Data Backup in Depth: Concepts, Techniques, and Storage Technologies

In an increasingly digitized business landscape, data backup is vital for the survival of an organization. You can get hacked or ransomed, and lose your data to thieves who’ll sell your trade secrets to the highest bidder. Injected malware can corrupt your hard-earned information. Disgruntled employees or other insider threats can delete your valuable digital assets. Can you recover from data loss?

Data backup is a practice that combines techniques and solutions for efficient and cost-effective backup. Your data is copied to one or more locations, at pre-determined frequencies, and at different capacities. You can set up a flexible data backup operation, using your own architecture, or make use of available Backup as a Service (BaaS) solutions, mixing them up with local storage. Today, there are plenty of backup solutions to help you avoid data loss.

In this article:

• What Is Data Backup?
• The Importance of a Disaster Recovery Plan: Alarming Statistics
• 6 Data Backup Options
• Backup Storage Technology

What Is a Data Backup?

Data backup is the practice of copying data from a primary to a secondary location, to protect it in case of a disaster, accident or malicious action. Data is the lifeblood of modern organizations, and losing data can cause massive damage and disrupt business operations. This is why backup is critical for all businesses, large and small.

Data backup includes several important concepts:

  • Backup solutions and tools—while it is possible to back up data manually, to ensure systems are backed up regularly and consistently, most organizations use a technology solution to back up their data.
  • Backup administrator—every organization should designate an employee responsible for backups. That employee should ensure backup systems are set up correctly, test them periodically and ensure that critical data is actually backed up.
  • Backup scope and schedule—an organization must decide on a backup policy, specifying which files and systems are important enough to be backed up, and how frequently data should be backed up.
  • Recovery Point Objective (RPO)—RPO is the amount of data an organization is willing to lose if a disaster occurs, and is determined by the frequency of backup. If systems are backed up once per day, the RPO is 24 hours. The lower the RPO, the more data storage, compute and network resources are required to achieve frequent backups.
  • Recovery Time Objective (RTO)—RTO is the time it takes for an organization to restore data or systems from backup and resume normal operations. For large data volumes and/or backups stored off-premises, copying data and restoring systems can take time, and robust technical solutions are needed to ensure a low RTO.

The Importance of a Disaster Recovery Plan: Alarming Statistics

To understand the potential impact of disasters on businesses, and the importance of having a backup strategy as part of a complete disaster recovery plan, consider the following statistics:

  • Cost of downtime—according to Gartner, the average cost of downtime to a business is $5,600 per minute.
  • Survival rate—another Gartner study found only 6% of companies affected by a disaster that did not have disaster recovery in place survived and continued to operate more than two years after the disaster.
  • Causes of data loss—the most common causes of data loss are hardware/system failure (31%), human error (29%) and viruses, and malware of ransomware (29%).

6 Data Backup Options

There are many ways to backup your systems. Below we cover six techniques or types of technologies that can be used to save a backup of sensitive data, with a brief discussion of their pros and cons.

A common practice in the industry is “3-2-1 backup”—storing data in three places, on two types of storage, with one copy stored off-site. Examples of the 3-2-1 strategy are disk-to-disk-to-tape (D2D2T) and disk-to-disk-to-cloud (D2D2C).

  1. Removable Media

A simple option is to backup files on removable media such as CDs, DVDs, newer Blu-Ray disks, or USB flash drives. This can be practical for smaller environments, but for larger data volumes, you’ll need to back up to multiple disks, which can complicate recovery. Also, you need to make sure you store your backups in a separate location, otherwise they may also be lost in a disaster. Tape backups also fall into this category.

  1. Redundancy

You can set up an additional hard drive that is a replica of a sensitive system’s drive at a specific point in time, or an entire redundant system. For example, another email server that is on standby, backing up your main email server. Redundancy is a powerful technique but is complex to manage. It requires frequent replication between cloned systems, and it’s only useful against the failure of a specific system unless the redundant systems are in a remote site.

  1. External Hard Drive

You can deploy a high-volume external hard drive in your network, and use archive software to save changes to local files to that hard drive. Archive software allows you to restore files from the external hardware with an RPO of only a few minutes. However, as your data volumes grow, one external drive will not be enough, or the RPO will substantially grow. Using an external drive necessitates having it deployed on the local network, which is risky.

  1. Hardware Appliances

Many vendors provide complete backup appliances, typically deployed as a 19” rack-mounted device. Backup appliances come with large storage capacity and pre-integrated backup software. You install backup agents on the systems you need to back up, define your backup schedule and policy, and the data starts streaming to the backup device. As with other options, try to place the backup device isolated from the local network and if possible, in a remote site.

  1. Backup Software

Software-based backup solutions are more complex to deploy and configure than hardware appliances, but offer greater flexibility. They allow you to define which systems and data you’d like to back up, allocate backups to the storage device of your choice, and automatically manage the backup process.

  1. Cloud Backup Services

Many vendors and cloud providers offer Backup as a Service (BaaS) solutions, where you can push local data to a public or private cloud and in case of disaster, recover data back from the cloud. BaaS solutions are easy to use and have the strong advantage that data is saved in a remote location. However, if using a public cloud, you need to ensure compliance with relevant regulations and standards, and consider that over time, data storage costs in the cloud will be much higher than the cost of deploying similar storage on-premises.

Backup Storage Technology

Whichever technique you use to backup, at the end of the day, data must be stored somewhere. The storage technology used to hold your backup data is very significant:

  • The more cost-effective it is, the more data it is able to store, and the faster the storage and retrieval over a network, the lower your RPO and RTO will be.
  • The more reliable the storage technology, the safer your backups will be.

Below, you’ll find a review of backup storage technologies and their unique advantages.

Network Shares and NAS

You can set up centralized storage such as Network Attached Storage (NAS ), Storage Area Network (SAN), or regular hard disks mounted as a network share using Network File System (NFS) protocol. This is a convenient option for making large storage available to local devices for backup. However, it is susceptible to disasters affecting your entire data center, such as natural disasters or cyberattacks.

Tape Backup

Modern tape technology such as Linear Tape-Open 8 (LTO-8) can store up to 9 TB of data on a single tape. You can then ship the tape to a distant location, preferably at least 100 miles away from your primary location. Tape backups have been used for decades, but their obvious downside is the extremely high RTO and RPO due to the need to physically ship the tapes to and from a backup location. They also require a tape drive and an autoloader to perform backup and recovery, and this equipment is expensive.

Cloud-Based Object Storage

When using cloud providers, you have access to a variety of storage services. Cloud providers charge a flat price per Gigabyte, but costs can start to add up for frequent access. There are multiple tools that let you backup data to S3 automatically, both from within the cloud and from on-premise machines.

Local Object Storage with Cloudian

Cloudian® HyperStore® is a massive-capacity object storage device that is fully compatible with Amazon S3. It can store up to 1.5 Petabytes in a 4U Chassis device, allowing you to store up to 18 Petabytes in a single data center rack. HyperStore comes with fully redundant power and cooling, and performance features including 1.92TB SSD drives for metadata, and 10Gb Ethernet ports for fast data transfer.

cloudian hyperstore appliance

HyperStore is an on-premise data storage solution that can help you perform backups with RPO and RTO near zero, for almost any data volume.

Learn more about Cloudian® HyperStore®.