In-house application services are usually deployed prior to the backup process being fully built out and are a classic case of why hybrid cloud based backup is ideal for the SME. It is very hard for the owner and IT person (often one and the same) at an SME to predict when the business will expand and they often wait until things are at the breaking point before they make a decision to overhaul the environment. As a result when new IT services are deployed, they are often already behind the eight ball and need to play catch up from day one.


Part of this is due to the fact that backup is almost always an afterthought. The advantage of the hybrid cloud backup model is that if it supports an agent-less model, within seconds it can be instantly upgraded to handle the additional clients, servers or in this case applications. Nothing needs to be installed, the business can continue on without interruption.


When it comes to application backup, especially Exchange and SQL, many cloud backup solutions fall short, offering no local storage, no hot backup and no granular understanding of the application. All three of these features are critical when protecting these two applications and because the SME has more important things to do, like running their business, the lack of realizing the importance of these capabilities goes unnoticed until it’s time to recover data. At this point the impact of not having these features can cost the SME hours if not days of recovery time.


Local Storage


A local storage option or hybrid cloud backup is probably more critical when considering application data protection than it is with user data backup. Hybrid cloud backup services can back up data at a very granular level and they need to make efficient use of limited Internet bandwidth. If data for recoveries of the entire file needs to be transferred it’s not a big problem when the file is a simple word document, but it’s a major problem when it is an entire Exchange mail store.


Most application recovery scenarios are not the result of hardware failure, although that is something that needs to be protected against, but more likely from a software failure either by the application itself or from an external source like a virus attack. This typically requires a wholesale recovery of the entire application data store. Even in a SME this can range from double digit GBs of data to hundreds of GBs of application data. Without a local copy of data, significant quantities of information have to be retrieved over the Internet as quickly as possible. Even with a fast Internet connection it could take many hours to complete the recovery.


If the most recent copy of data is kept locally then the data can be recovered as fast as the internal network can handle the transfer. Companies like Axcient provide a hybrid cloud backup service through their reseller network. Axcient offers an appliance that couples local storage with Internet cloud connectivity to provide SME users with local rapid recovery with disaster protection and long term retention in a single package.


Hot Backup


The second feature that is important to application backup is the ability to back up an application while it is in use. Thanks to online purchasing and the global reach of the Internet, many SMEs now require the same 7X24 backup capabilities long used by big businesses. This is particularly needed to support mission critical data hosted by Exchange and SQL applications. Even if the SME had the flexibility to schedule an orderly shutdown of these applications to perform cold backups, the ability to conduct hot backups, while applications are live, may prove more appealing.


The combination of a hot backup capability combined with an agent-less backup technology, like that found in Axcient's solution, allows for the SME to perform multiple backups during the course of the business day without impacting the performance of the application. This translates into multiple captures of the information throughout the day so if a failure does occur, there is no data loss. Additionally these backups place minimal load on the network or on the disk backup storage area, since only the changed blocks are being transferred and stored.


Granularity


The final and potentially most important attribute of this solution is the ability of the backup process to provide very granular data restores. For example, in Exchange it is possible to perform a recovery of a user’s entire mailbox or merely a few messages that were inadvertently deleted. The whole process should take less than a few minutes because the data can be recovered from local disk.


The alternative to the above approach would require a complete recovery of the entire Exchange information store to an alternate location and fully configuring a dual copy of Exchange on a second server to pull out the messages that are needed. The challenge is, especially for the SME, that these additional resources are typically not available. Even if a standby server could be allocated, it amounts to little more than an expensive insurance policy. Effectively it involves procuring and supporting an idle resource that does not add any value until a recovery is needed. Finally, it is a very labor intensive and time consuming chore to recover everything, sort through what is needed and at long last, restore it.


This granular capability could also be used to retire a former employee's mailbox. For example if there is a policy to save the email of former employees for a year after they have left the company, a separate backup can be run that will store the mailbox for a set period of time. This allows for the data to be safely removed from the primary Exchange store, lowering storage requirements while at the same time adhering to company policy.


All backup processes can then be independently monitored so that the business can concentrate on business building activities rather than backup housekeeping tasks.

If a problem does occur on the appliance, the Axcient reseller can proactively notify the customer and the issue can be jointly resolved.


The data that is created by these applications often becomes the lifeblood of the business. Making sure that the data protection process is continually updated is often overlooked by growing SMEs. Legacy backup software solutions can be expensive to upgrade, difficult to manage and typically require periodic hardware purchases. All of these factors typically contribute to apathy about refreshing data protection systems.


The backup challenges faced by SMEs makes cloud based application protection an ideal solution. Firstly, cloud solutions are very affordable and can be purchased long before application backup becomes a concern. Secondly, even if a hybrid cloud backup solution is implemented after the application is deployed, the agent-less nature of the technology allows the solution to be implemented with existing Exchange or SQL servers with minimal disruption--while remaining easy to use and operate. What’s more  through the use of simple license upgrades, backup protection for new applications can be provided the same day a new application is implemented.

George Crump, Senior Analyst

Key Takeaways


  1. The SMB doesn't need to back up just files (unstructured data), but structured data too (application data)

  2. The "cloud offerings" in backup have really been about the consumer and the consumer is about files. A file is simple and quick to recover from the cloud, an application is not

  3. The shift is occurring with cloud backed offerings now with support not only for applications, but with more reasoned hybrid models that take into account structured data tends to be too big to recover in a timely fashion in a cloud only model

  4. The hybrid model is an acknowledgement that a business balances performance and economy differently than a consumer

  5. Local + remote is the age old best practices; speed and DR security. This was previously afforded by large companies only. The cloud has made this accessible to the masses


Related


   Hybrid Cloud Backup for the SMB


   Video: What is Hybrid Storage?