28Nov 2013



Online Backup Saves the Data?

Backup, Cloud by Digital Planet

In recent years we have borne witness to many huge advancements in technology; from the growth of the internet, e-commerce and social media, to the advent and adoption of cloud computing. Along with this we have seen the veritable explosion of various ‘cloud services’ on offer to both business and home users. In the next few paragraphs I will try breakdown one of the fastest growing of these ‘cloud services’ – the Online Backup.


A Tradition of Tapes

Many people may be familiar with the traditional tape backup solution and all its associated joys, but for those who are not;

Tape disks (or magnetic tape data storage) are one of the oldest storage systems in use in IT and one of the few that has stood the test of time. Tape drives are not a million miles away from the late VHS tapes many of us still dimly remember. Tracing the original roots all the way back to a company called Remington Rand in the early 50’s (and possibly even further), tape devices are an extremely mature, well designed and – generally – well accepted storage medium for all that important corporate data. However much like anything, tape devices have their limitations, some of which are more serious than others. As far as I am concerned, there are three primary issues with tape backups. One is in relation to speed, one in relation to management and one in relation to dependability.

The first issue, speed, is a technical problem. Tape devices are slow – they are slow to backup from, they are slow to restore from, and they are slow to do just about anything with. While companies still improve on tape devices all the time, fundamentally this is still updating an old technology and there are limitations to how far it can progress realistically. While this may not sound like the worst issue in the world, if half your data has gotten lost in the matrix and you’re busy watching an hour glass spin it can be a very painful time for both yourself, your staff and your customers.

The second issue is management. Many companies have requirements to store their data offsite. If a fire were to consume a business premises, it’s unlikely to be kind enough to leave things like tapes behind. Let alone the fact it could be quite a while before the premises is safe to enter. The solution to this, which many companies do practise, is to use a file storage company to safely store there tapes in to prevent against exactly this kind of situation. Now, should a disaster occur, not only do we need to retrieve these tapes from the storage company AND go through the joys and speed of a restore as discussed in point one, we also have to hope the tapes have survived all this arduous handling and shipping around. In addition you will hope your Business Continuity Centre (we all have one ready to go right?!) has the right kind of tape drive for your tapes.

Which brings me to my final point regarding tapes – tapes fail! Much like anything else, tapes are prone to failures and corruptions; failing only (and conveniently) moments before they fulfil their one design goal. This odd quirk of nature can turn out to be both a more common and damagingly expensive occurrence than you may think. While it’s not as high as some sources may claim, it’s still a depressing fact. Tapes by their nature are self-contained objects, there is no inbuilt redundancy. The only way around this is to have multiple copies of a tape backup, adding to costs, storage and management complexity.

I don’t even have time to get into the awe inspiring complexity of even a basic tape rotation schedule. So after all this should you burn your tapes and move everything immediately to an Online Backup solution? Yes! Well, no actually. If nothing else, tapes still play an in-valuable role in long term offsite retention and to advocate anything else would be misleading.

A Future of Clouds

To cut through some of the marketing that most high-tech products are often victim of, I am speaking of a disk-to-disk based solution with features required to copy data to an offsite location in both an efficient and highly secure manner. While more companies are offering this “game changing” solution (notice the inverted commas) than I have lived days in my life, it’s important to step back a bit and figure out:

  • What we know
  • What we need
  • How we can get there
  • Who are these guys anyway?


How much do we know about out data?

Ask yourself are you protecting all that you need to, or are you protecting too much? While using an in-house tape solution, this question may not have mattered so much, just backup everything and be done with it. Moving to an online solution means incurring the cost of using someone else’s storage, and these costs can mount quickly. It’s important to take stock of what you need and what you don’t.

So this solution is the best in the world at sending reports?

While we all appreciate an inbox full of complicated reports and questionably sourced pie-charts, what do we actually need the solution to provide? This may seem obvious but from our experience with clients it tends to be one of the last questions addressed. Sometimes it even goes unmentioned entirely. Whether this is due to the assumption that every offering has every possible feature (damn marketing!) or because everyone views their own situation as a pretty common one, I don’t know. Whatever the reason, the first question should be an introspective one, what do we really need?

That’s it, we’re moving tomorrow!

While it can sometimes be an appealing idea to ‘big bang’ a project like this (and some companies may be more than happy to support you in this approach), more often than not a little time taken on some basic investigations, can reap rewards down the line.

Who are these guys anyway?

So you’ve successfully answered the previous questions and are ready to make the move, but who you move to? With so many providers offering the “most reliable”, “cheapest” and “best service” around, it’s a pretty competitive market, right? In reality it’s not. Online Backup services require minimal capital (less than €1,000) to get up and running as a white label reseller, and I suspect that there are a fair few seat-of-the-pants operations going on. That’s the last place you want your data ending up, or disappearing into as the case may be. As a rule of thumb, if you don’t recognise the name over the door, can’t visit the place your data is going to end up, or can’t find a verifiable case study the company has published and the client can verify – I would suggest you keep on shopping.

Our Approach

If you’ve read this far then perhaps you are interested in reading about what we do here that makes us different.

We don’t sell an Online Backup Service. We design solutions for our clients. What that means is we will be upfront and honest in designing a solution, working with you to figure out what works and more importantly what doesn’t. We take pride in what we do here and we don’t want to sell you a solution that doesn’t work or isn’t right. That wouldn’t work to your benefit from the get go and it won’t work to ours in the long run if something happens or you’re not happy and decide to leave for another provider.

Our services are fully managed. Yes, you will still receive the over complicated reports and questionably sourced pie-charts, but the workload of managing and maintaining the backups sending those reports is handled by us.

We provide flexible recovery options in the event of disaster. Should something happen, it’s important that you get back up and running, as soon as possible. That’s why we have no set-in-stone, contractually bound method of recovery. Every situation is different and should the worst occur we will figure out with you how we can get your data back onto your systems in the best way possible.
We can assist in the provision of replacement hardware following a disaster. Through our hardware partners, or through our Cloud services, should the worst occur, it’s important to have something to recover all your data to. That’s why we offer assistance in getting, not only your data back, but your environment rebuilt.


  • We are ISO 27001 certified (Information Security Management)
  • All data is compressed & encrypted before transmission using 256 bit encryption standards
  • All communication to our servers takes place over SSL tunnels for added security
  • All data is held in Irish data centres on our servers
  • We do not outsource our storage, or your data

We are available 24/7 in case of a disaster and our 24×7 Network Operations Centre team work inside one of our data centres and are available immediately in the event of an emergency to ensure that your recovery begins immediately.

Thanks for reading. If you like what you have read and are interested in speaking to us about your backups or would like to ask me a question, feel free to email me at hugh.dawson@evros.ie.

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