Choosing the Right Backup Provider
Posted by Peter Sanderson
Apr 29, 2016 9:12:00 PM
By Peter Sanderson
Managing Director - Team Computing
All of us agree that you need to protect your business data. Hopefully you're convinced you need to have both a local backup copy, and properly curated off-site copies that give you multiple recovery points.
But how do you choose the right provider for your backup needs, whether you want online backups or a better way to locally back up.
There are plenty of choices, but we've come up with 5 things we think are worth considering before you entrust your precious data to any external provider.
1. Reliability - The "Does it actually work" test.
It's easy to get tied up in all the features and prices and choices out there, but the biggest question you should ask is whether the solution will actually work. Backups are not high availability (which we can help you with if you need it) but are arguably more important. They can save you from an "oops" where a file is deleted, the loss of a server or your whole building, a data corruption, or worse, a cryptolocker or a virus. They save your bacon at those critical times. You must, therefore, ensure that they work.
Choose a product that is proven, has industrial strength reliability, and which is backed by a globally recognised vendor. There are a few options out there but we use IBM Spectrum Protect, which you may know as Tivoli Storage Manager, for precisely those reasons.
Choose a provider who's been around a while, with an established record of customer support over many years. Team Computing, of which Team Backup is a part, has been around since 1987, but at least find someone whose been around for a decade or more. We think nothing beats experience, because in those critical moments, you want someone by your side who's likely seen it happen before.
Make sure you test those backups on a regular basis, and that your provider is willing to help you do just that. The best providers make this easy. That way you can be sure that, yes, it actually does work.
2. Getting at your data - The "How do I get it all back" test.
You will, with any luck, never need to get ALL of your data back, but there may come a time where it's necessary. You need adequate bandwidth for uploads and downloads (or across your network if you're talking local backups), so here are some things to think about. Firstly, to get your backups into your repository, ensure they are sent efficiently. This means using incremental backups, so you only send changed data, compression, so you don't get clobbered by big files, and de-duplication, so you don't have to send the same thing twice. Next, to get your data back, ensure you have choices. For small recoveries online is fine, and maybe it'll still be fine when you recover bigger things, but why not also have the option of getting a USB stick or drive with your data ready to go, or, for bigger recoveries a mobile recovery server that comes to you. The best providers also offer hosted recoveries and recoveries to the cloud, to get you up and running in the fastest possible time.
A final thought, if you decide to leave your provider, ensure you have a means to retrieve the backups you've taken should you wish.
3. Location - The "Where will my data go" test.
It's true the cloud has brought with it many advantages that a truly global IT environment can provide. You can access almost anything on the cloud and for the most part you're never really sure where the computer you're talking to actually sits.
When you're talking about your business data, though, we think it's important that you know where the data goes, and where your backups live. There are benefits to having your data stored in Australia beyond just peace of mind. An Australian company, which uses an Australian-owned data centre based in Australia, has to comply with Australian Law. Being in Australia, your backups will benefit from faster access speeds and so will your all-important recoveries. And being local means your business hours match those of your provider, which can be important when you need support. And don't forget that if you need to get your data back, which we discussed in point 2 above, there's nothing like being close enough to get it fast, and that can't happen if your data is overseas.
You might also consider checking that your data stays in this country if you are involved in the health industry (or any business that stores personal data) or where your business complies with security, or contractual obligations. For instance, the US Patriot Act provisions are never going to be a problem when the solution is 100% Australian.
4. Security - The "Who sees what" test.
Storing your backup data just as plain files is a big no-no. These days you just cannot be that casual about security. Choose a solution provider that uses encryption, preferably where you get to nominate and keep the key - don't lose it, because not even the provider can get your data back if you do. Choose a provider that houses your data in a secure site, and who controls access to the storage and servers on which it's held. Finally, choose a solution that, by it's very design, stores your backups as chunks of data that can only be accessed through a database driven, industrial-strength software solution. This means even if your data was stolen or intercepted, it would be impossible to reconstruct.
5. Real People - The "How do I......?" test.
Choose a provider where you're dealing with people. I'm a big fan of the major cloud providers for commodity stuff, but your business data is vitally important. If you need help, your provider is going to be your best mate. Make sure you'll have someone, a real person who knows who you are when you call, there when you need them.
Before you sign up for any product or service, ensure you can talk to the people who'll be supporting you, and better yet, ask who the owners are, and talk to them too. Obviously this is going to be easier if your provider is in Australia.
Ask what the support arrangement is for users like you, when you have to pay and when you do not.
The list above isn't comprehensive, but we think they are the main considerations you need to take into account when you choose a backup provider. They are the very things we took into account when we created Team Backup, and selected the industrial-strength technologies, Australian-owned data centres and enterprise-grade equipment we use. And to make it all happen we made sure we had the best, real, people to run it - the same people who support you.
Good luck choosing your backup provider, whether you are looking for local backup, online backup (some call it remote backup, cloud backup or offsite backup) or archival storage.
If you need any further advice or just want to discuss the options, give us a call or email us at Team Backup.