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Choosing a Backup Solution and Storage Device

by Patrick Rardin in News, Technology

Tape drives were the leading technology used by organizations for backup and archiving. However, the slow speed and low capacity of tape drives on the market make alternative choices a no brainer. How do you select a backup solution that satisfies your needs without blowing the budget? The following are just some of the main factors to consider.

1. Local or Cloud Storage for Backup.

Select a backup solution that has sufficient capacity to store your backups. We recommend a hybrid solution such as a local network (hard drive) storage device with an occasional cloud backup. Please not that most of your data these days is quite large, therefore depending on a cloud service alone, when data recovery from the cloud is required, can take days to recover. Backup Programs are able to compress data so that more data may fit on the storage location. However, highly-compressed files such as those in video and sound formats are hardly compressible at all. For this reason, they tend to take up most of the room in a backup job.

A good way to determine the size of the backup job after compression is to study logs of past backups. If these are unavailable, it is safe to assume that the data can be compressed at a ratio of 1.4:1, unless the data drive contains an usually large number of highly-compressed files.

2. Transfer rate and Bandwidth.

The transfer rate of the Backup Job becomes important when there is limited “window of opportunity” in which backup jobs may run. It is often desirable for backups to take place during the night when network use is at its lowest. Select a Storage Device or Cloud Service that is capable of completing a job within your window of opportunity.

There are two usual reasons why tape drives are not be supplied with data at a sufficient rate. Firstly, the rate at which data is read from the hard disk of the server is insufficient. This rate is dependent on the sizes and locations of the files on disk and is generally unpredictable, but can be determined by the use of specialised software.

Secondly, if data is being transferred over a network of computers to a backup server, the network may be incapable of supplying data at a sufficient rate. The maximum throughput of a network is predictable and easy to measure, based on previous network performance.

Consider a network using 1GB Ethernet. This transfer rate through this type of network cannot exceed 1GB/s, so it is immediately apparent that a storage requiring 1TB/s may be inappropriate.

3. Reliability and duty cycle.

A simple way to gauge the reliability of a Storage Device is to find out the Mean Time Between Failure (MTBF, as defined by Wikipedia:

“…is the predicted elapsed time between inherent failures of a mechanical or electronic system, during normal system operation.”)

this is specified by the manufacturer. You should note, however, that the MTBF is usually specified at a certain duty cycle. For example, consider a random hard drive based solution  with a MTBF of 370,000 hours at 20% duty cycle. The drive will only have an average of 370,000 hours between failures if it is run less than 20% of the time (about 4.8 hours per day), and running the tape drive for any longer will significantly reduce the reliability of the drive.

4. Price

There is no point purchasing the highest-range Network Storage and/or Cloud Solution if it’s simply too expensive. However over the years the pricing has come way down and there is no reason to be unable to find an affordable solution. Consider how much value-for-money the Network Storage will give you. Are you willing to pay more for extra performance? Or do you need to sacrifice some performance to save on costs?

If you choose wisely, you should end up with a Backup Solution that fulfils your organization’s needs, without blowing the budget.

This article was brought to you in part by BackupAssist – tape backup software

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