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Still on tape DR? Could be the time to switch to cloud

November 01, 2018

Many organizations continue to rely on tape for disaster recovery, despite the benefits of cloud. This is particularly common in rural areas where high-bandwidth Internet can be cost prohibitive, making data transfer difficult. However, this is beginning to change, as fast Internet access becomes more readily available and data reduction capabilities continue to improve. If you have resisted moving from tape to cloud DR in the past, it is likely worth re-evaluating now.

Cloud DR has a number of important benefits over tape backup, but the most obvious is ease-of-use. Today’s backup solutions can automatically copy backups offsite to cloud storage. There are a few ways this can be accomplished, but for small to midsized businesses (SMB), the most common (and effective) approach is using what is typically referred to as a “backup appliance.”

Backup appliances include backup software, a backup server, and onboard storage in a single box. These devices sit onsite and take incremental backups of data and applications throughout the day. In some cases, DR providers offer this hardware “as a service.” That is, the appliance is provided as part of a monthly fee for cloud DR. This is compelling because it allows for easier scalability without a large up-front hardware investment. Instead of offloading backups to tape for offsite storage, they are connected to the Internet and copy backups to the cloud on a schedule (once a day is common). This happens in the background, dramatically reducing the need for manual intervention.

Not only does that make your life easier, it also eliminates the possibility of human error – which is very high with tape. Offloading backups to tape is a manual process. First, you need to remember to create tapes, then you need to take the tapes offsite. Lots can go wrong in these steps alone. Then, whoever takes them offsite needs to remember to store them properly – many a backup tape has been corrupted in the trunk of a hot car. Tape vaulting services take some of this off your hands, of course. But at the same time, accidents happen. You hand over the tapes and hope for the best.

Fast, reliable restores

The move to cloud storage really shines when it comes to restores. When you need to restore a file, you simply search for it as if it were on local storage. There is no need to retrieve a tape and restore the entire tape just to access a single file. Sure, some tape solutions offer disk-like file systems that allow you to do the same thing, but they are far from mainstream.

If you need to restore a large amount of data, say an entire server, cloud offers distinct benefits as well. One of the most exciting examples is known as cloud failover. To enable cloud failover, some cloud DR providers replicate server images to the cloud, which are continuously updated as data changes. In the event of a primary server failure, business operations can continue in the cloud (while the primary server is restored), nearly eliminating downtime.

Compare this with tape. You need to get a new server, retrieve tapes, and restore data to a backup server, and then again to your new primary server, before you can get back to work. There are a variety of ways DR vendors accomplish cloud failover, so as with any technology purchase, it’s important to find the right solution for your needs.

Another thing you’ll need to consider is the cloud target. Some DR vendors maintain their own cloud, while others use the public cloud. Still others give users a choice of targets. Each approach has pros and cons. For example, some organizations prefer to use Amazon cloud storage as a target, because they use Amazon cloud compute resources. On the flip side, some organizations prefer a single vendor solution from a support standpoint. Your preferences and your organizations’ specific needs will dictate your choice.

How to move things to the cloud

Cloud DR certainly isn’t the right fit for every organization, but it definitely addresses some of tape DR’s limitations. If you are in the market for a new DR solution, or if you currently don’t have a proper DR plan in place, moving data to the cloud is a good place to start. Carbonite Server is a flexible backup and recovery platform that delivers local and cloud backups with granular restore of files, folders, and application elements. It offers local and cloud failover options for fast recovery. Users can protect physical, virtual, and legacy systems under a single backup and DR platform. To learn more about Carbonite Server, contact a rep today.

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