Easy to set up, locater service eliminates need for VPN, bandwidth use is low, bare metal and system state, application aware, and file system backup capabilities, you own your data, and HIPPA compliant encryption capabilities.
     Cons: Limited Mac and Linux support and lack of a central vault management for multiple appliances.

     Comments: The 3X solution gives you the ability to backup remote windows machines without the need for a VPN link, and with very reasonable bandwidth controls. The communication and storage are rather secure and can be set up as HIPPA compliant. As with any private cloud solution you own your data and can either have it on-site or place it at an off-site location of your own. The downside to this solution is the lack of support for Mac or Linux agents, though you can backup Samba shares on those machines using a windows client.

    Veeam Backup and Replication (with a virtual desktop implementation)
     Pros: No data transfer over WAN, user unaware of back ups as they occur, VM, file level, and application level backups possible and secure as important data stays in your data center/headquarters.
    Cons: Infrastructure for a virtual desktop environment can have prohibitive cost, the user needs to connect to the VM to work, and restores require some level of interaction between the user and the IT team.

     Comments: The virtual desktop solution is nice if you have the resources to develop it. It's convenient for the IT team as you have total control of the environment and can create a level of consistency that is lacking in physical solutions. Veeam provides an impressive set of features for VM backup that your user will not need to be aware of. The downside to this type of a solution is cost as the infrastructure required to host this can become expensive once hardware and licenses are purchased.

Ryan Koch
3X Systems

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