I’ve been thinking about a question for the past few months that I’m sure many of you have wondered about while sweating over the restore of a mailbox for a director or a lost line-of-business virtual machine. Why is backup and restore so difficult?
You might be able to guess from the nature of some of my recent posts that I’ve been doing a lot of work with Azure backup and disaster recovery solutions over the last 18 months. I’ve delivered a lot of presentations on the subjects to technical and sales staffs, and I’ve been challenging them to consider new ways to implement old requirements. Some see the need for change, others bring with them what I call “same old IT.”
I’ve not put my thoughts into one place before, so I thought that I’d write what I’ve been thinking down for Petri and see what the readers think. In this article, I’m going to share my opinions on why I think that backup, which should be nothing more than just a glorified file copy, is overly complicated, unreliable, a business and job risk, and usually downright sucks. I’d love to hear what you think; so don’t be shy — please post what you think in the comments below.
I’ve encountered many kinds of IT staff since I started working in IT many moons ago. Some enjoyed a loud discussion, while others would hide when there was anything more vigorous than a whisper. Some were self-educators that were keen to do better, and others were clock-punchers who just wanted to serve their time. Some were keen to listen, and some were cynical of everything. I admired many and learned from them. But a few… they were the sort that really made me want to scream. These were the people that afflicted the “same old IT” on the business.
You know the person I’m talking about — when offered an alternative, something that’s better, they’ll respond with a line that goes along the lines of:
I can feel the rage building already. Here’s the kind of response my angry gut wants to go with:
There is plenty of blame to go around here:
OK; maybe the rage is leaking out a little! Until a business deals with “same old IT” in a tangible way, then there will be no improvements and further conversation is a waste. To quote George R. R. Martin: “Words are wind.”
Many IT decisions are incorrectly made based on the sticker price of a product. You can get backup product X for $75 less than product Y, so go for X. Backup is a technology that is there to save and protect a business. So do you want to opt for what’s cheap or what works?
I should note that there are some extremely good backup products are very affordable, so don’t misread this text.
Start considering the total cost of a backup solution and not just the sticker cost. How much will it cost to buy the backup media and run it for 30 days, 1 year, 10 years or however long you need to retain backups for? What does the software cost and how much will vendor support cost? What time will be spent on fixing backups every day? And what will be the cost of losing a document, an email, or a virtual machine when the backup product continues to be unreliable? Consider all of those genuine costs when you’re trying to shave a few pennies from a purchase.
Do you really need tape backup? Tape drives are unreliable and tapes are expensive. Off-site storage with tape drives are slow and are not going to be terribly reliable when there’s a wide-scale disaster outside. You don’t use 8-track or cassette tapes to listen to music because they age badly and are unreliable, but you want to protect your business on something similar? I’m sorry, but I’m confused, because I bet most of your music collection currently sits on something that wasn’t invented in 1951.
Disk storage has never been so cheap. You can use commodity hardware solutions, such as Storage Spaces, or aggregate big and cheap SATA disks with RAID 5. This can give you large amounts of storage for short-term retention.
At first mention of the cloud, many questions will arise. But the cloud has many answers, too:
Cloud and backup are not new bedfellows. Online backup has been around for over a decade. What has changed is that the big three clouds that have developed, which are offering solutions that evolve more quickly and are a lot more affordable. You can use cloud features in many ways, including:
Yes, we can! If you’re willing to change, then things can improve. I see four generations of backup product:
Right now, I believe there are two correct choices when choosing backup solutions:
Again, feel free to let us know your thoughts in the article comments below. I’d love to hear what you think on this topic.