Remote-office backups made easy

Running "dark"

Switching to another form of backup won't magically produce someone with the training to run remote-office backups. But most of the alternative technologies require much less operator intervention at the remote site, and in some cases none at all. Vendors and their customers are aiming for remote backup that runs "dark," without any human intervention at all. Some of the replacement technologies, especially remote backups over the WAN or into the cloud, are dark technologies as far as the remote office is concerned.

Many backup vendors provide the ability to manage their products remotely, often from a Web-based console. This allows IT staff to monitor and control backups without intervention at the remote office. "This is just a box hanging on your rack," says Ruffolo of Miron Construction's ExaGrid system. "You don't have to worry about it."

Restoring from backup is usually not quite as simple, but can still be managed from the central office in many cases.

Watkis says Grey Healthcare gained a number of advantages with its new backup system. "It has reduced the cost, the amount of system administration time, storage media requirements, the recovery timeline, our service warranty guidelines and improved security because the tapes are encrypted," he says. Deduplication wasn't part of the original specification, but it came with the FalconStor products and has proved to be a major advantage, adds Watkis.

The cost

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savings realized by switching to offsite VTLs can be substantial. "We were spending over $60,000 or $70,000 on tape media itself," says Watkis. "That's now down to $12,000 and maybe lower." But the company's savings went well beyond the cost of tape media. Staffing costs were cut, and they were even able to avoid some storage system purchases. "We were spending $5,000 to $7,000 a month for people to stay late; that's gone away," he says. "We're no longer purchasing any external storage for our SAN. Deduplication freed up more server space. We budgeted $60,000 for additional storage and that wasn't done."

Miron Construction is in the process of switching to disk-based backup. It installed an ExaGrid system in its data center a year ago and intends to switch the remote offices to disk backup this year.

"The first thing you need to be certain about is to make sure you have a reliable WAN connection," says Watkis. "You need a dedicated switch connection into the internal network for the VTL. Don't try to share a connection."

Watkis says that most central offices already have these kinds of connectivity if they have remote sites. However, having enough bandwidth is vitally important for doing remote backup.

"The VTL method is new and I took a risk in implementing it," says Watkis. "We were really putting business at risk and the solution had to work with an immediate return on investment."

This was first published in March 2009

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