I've had a lot of feedback from people about my little $5 white paper on backups.
They agree with everything I say EXCEPT the conclusion that tape is the only medium that fills all the requirements for a true backup and disaster recovery system.
I just spent a weekend at SMB Nation. Without naming names, let me just say that the vendor hall was filled with people who will take your money, give you peace of mind, and leave you hanging when your server goes up in flames.
Why We Do Backups
99% of the time, backups are for mundane file recovery, to create a legal point-in-time snapshot, to create a financial point-in-time snapshot, and to create an archive. Hard drives that are constantly recycled don't do most of these.
The other 1% of the time backups are vital to a true disaster recovery.
In a true, major disaster, you may not be able to get to your office. Consider the floods in the Midwest, hurricane Katrina, the five-day electrical outages from last year. Or the folks in Ohio who just went through two weeks of electrical outage in the aftermath of Hurricane Ike. And so forth.
It is quite realistic that you could be kicked out of your office and need to relocate. Yes, the chances are slim, but it's your job to take responsibility for your business, and your clients' businesses.
On more of a day-to-day basis, "stuff" happens. Someone deletes an important file. The database becomes corrupt. You discover on Thursday that you saved the wrong version of a spreadsheet last Monday. Or you discover in January that the former bookkeeper nuked a database last July.
Sometimes we can restore from the local Volume Shadow Copy. You might have a local backup archive. It is vitally important that you have multiple point-in-time backups.
One reason our company has never failed to recover data from a system we managed is that we do backups the right way and we have multiple restore points.
Here's a hard lesson that won't make me any friends: Most of the technicians we run across cannot figure out how to create a backup strategy that works.
Most technicians don't have a workable strategy for backups.
Most technicians don't understand tape, so they don't recommend it.
Most technicians don't understand SCSI, so they don't sell backups that rely on it.
Most technicians have never played with iSCSI. In fact they don't even know what it is.
Corollary: Most SMB technicians settle for a backup system that sounds simple because they can't figure out tape, can't figure out SCSI, and are willing to settle for "good enough."
Good Enough Isn't
Internet-based backups are wonderful as a gap-filler for specific circumstances. But it is irresponsible to rely on them as your only backup solution, your primary backup solution, or your disaster recovery plan.
Please, please, please talk to your clients. Do not assume that you know how much downtime they can stomach unless you've asked them.
For some companies, a day of downtime hurts, but they can stay in business. For others, an hour is unacceptable.
As we've moved all the critical systems (email, databases, sharepoint, file storage) onto a single server, we have dramtically increased the need to get that server back online ASAP when something goes wrong.
Any system that involves shipping a hard drive across the country is unacceptable as a disaster recovery option.
And USB drives? Again, wonderful as a gap-filler for specific circumstances. But it is irresponsible to rely on them as your only backup solution, your primary backup solution, or your disaster recovery plan.
Maybe I've just spent too much time fixing other peoples' messes. But disc-to-disc backup is only good for disaster recovery purposes when it is part of a disc-to-disc-to-tape backup strategy.
The Bottom Line
Local imaging, CDP, USB, and even onsite tape are all part of a strategy to have multiple restore points available. They each play a role.
But don't forget that we do backups for lots of reasons besides restoring a file or two.
Learn your job.
Create and test disaster recovery plans that assume you won't have access to your original office or equipment.