Remote site dilemma: No backup strategy and growing data volumes

Backup expert Pierre Dorion offers advice to a storage administrator at a company with growing data volumes and no backup strategy.

I am currently working at a small company that has been experiencing a lot of growth. Over 90% of our data lies in the scanned images stored on our server. The structured layout of these images are held in a MS SQL 2000 database and served out using vendor software. For our local site I have a Dell PowerVault LTO tape loader with Veritas BackupExec that is conducting full and incremental backups fairly well. However, we also have two remote sites at different locations that have similar servers holding similar data. The remote sites are consultant sites and have no backup strategy. The data is growing everyday -- up to 63 GB and counting on one machine running with 1 OS drive and 2 RAID 1 drives. The other machine is up to 35 GB.

My question is: What would be the best way to expand storage and effectively back up such remote data, given the absence of point-to-point links and centralized backup strategies? Would something like external Iomega drives or Rev drives be a good alternative to slow tape devices? Would expansion and backup from NAS devices work as well?

The first thing to consider in this context may be the availability of local skills at both remote sites. You are referring to the sites as being "consultant sites", which seems to imply that technical resources might not be readily available for these locations. If this assumption is correct, you might want to avoid a backup solution requiring remote intervention. You may want to weigh the cost of implementing a remote data replication solution against the possibility of data loss.

A centralized backup solution for each site would require some technical skills and system administration cycles for each site. Copying or backing up data to low cost, removable storage media certainly looks interesting from a cost saving perspective. However, it introduces a requirement for media handling and manual intervention, which often goes hand-in-hand with human error.

There are a number of interesting and affordable hardware independent data replication solutions currently available on the market. Combined with a network attached storage solution, which could either be appliance based or from a more traditional file server for each site, they can offer scalable storage with hands-free data protection for the remote sites. Once replicated to your local site, this data could then be centrally backed up as required without interfering with the remote production copies.

Without mentioning any specific vendors (to avoid offending anyone by omission), a little research on low cost data replication will reveal a number of software-based offerings.


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