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ROBO backup options

Local backup without an offsite copy. Backing up data locally at the remote office to tape or disk is the most basic ROBO data protection approach. Typically used in small remote offices with a few users, administrative overhead is modest especially if disk is used as a backup target. If tape is the backup medium, an administrative resource is usually designated to change tapes and put them in a secure place, such as a fire-resistant safe. But with all backups and primary data in the same facility, the risk of losing both is real. The lack of an offsite disaster recovery (DR) copy is the gravest weakness of this approach. “Backing up locally without offsite copy should only be considered if the data in the ROBO isn’t of significant value for the company,” said Greg Schulz, founder and senior analyst at StorageIO Group, Stillwater, Minn.

Determining the best ROBO backup option

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Enlarge ROBO backup: Key considerations diagram.

Local backup with a tape-based offsite copy. To overcome the DR shortcomings of the former approach, local backups are supplemented with a scheduled tape-based offsite copy. Although in declining use, tape has been, and still is, very popular to get backups to a DR location. If local backups are tape based, selected backup sets are moved offsite according to a predefined schedule. If local backups are taken to disk, backup sets designated for off-siting are first moved from disk to tape. With the support of both tape- and disk-based backups in contemporary backup apps, the heavy lifting of juggling data between disk and tape is performed by the backup application according to preconfiguredbackup schedules and configurations. The challenge in using tapes for local or offsite backups is the additional overhead of changing and loading tapes, and getting them to an offsite location. In most cases, companies opt for vendors like Iron Mountain to manage their offsite tape backups. These offsite backup vendors have well established processes to keep tapes safe and secure.

Backing up to a centralized data center without retaining a local copy. Larger companies and enterprises, where standardization and defined processes are in place, usually favor centralizing data protection of their ROBOs. Being able to leverage existing infrastructure and IT resources not only results in cost savings but in better managed data protection. Configuring backups is as simple as installing and configuring backup agents on servers and systems in the remote office, and they’re managed along with other backups, adding little overhead.

With all backups managed remotely, the remote management capabilities of the backup application are essential. “Remote management features are no longer a differentiator, but are pretty standard now in backup applications,” ESG’s Whitehouse said. For centralized backup of ROBOs to work, available bandwidth and the impact of backups in progress on users, as well as on other apps, must be clearly understood.

This was first published in January 2012

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