WHITEPAPER - Virtues of Remote Backup

WHITEPAPER - Virtues of Remote Backup

Remote Backup is a confusing term

The Remote Backup industry, like all high technology industries, uses different words and phrases to describe similar things. It also uses similar words to mean completely different things. The result is always confusion. Eventually things settle down as hi-tech industries mature, but in the meanwhile the customer seeking a Remote Backup service can suffer, with mismatched expectations and un-met promises about the services they thought they were buying.

The words 'Backup', 'Storage' and 'Archiving' are guilty of creating confusion - or at least the industry and providers of such services are. Throw in the words 'Remote', 'Data', 'Online', 'Offsite', 'Internet' and 'Web' - and you have even more confusion.

So what do they all mean? Are they the same thing? Or would the buyer of a Remote Backup service be better off with a little clarity?

Comparing Remote Backup with Storage and Archiving

Remote Backup, Remote Storage and Remote Archiving are related but different services. Providers of one service may very well provide one or more of the others either as an option or as part of their core service. Here is a summary of their differences:

Remote Backup and Recovery -

...is about having timely access to current business data in case of disaster or file corruption. It is a process that ensures businesses: 1) do not lose important information and 2) do not lose operational time after a loss of data. Backup processes are designed to be automated, covering incremental and differential backups, allowing multiple versions of lost files to be recovered. Backup and Recovery go hand-in-hand and should generally be used to protect current business data rather than older archive data.

Remote Storage -

...is about using someone else's file servers (disks) off-site in a different (more secure) location than your own. It does not necessarily have any backup process associated with it. Businesses will need to ensure that their key data is transferred to this off-site location if data protection is to be obtained. Remote Storage can be thought of as similar to having an 'x' drive on the network, it's just that the 'x' drive is not in the building, but in a virtual location. In many cases this 'x' drive represents multiple servers or drives.

Remote Archiving -

...is about keeping long term snap-shots of important business data.  This could be for compliance reasons, for example. This can best be done with optical or magnetic media because of the large volumes often involved. With archiving, it is important that files are not over-written with more recent versions of files (as is the case with backup), because you need to ensure that archives are exact copies of the data at a certain point in time. Often up to six years of data is required to be archived.

Given these differences, businesses should analyse their particular requirements. A business may have, for example, 100GB of data to be protected. A little analysis may show that most of the data is very old and simply needs archiving. Perhaps only 10-20% is current data that represents real value today (relating to business within the current year for example). This current data can then be backed up remotely allowing instant recovery and multiple versions of each file to be backed up. The business may then have monthly archive sets created for long term storage and compliance. Clearly it is possible to use remote backup for all 100GB online - but it may not be the most cost-effective way of doing it.

  Some AdvantagesSome Limitations
Remote Backup and Recovery A proven route to protect current business data and operations Good for live data: databases, documents, proposals, drawings, email, presentations.

Can reduce the administration and hassle associated with backing up and recovering lost documents.

Allows for added features such as web access to backed up data and sharing of files online.

Backups can take place overnight and, as the data is only a copy of the users real data, overly large band-width is not required.

Can reduce the file storage requirements of businesses.

Data is overwritten after pre-set timeframes or numbers of versions - e.g. only 10 versions of a presentation are stored and the 11th version forces a delete of the oldest copy.

Not especially good for long term storage nor very large volumes of data

Remote Storage A secure cost effective means to managing file storage Eliminates the need for in-house data centres for secure central storage

Can be used on a demand-basis, avoiding in-house capacity issues and uneven capital outlays.

For multiple location businesses, all locations can have one central point of access to business data

Generally suited to larger companies

As the stored data is the real data being used by the business, it needs to be available 100% of the time - potentially at risk from connectivity problems.

Large volumes mean large bandwidth requirements, which means expense.

Archiving Snap-shots of data at points in time for long-term storage Allows a business to comply with the law in terms of keeping good records.

Allows a business to perform audit or forensic analysis after events to solve issues or find causes to problems

As complete copies of data are required, storage volumes can grow.

Comparing Remote, Offsite, Online and Internet - these are all the same

The words remote, offsite, online and internet can simply be interchanged, when used in association with backup, recovery, storage and archiving. They are alternatives used by different vendors, service providers and the press to describe the same thing.

The software used to make remote backup work is often deployed in-house by larger enterprises - and in this instance there is no real concept of needing to be online or to use the internet.


Most businesses can make effective use of all of the services described above - remote backup, remote storage and remote archiving.

Storage and archiving needs vary amongst businesses and can be hard to cost justify. The costs of in-house storage are reducing rapidly and thus out-sourced storage can appear relatively expensive. Equally, archiving can often be done with a tape copy of data stored off-site.

With remote backup, 100% of business should be able to see rapid benefits, when compared with traditional tape-based backup systems. This is largely because of the ability of remote backup to take the hassle and risk out of backing up and recovering data.   

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