Everything you need to know about the wonderful world of backup technology

Everything you need to know about the wonderful world of backup technology
Credit: Icons8 (edited)

The concept of backup is as old as data itself. The technology associated with it has traveled a long distance coming from floppy disks, backup CDs and DVDs, then USBs and now to dedicated backup appliances and offsite or remote backup repositories.

Unlike the past, backup technology is now on a completely different scale. The backup market has seen explosive growth over the last few years and a number of reports suggest a stable continuation of the rise in the market growth rate.

According to a Global Forecast about the Data Backup and Recovery market by PRNewswire, published in Dec, 2017: the backup and recovery market is expected to grow from  $7.13 billion in 2017 to $11.59 billion by 2022.

Similarly, a market share analysis by Gartner; published in August 2017, states that the backup and recovery software market has displayed accelerated growth from 5.5 percent in 2015 to 7.1 percent in 2016. Safe to say, backup technologies are hip and they’re going to stay hip at least till 2022; and probably afterwards too.

The giants backing the backup and recovery market

The impeccable growth rate of the backup and recovery market is no surprise. Over the last decade, giants have aggressively partaken in this industry and set the standards for innovation and service provision.

The names of tech giants empowering the backup market include, but are not limited to:

  • Amazon Web Services (AWS)
  • Microsoft Corporation
  • Oracle Corporation
  • IBM Corporation
  • EMC Corporation
  • Google Inc.
  • VMware Inc.
  • Dropbox Inc.
  • StoneFly Inc.  
  • Barracuda Networks, Inc.
  • Veeam Software
  • Druva Software
  • Code42 Software Inc.

It’s pretty clear at this point that backup technology is facilitated by tech giants and relied upon by businesses around the globe.

The question remains: what’s the big deal about it anyways?

Differentiating data redundancy and data backups

Before indulging into the types of backup technologies, a concept deserves an honorable mention: data redundancy. Data redundancy is often confused with backup services, so it’s important to draw a line between it and data backups.

Data redundancy is simply the creation of replicas of data. In other words, you’re creating the same file in multiple locations. An example of this would be creating a file on your local system and then copying it on a USB flash drive; each time you update it. This is not the same as backup.

Backups are compressed version of the original data that you create. Usually, third party software creates these backups for you and the same software can use those files to restore them.

To clarify this, let’s say I gave you two files: one is the exact copy of your original file and the other is a backup file of that original data. You can use the copy as soon as it’s on your local system. For the backup file, you’ll need the software that created it and then you’ll have to restore from the backup file to access the original data within it.   

Now that we’ve established the difference between redundancy and backups, let’s discuss some types of backup technologies.

Different kinds of backup technologies

Backup technologies can be divided into three main types:

  • On-premises backup appliances
  • Cloud backups
  • Hybrid backup solutions

I did not include tape storage solutions like USBs/flash drives, external hard drives, etc. in backup technologies because mostly they keep copies of the original data. And we have established before, that’s not backup; that’s data redundancy.

On-premises backup appliances These are purpose built appliances that backup the data of specific departments or the entire business using a configured network and the right credentials. Mostly, these appliances sit idle and are used for the purpose of creating backups. They perform diligently when accessed to restore data.

However, how often do you lose data? Not so often right? That’s exactly the frequency of utilization for these appliances. That’s also the drawback; while they’re purpose is very important for businesses, especially for businesses with mission critical data, these appliances sit idle and are used infrequently. However, they do continue to consume resources like maintenance, power costs, cooling costs, etc.

The one big benefit of these appliances is that they’re faster than any other backup technology. If your IT infrastructure cannot tolerate delay when restoring data, then these appliances are the best option for you. They can facilitate heavy Input / Output (IOP) requirements while keeping the latency in check.

Cloud backups With the accelerating cloud adoption, backups in the cloud are not a new concept. It’s the same as backing up in a backup appliance, the difference is you’re doing it over the internet and you’re backing up into someone else’s datacenter. The biggest advantage of cloud backups is the cost efficiency and the scalability of it.

There are a number of complications involved with scaling up a physical backup appliance. Cloud technology removes all those complications and makes the whole process simple. In terms of cost, you don’t have to invest as much as you would have to for the appliance.

Cloud based services also facilitate pay-as-you-go payment models. You don’t have to initially acquire storage resources in advance, you can scale-out as you go and you can pay for them as you scale-out.

Hybrid backup solutions These are an interesting mix of solutions that can address a diverse range of data requirements. Hybrid backup solutions combine both on-premises and cloud based backup technologies.

IT infrastructures can setup physical appliances on-premises with cloud connect services or cloud gateway appliances and extend the backups to the cloud. Using this combination, they can keep the frequently used or mission critical backup data on-premises for reduced latency while using the cloud for infrequently used data backups. This combination adds the less latent on-premises technology with the scalable and cost effectively cloud technology.

We have differentiated between redundancy and backups and we’ve briefly discussed the three types of backup technologies; but we haven’t established what exactly is the big deal about backup technology? I know, it took a while but now we’re here.

The big deal about backup technology

Data loss is to businesses as Galactus is to planets. It can incur financial consequences, disrupt business processes and the worst case scenario includes eating up the whole business. Allow me to explain that with an example.

Imagine a financial services provider that has to process transactions by the minute. Due to compliance reasons and for record maintenance, this service provider has to maintain all of this data on their servers. If this data is not backed up and a server or servers crash due to hardware failure or power loss, then all of this data can be lost. If it is lost, then the service provider is in major trouble.

They have to answer to regulatory authorities while dealing with a ton of angry customers. If there data is backed up, they can notify their customers and apologize, recover and then just continue their service provision.

This fear of losing data, having your business disrupted and adversely affected is the reason why businesses around the globe are adapting backup technology to prevent it.

That concludes my thoughts on the subject, what do you think about it? Are backup technologies really that big of a deal? Share your thoughts by commenting below. If you like what I’ve written, remember to share with like-minded professionals.

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