Today, many organizations face a daunting task in protecting the information stored at remote offices and branch offices.  Many of the companies I talk to tell me they utilize a tape-based software backup solution.  This strategy typically requires someone to perform the backup and manage the media, whether it’s an IT administrator who travels to the remote office; a local reseller or service provider who helps the organization; or in the worse case, the organization relies on a local person (typically a secretary or clerk at the remote office).  Most organizations run backup on a daily or weekly basis depending on their recovery point objectives-the amount of data an organization is willing to risk in between periodic backups.

 

This strategy presents numerous challenges.  First, they have the cost of a backup server, storage, and a tape drive or tape library and media.  Next, they have the cost of a data center IT administrator traveling to the remote offices to run the backup and respond to failed backup jobs which could be caused by a hardware, software or media failure.  Even if the IT staff uses a remote access solution to run the backup or restore job on a server in the remote office, there can still be issues if the necessary media is not installed in the drive, requiring someone to search for the correct tape and insert it into the drive.  Outsourcing the backup job to a local reseller or service provider adds substantial cost.

 

Finally, for security and disaster recovery purposes, most organizations prefer to keep the backup tapes/media at a central location, such as their data center or headquarters, requiring them to either hire a messenger service to pick up the backup tapes or, worse yet, request an employee at each remote office to bring the tapes into the headquarters following the tape backup. How costly and risky is that?  So what options do SMBs have?

 

One option is to use backup software to back up or copy data over the Wide Area Network (WAN) to the data center or headquarters.  This provides centralized data protection and allows the backup and restore process to be performed by trained, experienced IT staff.  However, many small and mid-sized companies often face the additional challenge that the large volume of data would take too long to transmit across the WAN, as many of them do not have a high-speed connection between each remote office and the data center.  Even if backup across the WAN is feasible, it doesn’t address the recovery point objectives many organizations need to mitigate risks of accidental or malicious cyber attacks.  Optionally, organizations may choose a cloud-based backup solution that leverages a third-party service provider’s data center, but that does not overcome these challenges.

 

A second option might be to use a disk-based backup solution that eliminates the risk, time and cost associated with tape backup. Disk-based backup and restore is far faster and tape management is totally eliminated. A disk-to-disk backup solution might also leverage infinite incremental snapshot technology which significantly speeds backup and minimizes storage requirements and costs.  Then a WAN-based data replication solution could be used on the backups for offsite data protection for disaster recovery purposes, replacing risky, time-consuming and costly physical media transport.

 

A third option would be to use a real-time data replication solution to continuously copy and consolidate all remote office data over the WAN to a central site like the headquarters or data center, and then run backup locally.  With replication, after the initial synchronization between the remote office servers and the replica server in the data center, only small changes are transmitted as they occur, so even low-speed networks can be used to replicate over the WAN in many cases.  In this scenario, backups could be scheduled as often as desired, as running backup does not affect the production servers at the branches, which eliminates impact to remote office systems and also helps overcome backup window constraints most organizations face today.  This solution also eliminates several issues related to remote tape backup such as the need to send IT staff out in the field (or contract with a local service provider) and the cost and maintenance associated with backup servers, tape drives, libraries, and media at each branch. It also ensures centralized, secure data protection at the data center or headquarters, where it belongs.

 

Ultimately, SMBs should understand they have many viable options today to protect remote office data and gain the same level of protection they have at the data center.