Backing up remote offices without tape

At this spring's Storage Networking World conference, one of the more popular questions asked was "How can I protect the data in my remote offices?"

Two things could be agreed upon during such discussions:

  • Whole-file backup is not viable across most WAN infrastructures. Even if a user changes only a small part of a file, the entire file is considered new and therefore must be written to tape. Even incremental or differential backups are cost prohibitive across a WAN since they deal in whole files.

  • Because remote offices typically do not necessitate local IT personnel, all tape backup maintenance (including tape rotation and cleaning cartridges) must be done by administrative or non-technical personnel. This is ironic since we rely on the tapes for any recovery efforts, but we are trusting non-IT to manage the tapes (the human factor is the greatest stumbling point in the solution).

    The solution is to stop dealing with whole files from the remote offices.

    Since replication technology propagates only the bytes that have changed, one can do an initial mirror (think full backup) and then keep the two copies in sync via replication. Now, in your data center, you have a local copy of remote data. So, do a local backup.

    Since users aren't actively accessing the second copy of the files, they are natively closed -- regardless of whether the production files are user documents or SQL/Exchange databases.

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