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Backup for remote and mobile devices

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Integrated data protection

Remote sites may have another option, using what's sometimes referred to as self-healing storage. This broad term refers to storage that has backup and recovery integrated as core features. Typically, it's used to describe storage arrays that use redirect-on-write snapshot technology to provide historical versions of blocks and files within the volume being protected. The snapshots are then replicated to another volume (typically located in an alternate location), providing both history and relocation of data without using traditional backup methodologies. To use one of these products to back up a remote site would, of course, require installing a storage array at each remote site that would replicate to another larger array in a central site.

What about the cloud?

A cloud backup service is simply another method of delivering one of the above options. Some cloud backup services use source dedupe, while others use CDP. And some services provide an on-site target appliance that then replicates to the cloud or acts as a target for the replicated backups from your deduplication appliance. Some self-healing storage arrays know how to replicate to the cloud as well.

The bare-metal recovery issue is one that can only be addressed with a backup software product

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or service that has the feature built into the product. Give careful consideration to the importance of this feature for your environment. And like everything else in IT, don't just believe what the vendors say; test the product or service to see if it does exactly what you need it to do.

You should also ask how a vendor's products handle backing up systems that aren't always turned on or connected to the WAN. While most products and services can accommodate these occurrences, the way they do it can significantly impact the user experience. Suppose, for example, that a laptop hadn't been connected to the Internet for a long time and when it finally did connect, the backup products started the long-overdue backup. That might seem like a good idea, but it may also consume all of the laptop's available resources. That could prompt a help desk call or cause a user to stop the backup process when it interferes with other work. Make sure you understand the load the backup application places on the system it's backing up under various conditions.

BIO: W. Curtis Preston is an independent consultant, writer and speaker. He is the webmaster at BackupCentral.com and the founder of Truth in IT Inc.

This was first published in March 2011

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