Cloud-based backup: Best strategies and practices
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Those tools range from a standard disk target to cloud-to-cloud backup software.
Kendra Scott protects its accounting system and other corporate data with on-site backup, and has a new EMC SAN and Data Domain disk appliance on the way. Its employees also use cloud tools Google Apps for its mail and contacts and Box for files that are shared across departments.
"Each segment of the company has its own IT needs," Kendra Scott IT lead Nathan Toups said. "We have a large website, 13 retail stores and we do wholesale distribution. Our jewelry is manufactured overseas. There are a lot of logistics."
Toups will accommodate all of those needs, but it falls to him to back everything up -- even if it was born and lives in the cloud.
Kendra Scott has about 80 employees in its Austin, Texas corporate office and about 220 total employees including part-timers. The company has 160 Google Apps accounts, Toups said.
Kendra Scott began using Google Apps in 2010 when Toups realized the company's mail server would not scale to meet its needs at the right price.
"We also had a risk with service availability," he said. "The building we were in had some power problems and there were problems with the ISP that would cause mail to be undeliverable. I advocated moving to Google Apps when there were only 20 employees at the company. It turned out to be a decision we're really happy with. There's nothing we have to worry about from an infrastructure standpoint. We just have to make sure we have good passwords and we're backing everything up."
He first turned to Backupify for Google Apps backup in 2012, mainly to export data from accounts held by people who left the company. He switched to Spanning Cloud Apps for cloud-to-cloud backup in late 2013, claiming its data export tool is superior.
"We had requests for data exports so if somebody left the company, we could get an archive of their data," Toups said. "But the Backupify export tool wasn't the easiest to use, so we started looking around. Spanning's export tool makes it a lot easier to export an archive of everything.
"Now we use Spanning to do a continuous backup of all staff email."
He said he hasn't had to restore any lost Google Apps data, but "we're so familiar with the export restore tool that we're confident we can put data back into the state we need."
He said he feels comfortable that Spanning backs up Google Apps data to Amazon's S3 cloud. "We don't have an on-premises copy of that data, but we're backing up from one internet giant to the other. So we consider that hedging our bets."
The jeweler's on-premises backup includes a 6 terabyte (TB) low-cost hardware appliance used to back up a Windows file server with about 2 TB of data from the company's accounting system. Kendra Scott also uses CrashPlan for mobile backup and Carbon Copy Cloner for Mac servers.
The jeweler will expand its on-premise backup after completing plans to expand and virtualize its file server and the server running its shipping application. That project will include two EMC VNXe SAN arrays, a Data Domain backup appliance and Veeam Software to back up virtual machines.
Protecting data outside of its site can be trickier. Kendra Scott has more than 300 GB of data in Box and more than 100 GB in Google Apps.
For Box files, Toups said he can restore backups of deleted data that was accessed within the last 30 days. For data deleted more than 30 days since its last access, Box tech support will help retrieve the files.
Retrieving data from Google Apps is another story. "Google Apps makes the argument that you're responsible for your data," he said. "They have a 30-day policy -- they'll try to restore data accessed within 30 days with best effort. But after 30 days, all bets are off. And they're clear that if you delete an email account, you don't have access to that email anymore."
He said Google Apps Vault can be used to protect data in Google Apps, but that is primarily an e-discovery tool. "It's not the same as Spanning," he said. "Google Vault doesn't maintain folder structure; it's just all the email that goes in and out of an account. It's mostly for legal disputes."
Toups said protecting Google Calendars is a major concern for him. "If we delete an employee's account and they owned an events planning calendar, deleting that calendar will affect a bunch of staff."
That's why Spanning's export tool is important to Kendra Scott. "Spanning has been a natural extension of our Google Apps ecosystem," he said.
Toups said he would like to see Spanning add backup for Box, although he suspects it would cost more because of the volume of data.
"I would love cloud-to-cloud backup for Box," he said. "I would love it if I didn't have to pick the most important files in Box and make sure we back them up on premises. It would probably be a lot more expensive and trickier [than Google Apps]. We have 300 GB of data in Box, so that would not be trivial in cost."
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