Backups and WrenMaxwell
Backup is a commonly used term that is used with different meanings depending on the context.
The following information is designed to clarify our approach to backups and the terminology that we use.
In the context of information technology a backup of data is crucial where there is a business or personal risk if the data was corrupted or lost.
- Why backup? Simply because systems are fallible. No single computer system or storage device can be relied upon to operate without error indefinitely. Further, human beings are fallible, and accidental loss of data is more common than system failure.
- Who does your backup ? This could be you, your IT guru, your business team, or someone in the family. Anyone who has responsibility over data has to look at their backup process.
- What to backup? Is best answered as “You should backup everything that you cannot afford to lose.” In a business that is all the relevant information that drives the business. For personal data, photo’s, accounts, documents, consider the hours required to replicate years of personal account information, tax requirements, etc, the loss of family photo’s, or legal documents.
- When to backup? As often as practical with consideration to efficiency and productivity. Common business practice is daily, but it really depends on the nature of your data. Data that is created and then rarely changes can be treated differently to real-time transactional files.
- Where to backup? Again this depends on the purpose and context of the backup. Locally to the same computer protects against some forms of corruption and loss. Locally to a different storage medium protects against others. Remote location backups provides another layer of protection against risk of loss of the entire system or environment. A key question to ask is “Is the data at risk in its normal environment, and what does that risk mean to the business?”
- How to backup? There are many options but most common are specific software tools or applications that cater for backup processes.
The following information is provided for Wren Maxwell business clients and focuses on business data backup processes. However, these can equally apply to personal data and you may include personal data with your business backup planning.
First level backups
The first level backup is generally a process that is native or common to the application. These include the use of second hard disks, either internal or external, in close proximity to the data being backed-up.
Windows servers: Commonly a backup process is scheduled on a daily cycle either to disk space within the server or directly attached to the server. This may be a USB drive or a NAS device.
Workstations: Notebooks and desktops commonly are used with USB devices for local backups, or connected to a NAS device for more robust network backups.
USB Sticks (thumb drives): Not a recommended solution for business grade backups as they are prone to failure and easily lost. While capacity may be suitable for a single backup USB sticks seldom support a multiple backup requirement.
Second level backups
In a larger network enviroment, secondary backups, weekly or monthly archives, and server imaging are tools that may be used to provide a higher level of backup including multiple redundant copies of files and complete operating systems.
Servers: Virtualisation has facilitated the ability to create a software-based server that can exist on a physical computer, but be independently backed-up as an image and easily migrated to a different computer system in the event of a hardward failure or upgrade requirement.
Workstations: Workstation imaging and core file backups, as well as local data backups are possible. In a business environment it is recommended that all business data is stored on a server or system and not retained on a workstation so that the data backup systems for the business always contain all the relevant files and data. Retention on an individuals workstation or notebook is inappropriate as it raises the risk of potential data loss.
Mobile workforce: Where a business has a mobile team and off-site operations are common there are a variety of methods to ensure both data file backups and security. WrenMaxwell recommend using virtual private networks, security devices and have a number of services designed to support mobile operations.
On site backups provide a level of protection in the event of hardware failure or human error to recover data files. Off site backups are intended to address the risks of site availability or theft of equipment. Historically this has been achieved with staff or an external service removing tapes or drives from the business location to a remote site.
Automated remote site or data centre backups provide an alternative to managing physical transfer of drives or tapes by using an internet connection to transfer the relevant data files to the remote site. Commonly this is to a data centre which provides for a high-level of security and reliability for the backups and depending on requirements secondary backups and multiple redundant backups on relatively low-cost storage space.
Timing of Backups
Most businesses prepare backups on a daily basis, but this may be inappropriate for your business. Further, the question of what is being backed up also influences the frequency and retention options.
Working on an important document that was started after the previous backup and accidentally deleted before the next backup means that it is potentially lost forever along with the business effort and energy invested in it. Backing up of this work in progress may mean a more frequent backup process is required.
On the other hand, processing data in a database with appropriate transaction management may be adequately served with an 8 hour or greater backup cycle. Similarly copies of a finance system immediately prior to year end roll-over is only done once per financial period and may only be retained for a short period of time.
WrenMaxwell offers a number of services for management of data and business systems. While our service offerings are proposed as standard options we do prefer to review a clients requirements and assess what is really needed before provisioning a new service. This ensures that expectations are met and that the backups being taken are relevant and timely.
On site Backups
Generally we look at the most appropriate place for backups to be taken as being close to the source of the data. If your environment includes servers, workstations or network storage devices with local data then a local backup plan is a good start.
WrenMaxwell can assist with the design, configuration and management of that local backup process.
Off site Backups
Remote backups to a data centre is a key service provided by WrenMaxwell. We can assist with establishing requirements, implementing and maintaining a remote backup process. Our data centres are high security rated premises located in Australian capital cities and overseas. For our Australian clients we offer local or international backup locations as appropriate for the business.
Our backup solutions include options for full backups of all Windows based computers including desktops, notebooks, servers, and tablets. This can be for end user data or a full bare metal recovery process.
Mac and Linux Desktops
Mac PC’s and Linux desktops both are based on a Linux operating system and our backup solutions can be used with most desktop and notebook systems.
We use and recommend Synology Network Access Storage (NAS) devices for all office environments as a server replacement or supplementary storage device. WrenMaxwell offer a specialist backup service for remote backups from a Synology device to our data centres that is tailored to work with the Synology device directly and not via an office PC.
Cloud File Storage
There are many offerings in the market for this type of service but most rely on shared systems based in overseas locations that means you do not know where your files are and if you can get to them. WrenMaxwell offers both shared and dedicated solutions for cloud based file storage in Australia. Cloud based file storage is as quick as your internet connection and allows for consistent and accesible storage of your personal data.
Virtual server platforms including VMWare, Hyper-V and Xen can all be included in a backup process. These systems requirement an assessment process and business needs analysis to implement an appropriate service.
Our backup schedules are completely flexible allowing for incremental processing as often as hourly to the data centre or on a more common daily basis. Full backups can be processed daily, weekly or other suitable periods depending on the business requirements.
Once your data is being backed up to a WrenMaxwell data centre our services include attending to making redundant, incremental, and second site copies of your data. Commonly storing backups over a 14 day period to allow for restoration of deleted files, our services include options for more extensive retention periods depending on requirements.
Data Centre: WrenMaxwell operates servers and storage infrastructure in 5 data centres across Australia, USA, and Europe. This allows us to offer services to global businesses and provide local management of data storage without sovereign risk to the client.
NAS: Network Attached Storage. These devices are connected to the network rather than to a computer and are accesible to all devices on the network. Providing fast throughput speeds, high capacity drives, and redundant drive configurations, a NAS is an ideal backup device for a local area network in an office or home office environment.
USB: Universal Serial Bus. A common standard interface used for portable hard disk enclosures. Earlier iterations of this hardware interface are slower while current speeds in USB v 3.0 make this very useful for quick local backup processes.