Online Backup 101

Online Backup 101

The online backup industry is synonymous with buzz words. This quick post covers some of the main terms you will come across if you are researching possible solutions. If you can think of any that we missed please leave them in the comment section below.

Multi-platform – This terms refers to software that works on both Macintosh and PC Operating System platforms. Some online backup software is capable of working on a variety of OS, while others will be specialised.

Network backup – Many companies operate on a Network. The ability to back up multiple computers, servers or Network Attached Storage Appliances on the network from a centralised device is made available via this feature.

Open file backup – Many files are left open a majority of the day and so the technology required to back it up is more advanced. Some software takes advantage of Microsoft’s shadow copy feature. Others have the capability built in. The ability to do so means that backups can be scheduled to run any time of the day without server down-time.

Continuous backup/continuous data protection – Continuous data protection (CDP) is a process of ongoing backup. This is where the backup system logs every change to the host system in systematic intervals. It is a feature typically used when data changes on a frequent basis, eliminating the risk of losing data and giving you multiple backup points.

Online access to files – Online access allows you to access your backed up files via a normal web browser, usually through a secure web portal. This is useful if you are not at the physical machine.

Data compression – In order to minimise the amount of bandwidth used during a backup, the data is compressed using what is known as a lossless compression algorithm. Essentially, data is packed into a smaller file size.

Incremental Backups – A way to further minimize traffic is to transfer only the binary data that has changed from one day to the next. When documents change, only the changes to individual files are backed up. This minimises network traffic, reduces backup time, and cuts overall size of stored files.

Transfer encryption – In order to prevent the interception of data between source and storage, data should be encrypted, normally via Secure Socket Layer (SSL) Encryption.

End-to-end encryption – Ideally, data should be encrypted before it leaves the source machine by a client generated key and stored, in an encrypted form at its destination.

Bandwidth usage – Some solutions allow users to adjust how much bandwidth is used during a backup. This can be useful for different times of the day: more bandwidth for quieter times (such as in the evening) and less bandwidth during busy periods.

Seeding – A term used to describe the process of uploading data to the data centre. Often this term is used with reference to the initial seeding of data, which can often be performed by uploading data onto a device and ‘seeding’ it directly to the storage vaults.

Retention – This refers to how long data is kept and is given as a period of time. How far you can look back through data will depend on the retention period.

Versioning – Refers to how many versions of data are kept and is given as a number. How far back you can look will depend on how frequently data is changed.

Tiered data centres – The tier of a data centre refers to how secure and reliable it is and ranges from the most basic at tier one with a 99.671% availability, to the most advanced tier four with 99.995% availability. More information of Data Centre Tiers will be available soon in another blog post.

Latency – This is a measurement of the total time taken for data to be encoded and transferred between communicating devices. Poor latency causes lag, and is often responsible for transfer speeds that seem to fall short of advertised bandwidth figures.  

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