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Commentary

SMB Data Protection

A friend of mine runs a small insurance company and they only have two servers, but that data is as critical to them as the hundreds of terabytes that Exxon Mobile stores is to them. While he does backups, it is to another disk drive, and he doesn't take the hard drive home with him. In fact, to be honest, the second drive is installed internally inside one of the servers. What if his office catches on fire or gets flooded?
A friend of mine runs a small insurance company and they only have two servers, but that data is as critical to them as the hundreds of terabytes that Exxon Mobile stores is to them. While he does backups, it is to another disk drive, and he doesn't take the hard drive home with him. In fact, to be honest, the second drive is installed internally inside one of the servers. What if his office catches on fire or gets flooded?I've talked to him about online backup services and he feels they are expensive for what he needs. I also think there's a certain amount of distrust in having his information somewhere else, despite my best attempts to convince him that it will be OK. Last week I was briefed by a company which manufactures a product that is ideal for my friend.

The briefing was from a company named ioSafe. It produces a disaster-resilient NAS that is designed to be the backup target in a disk-to-disk backup strategy. What makes this product unique is its ability to survive a direct-strike disaster. It is fireproof, waterproof, and crushproof.

ioSafe's target market is clearly the SMB space. While I'm not aware of anyone else providing this type of solution for the SMB market, it certainly makes sense. A logical alternative to physically moving your data off-site is to protect it where it is. I know of many companies, large and small, which used to put their tape media into a fireproof safe. Essentially, a disaster-resilient hard disk delivers that type of protection, except there is a hard drive in the safe that connects to one of your servers.

A disaster-resilient hard disk doesn't address every issue; for example, if you can't get into your building for some reason. For many small businesses, speed to recovery is an objective that comes after the simple ability to recover at all. Most small businesses can survive a longer down time than larger businesses, so waiting for building access, while stressful, isn't terminal, as would be the case with complete data loss.

Of course, no backup/DR solution is perfect and I always recommend using multiple methods where possible. While online backup, for example, has solved much of the Internet backup issues with the ability to do block-level incremental saves or deduplication, the weak point is its ability to recover the entire data set back through that Internet connection. Using a disaster-resilient hard disk solution in conjunction with online backup could be ideal and it certainly is better than just copying the data to a normal hard disk and leaving the hard disk at the building like my friend used to do.

George Crump is founder of Storage Switzerland, an analyst firm focused on the virtualization and storage marketplaces. It provides strategic consulting and analysis to storage users, suppliers, and integrators. An industry veteran of more than 25 years, Crump has held engineering and sales positions at various IT industry manufacturers and integrators. Prior to Storage Switzerland, he was CTO at one of the nation's largest integrators.

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