You already know backups are important. Now get the latest information on the different kinds of backup options available to you, so you can decide which solution would work best for you.

I know what you’re thinking. “Backups? Not again!” But don’t worry—it’s not what you think.

You already know that backing up your organization’s data is critical. You already know that data backups, in addition to being a must for disaster recovery, are also great for data archiving; something often required of businesses and nonprofit organizations, and also just good practice. You get it: Good backups=Good business.

In this article, we take it to the next level—not the why, but the how—to help you determine which backup solution is right for your organization. We’ll take you through the evolution of backup technology and highlight the benefits and drawbacks of some of your options to help you make the best choice.

Go Traditional with Tapes

When it comes to data backups, traditional tape systems are one way to get the job done. Tape backups are economical and they work. With tapes, organizations can back up their server-based data overnight, every night—in effect, recording all of their data files in 24-hour intervals.

Although the tape is an older technology, it gives you bang for your buck. In fact, tapes are the lowest-priced overall backup choice, with individual tapes costing only $10 to $120 each, depending upon how much data they can store. And store they can—modern tape drives have an incredibly high capacity for data, up to 800GB per drive. In addition, tape media is portable, making it easy to transport off-site in case of (or in preparation for) an emergency.

This older method, however, is not without its limitations. Tapes require administration. They must be changed and monitored daily, and that requires adequate personnel. (However, something as important as data backups is worth this extra special attention!) They also vary in reliability. The drive itself may not be that reliable, and tapes may also fail. And the system may not always notify you of incomplete or flawed backups. Also, while tape systems have the lowest overall cost throughout the life of the backup system, the up-front costs are substantial ($2,000 to $5,000 for most drives—roughly the cost of a server). Finally, some modern-day challenges exist for this older technology. Because tape systems were created to deal with lower-volume backups and smaller files (think word processing, as opposed to images or email, which abound in today’s business culture), it takes longer to back data up than it used to, and tape backups can run over into production time. And more data can mean more tapes, and that means more tapes to look through to find the one you need. In addition, when recovering from a failed server, 24-hour-old backups are not always good enough for today’s businesses.

Until recently, there weren’t any viable alternatives to tape backup systems. Then came disk-based backups.

Go Digital with Disks

Disk-based backup technology has emerged as a modern alternative to tapes, which are often considered unable to meet the demands of today’s businesses. With this technology, data is backed up to a dedicated server or NAS (Network Attached Storage) device.

Although it has not yet passed the test of time, disk-based technology offers several advantages over traditional tape systems. Disk-based storage, for example, backs up data in a fraction of the time required by tapes. This means not only speedier and more frequent backups, but also faster data recovery. (This can greatly reduce the risk of losing significant data during the recovery process.) In addition, with the cost of servers on the decline, disk-based backups are not as expensive as they used to be. In fact, over time, they are said to cost as little as their tape system predecessors.

But the news isn’t all good. Disk-based backup technology is much more expensive up-front than a tape backup system. And even though you are paying more, you are getting about the same amount of storage space as a tape backup system provides. Plus, it is increasingly difficult to transport and store disks off-site for disaster recovery purposes.

Go Online with Internet Backups

Did you know that you could backup all your organization’s information off-site—and automatically—over the internet? Well, you can, and this backup method works around the clock, tracking every single change you make to every file. This means, not only can you pull up the final version of a backed-up document, you can also view multiple iterations of this document, as it progressed. Plus, internet-based backups use only a fraction of your internet bandwidth, so productivity interference and operating capacity are never issues.

Sounds perfect, but you knew there had to be a catch—internet-based backup systems are very expensive, costing between $15 and $25 per gigabyte of data per month. Plus, if your entire server needs to be restored, this is not only expensive, but also very time consuming. It would take, literally, days to download all of your data back over the internet. Most internet backup services will charge you quite a bit to ship a hard drive overnight with your data on it. All of this time translates into lost productivity for your organization in the case of a full system or server failure.

The Best of Both Worlds

So, is there a perfect backup solution? For small organizations, the answer seems to be yes. It’s a combination of disk and internet backup solutions. With this dual method, there is a disk-based backup system that resides on the local network and performs continuous data backups of all servers (including email, database, etc.). And it keeps myriad versions of files and other data going back in time. This allows for rapid restore of a single file, or even a failed server, because all the data is on-site.

To handle the need for an off-site copy of your data, this combo solution securely transfers the latest backup of each server onto two mirrored data centers—one on the East Coast and the other on the West Coast. Surprisingly, this dual solution is very affordable; in addition to purchasing or renting the on-site unit, your off-site storage cost per gigabyte per month could be as low as $4-$6.

There are a few options if you decide the combo method is right for you, one of which is Optimal’s dataGuardsm service. In the case of a server failure, dataGuardsm allows you to turn your latest backup copy of your server data into a “virtual server,” which can stand in until your original server is fixed or rebuilt. It is important to remember, though, that this combination backup system is new, and is continually being refined. So, look for further improvements as more organizations adopt a dual system solution.

The Next Step

Each of the backup technologies described above offers distinct pros and cons. Consider your organization’s data backup and disaster recovery needs, and think about the administrative burden of each of the solutions, as well. As a final step, consult your IT experts to make sure your organization is on the right track!

Need help? If you would like assistance in implementing or reviewing your organization’s backup solution, please contact us at