Hybrid versus public cloud deployments
This controversy is really just an extension of the bandwidth and trust conversations from above. Trusting the cloud, and only the cloud, for backups and recovery just isn't smart for now. Most vendors will want both local backups for quick availability and fast recovery, with cloud backups used for data protection, archiving and disaster recovery.
Vendors have disagreements over whether to de-duplicate data inline or after the fact (post-process). Inline de-duplication reduces redundant data on the fly, but since this is one more thing sitting in the network between point A (an application) and point B (storage), it can slow down the overall backup process.
However, inline de-duplication almost forces companies to use higher CPU hardware. The result can end up being, then, that all data is stored in a de-duplicated format in the cache, which can be more efficient and allow for faster replication to the cloud.
On the other hand, post-process de-duplication eliminates the potential for yet another potential bottleneck in the network.
Should you use agents or not?
Whether or not a given backup solution should have agents really focuses on Work in Progress (WIP) files. WIP files are those that users work on pretty much every day. For a knowledge worker, this could be anything from Word files to spreadsheets to presentations. For a media company, JPEGs, PNGs, vector images and movie files could all be WIP files.
"The frequency with which WIP documents need to be backed up and retrieved are much higher than for other file types such as PSTs. It isn’t uncommon to see vendors employ an agent-based approach, wherein a lightweight software agent is deployed at the client end to continuously monitor for changes and automatically map these changes to the cloud-based copy. Also known as continuous data backup or real-time backup, this form of backup is recommended (and often employed) whilst backing up documents," said Balachandar Ganesh, research head at Credii, a software research and referral firm.
However, managing agents on a bunch of host servers can get pretty complex rather quickly. Providers of agent-less solutions, on the other hand, claim that they are easier to install and manage. In theory, at least, agent-less solutions also simplify the recovery process when you actually have to find and restore something you previously backed up.
What about rich media?
This isn't an industry debate so much as it is an internal one within enterprises. Well, that's not quite true. Most enterprises are overlooking rich media, which will eventually be problematic as more and more valuable content is contained within audio, video and other media files.
Today, most organizations don’t backup much rich media. IT managers have a hard time justifying the expense of backing up the many audio or video files their organizations create since they consume such a great deal of storage space and, potentially, bandwidth.
As cloud storage pushes down the per-GB cost of storage, and as compliance officers start realizing the risks inherent in not applying the same policies to rich media data as other types of data, expect practices to change.
Cloud Backup Vendors
(If I've missed any vendors that should be listed, please make a note in the comment field below.)
SMB and personal use providers
SMB and personal cloud providers should be on the enterprise radar — not necessarily because they may eventually target the enterprise, but rather because it's a good bet that your data is already being stored with some of these providers. Your employees are aware of them — and using them — and you should be too.
Major cloud storage providers for personal and SMB use include:
- Google Drive
- Microsoft SkyDrive
- Apple iCloud
- Code 42 Software (CrashPlan)
I should also note that many of the home antivirus and firewall vendors (Symantec, TrendMicro, Kaspersky, etc.) are also including cloud-based backups in their security suites.
A new cloud storage player, Bitcasa is getting attention since it lets you have 10GB of storage for free.
Enterprise cloud backup service providers:
- Amazon Web Services
- StorSimple (now part of Microsoft)
- DreamHost (DreamObjects)
Storage hardware and software providers that focus on cloud environments:
- Nimble Storage
- Tegile Systems
- CA ARCserve
Software defined storage providers:
WAN optimization providers:
Jeff Vance is a Santa Monica-based writer. He's the founder of Startup50, a site devoted to emerging tech startups, and he also founded the content marketing firm, Sandstorm Media. Follow him on Twitter @JWVanc