Reality Check: Tape Backup Units Are Dangerous!

Thomas Fox is president of Tech Experts, southeast Michigan’s leading small business computer support company.

Tape backup units are dangerous. We’ve seen far too many business owners put blind faith in their tape backup, only to discover the tapes were never changed by their staff or the drive failed months (or years) ago and no one noticed.

Frankly, tape backups are garbage, too. The technology is 50 years old. The process is nearly all manual and subject to human error. The drives’ innumerable moving parts make it prone to malfunction. And, the media – the tapes themselves – are fragile and unreliable.

So here’s the question: If you don’t store your music on a cassette tape any more, why are you trusting your invaluable business data to one?

The tornados that struck our community earlier this month really have me thinking about backup and disaster recovery solutions.

Having a data backup merely means that you have a copy of your company’s data stored somewhere; it doesn’t mean you have a way to instantly restore your network back to normal.

Tape Backup Risks
The principle behind tape backup is simple, and everyone understands it. When you backup your data, you’re making a copy of it onto removable media (most times, a tape) and putting the tape somewhere safe.

But, there are risks with tape backup. What if your staff doesn’t change the tape? Who is monitoring the backup software to make sure your backup runs successfully each night? How often do you do a test restore to make sure the data on the tapes is actually usable?

In general, before you can use the backup you have stored on tape, you first need to repair or replace your server, reload the operating system, reload your programs, and add in all of your users. This is several days of (expensive) work and (expensive) downtime.

Disaster Recovery
The goal of any disaster recovery solution is to mitigate the risks of the old tape backup solution, and ensure the continuity of your operations after some sort of disaster: Fire, flood, tornado, etc. Our Experts Total Backup solution eliminates human errors (forgetting to change tapes) by backing up automatically to a network based storage system. The backups are completed in real time, as your server runs, without interrupting your work.

We take “snapshots” every 15 minutes of any data that’s changed on your system, and then assemble those snapshots into a comprehensive image of your server that resides on the backup device.

Getting The Data Offsite
The next step in mitigating disaster risks is ensuring your data is stored offsite. Our backup solution encrypts your data and uses the Internet to send it to a secure data facility on the east coast. That data center’s contents are replicated in a data center in the central United States. The net effect: Your data is stored in three locations, automatically.

Notice I said earlier we take “snapshots” of your data to create an image of your server. This is an important distinction between a disaster recovery solution, and a tape backup. The image backup solution in essence takes a photocopy of your server – backing up the operating system, your programs, the data, user settings, and so on.

If you lose a single file (for example, someone deletes a spreadsheet you use every day), we can restore that file in a matter of minutes. If an entire folder is deleted or corrupted, its very simple to recover your files.

Making The Image Live
The real beauty of the image-based backup system is in its ability to “virtualize” your server. If your server failed for some reason – bad hard drives, failed motherboard, fried power supply – our technicians can use the Experts Total Backup device to run the last image.

This makes the backup device appear to your network and users as your server. It is an exact copy in every way, current as of the last snapshot. In a hardwarefailure scenario, we can have your business back up and running in a few hours.

If Disaster Strikes
Since your data images are stored in two secure, off-site data facilities, your data is always safe. If your office, server, and the backup device are all destroyed – again, by fire, flood, tornado or any other myriad of disasters – we have the image that is stored at the data center copied to a new backup device, and sent to us overnight. Your business is back up and running – even with a complete loss of equipment and onsite data storage – in 24 to 48 hours.

The entire solution is monitored and managed – you’ll never have to worry about whether or not a backup completed. If there are any issues with the backup or the backup unit, we’re automatically notified, and a ticket is generated for our technicians to review.

When you consider the risks and costs of data loss and downtime, a complete backup and disaster recovery solution becomes very affordable very quickly. Please give me a call if I can answer any questions, or if you’d like a demo of the Experts Total Backup solution.