The reliable and inexpensive solution to server backup Featured

8:00pm EDT May 6, 2010

Steven Vicinanza, CEO, BlueWave Computing LLCDespite repeated warnings, many small businesses continue to bet the farm on IT backup systems that don’t work. Their tape backups often fail due to malfunctioning drive systems, software issues, or human error. Their disaster recovery plans that rely on these backups are rarely tested — if they exist at all. The problems are usually discovered when an actual disaster leads to loss of critical data and work products.          

Smart Business spoke to Steven Vicinanza, CEO of BlueWave Computing LLC, about the new, highly cost-effective technologies that are easy to put in place to solve these problems once and for all.

What are the risks to companies’ data?

When people think of disaster planning they typically envision a fire or flood and perceive the risk as minimal. However, there are other risks that are much more common. No. 1 is equipment failure. Many believe that using mirrored or redundant drives (called RAID) eliminates the worry of a server failure. They rely on the fact that multiple drives must fail in order to lose data. Nothing could be further from the truth. For example, a very common failure point is a faulty server cooling fan, which will quickly cause overheating. Excess heat destroys disk drives resulting in catastrophic and total data loss.

Another all too common occurrence is equipment theft. With an active black market for personal identity information (which can be worth as much as $10 per person), many thieves are actually more interested in the data on the server than the hardware itself. Businesses like medical practices are especially attractive due to the large amount of social security and credit card information stored there. Obviously, if a server is stolen, the firm will find itself 100 percent reliant on the backup system to recover.

What’s wrong with current backup systems?

Most backups rely on removable media, such as tape, disk, or optical. Backup software running on the server copies its data files to the backup media. The media must be rotated daily and physically removed from the office to ensure recoverability in the event of theft or a facility disaster like a fire. This requires the constant diligence of office staffers, who must be trained in the backup procedures and troubleshooting.

In addition, the most economical and common media, magnetic tape, quickly wears out over time and is prone to failure. The result is that even if all procedures are correctly followed, there is no guarantee that the tape will function properly when called on. In addition, there is a huge security risk in having all the company’s data on a small, easy-to-remove tape backup.

The bottom line is that removable media backups are labor intensive, insecure and prone to human and mechanical failures.

What about disaster recovery and testing?

Current backup systems also lack an easy way to verify that the disaster plan works. To fully test a server backup one must either restore over the current server (which is usually not an option), or purchase a second, identical server to use as a backup test platform. As many organizations have multiple servers, this can become expensive in terms of both time and equipment costs. Needless to say, few companies go through the trouble to ever actually test a backup plan. Yet, without testing, one can never be sure that the plan actually works.

How can new backup technology help?

A new breed of backup technology has recently emerged. Made possible by the recent intersection of high-speed Internet service, server virtualization technology, advanced data encryption and specialized delta-based backup software, this new high-tech backup solution resolves the problems we’ve outlined here. It is completely hands-free, automated, secure, redundant, verifiable and, best yet, highly affordable.

How does it work?

Using special backup software, an initial snapshot is taken of the file system on the server. Then, each hour, any disk changes are snapped. These changes or ‘deltas’ are saved along with the master image on a local backup appliance. Because only changes are saved, the amount of the data stored each hour is relatively small and manageable.          

From the appliance, it takes literally minutes go back to any point in the past and recover files that might have been accidentally deleted or changed. Should the server crash, the appliance can run the image it has stored and actually become a replacement server. For the first time, the organization has a testable and complete disaster recovery plan — in a single box.

What if the office is robbed or burns to the ground?

If the server and the appliance are both lost and all the data is gone with it, this is where the Internet comes to the rescue. Every night, the appliance combines all the changes it has backed up over the day and compresses, encrypts and sends them over the Internet to a secure data center. When a disaster occurs, a disk is restored at the data center and delivered to load on a new server. Until a new server is obtained, the data center can load the image on its appliance and have the business up and running in hours instead of the days that might typically be required to procure a new server and recover a tape backup.

What will this cost?

An office with a single server can usually be protected for as little as a few hundred dollars per month. This would include the appliance and sufficient storage to keep a year of changes online. So now there’s no excuse not to have a bullet-proof backup and disaster recovery plan. And remember, failing to plan is planning to fail!

Steven Vicinanza is the CEO of BlueWave Computing LLC. For more information, visit