Laptop data protection: A major headache with many cures

Laptop data protection is still a major headache for many organizations. Learn how some companies are turning to laptop backup software and the cloud to protect endpoint data.

David Underwood could be called an IT “everyman.” He is an IT specialist at the University of California, Davis, where the institution is exploring choices of backup systems to protect laptop data. His organization, like most others, has had to wrestle with the question of how to provide laptop data protection through some kind of backup system.

More recently he tested and adopted Druva inSync laptop backup software. “I found it was very tenacious at getting the data—now if someone only comes onto the network once a month, it will back them up,” he said.

Underwood said in the past he has relied on a utility that kept a copy of each folder on the server. However, he admitted that process “took forever” and slowed the system to a crawl for at least an hour. Then, he tried another application that was supposed to help back up Microsoft Exchange PST files. “They were the main things I wanted to grab, but to get the software to work drove me crazy,” he said. 

Underwood found he was so happy with the Druva product for his 70 laptops that he adopted it for his desktop systems, too, with good results. “Desktops are on a regular schedule and in a sense laptops are no different [for scheduling],” he said, since they, too, are always scheduled for regular backups, but must wait until they are online. “The software was designed for laptops but works well for desktop systems, too,” he explained.

Underwood’s experience highlights the fact that laptops are not a problem by themselves. According to Lauren Whitehouse, a senior analyst at Enterprise Strategy Group, the laptop data protection challenge needs to be—and is—increasingly viewed as part of the broader “endpoint” backup challenge, covering everything from desktops, to laptops and mobile devices.

Laptop backup strategy missing in many organizations

Derek Meister, an agent with Best Buy’s Geek Squad, echoes those sentiments. “For most companies, just having any backup process for their laptops would be a huge advance,” he said. “When we talk to small businesses, the key for them is to have a backup plan. Even local backup will save you if your laptop gets hit by a virus.” However, he noted, if you are going to really look into it “we suggest both a local and an online backup capability.”

The fact is, noted Greg Schulz, analyst with the StorageIO Group, there are a bewildering range of options for laptop and endpoint backup. “Some organizations are leveraging cloud service providers for taking care of laptops and desktops in work groups; some are leveraging existing backup tools that have traditionally provided support for the desktop; and, some organization use the same tool from the server down to the desktop or laptop,” he said.

Ashish Nadkarni, senior analyst at the Taneja Group, said larger companies are generally moving away from pure-play, backup-only solutions. “The backup of laptops is moving to more of a distributed and endpoint protection approach, encompassing the iPads and smart phones, and trying to bring that all under a single data protection umbrella,” he said. There are two main reasons, he added. For one thing, companies want to rein in users and make sure that company information is protected. They are also trying to get ahead of the curve in terms of where industry is headed—moving away from just focusing on laptops “to more of a multiple gadget environment.”

In fact, he noted, the previous laptop data protection methodologies, which depended on getting people connected inside the firewall and then performing scheduled backup routines, have become largely obsolete. He said some companies, notably Cisco and IBM, still control users by limiting access to services such as email unless you are on the company network. That level of control makes regular backups possible. “But the more adventurous companies are admitting they can’t have everyone on the VPN if for no other reason that the infrastructure requirements are too great,” he said. “Older methods are a problem, too, because end users are the worst group of people to manage,” he said. Thus, most companies have no choice but to move to more modern backup methods.

Nadkarni said all those mobile devices have data in some form and companies now have two main options. They can rely on traditional online laptop backup options such as Carbonite Inc., VMware Mozy or Iron Mountain Connected Backup (recently purchased by Autonomy Corp.), and extend it to the rest of the mobile landscape or they can try to get more of a full-fledged cloud approach that continually backs up files as they are created or moved.

“Companies with that goal are moving to agentless or agented solutions in the cloud in a virtual private way; they own the key management so they are essentially acting like managed service providers for their own users” he said.

“That is where I think the future is—these solutions are extending into the whole mobile computing field so that whether you have an Android, iPad or laptop, you are protected. And, he noted, the emerging options are usually cost-competitive.

About this author: Alan Earls is a frequent contributor to SearchDataBackup.

Dig Deeper on Backup and recovery software

Start the conversation

Send me notifications when other members comment.

Please create a username to comment.