My question is: What would be the best way to expand storage and effectively back up such remote data, given the...
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absence of point-to-point links and centralized backup strategies? Would something like external Iomega drives or Rev drives be a good alternative to slow tape devices? Would expansion and backup from NAS devices work as well?
A centralized backup solution for each site would require some technical skills and system administration cycles for each site. Copying or backing up data to low cost, removable storage media certainly looks interesting from a cost saving perspective. However, it introduces a requirement for media handling and manual intervention, which often goes hand-in-hand with human error.
There are a number of interesting and affordable hardware independent data replication solutions currently available on the market. Combined with a network attached storage solution, which could either be appliance based or from a more traditional file server for each site, they can offer scalable storage with hands-free data protection for the remote sites. Once replicated to your local site, this data could then be centrally backed up as required without interfering with the remote production copies.
Without mentioning any specific vendors (to avoid offending anyone by omission), a little research on low cost data replication will reveal a number of software-based offerings.
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