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How to Back-Up With Confidence
Fingers crossed let’s hope nothing happens…
 
Or… you could backup reliably!
 
Business IT London
Imagine being able to go back to when things were working at the click or two of a button. Or being able to retrieve the very important file(s) or folder(s) that one of your colleagues has deleted in a blissfully ignorant moment.
 
Bad things and accidents will happen no matter how much you lock down your systems or maintain them. If you’ve worked in IT you will have seen this, if you have worked in IT long enough you will also have seen instances where the opening line of this blog is the backup plan!

If you haven’t worked in IT, you will still probably be aware of the recent ransomware attack on the NHS in May. In this type of attack, files are encrypted and ransomed to the organisation who are asked to pay (a very high price!) to retrieve these files… hopefully. (Would you trust the person who orchestrated the encryption to provide the decryption after you have coughed up a very large sum of money?). A good backup solution will minimise the data loss and cost of restore. The above example is only one of many possible disasters that can affect an organisation.

Backup will enable you to mitigate file loss and disaster. However, a well-designed system and a good backup solution will enable you to mitigate file loss and disaster in as fast a time as possible so that you are back up and running and can continue with your day to day business.
 
Trust me, it is very frustrating using a slow backup destination to restore from and there is nothing worse than finding there is no backup both for the IT department and the organisation. So, investing in a good system and backup solution is a must if you do not want the worst to happen, or have a very long wait to recover from a disaster.
 
With the move to virtualisation in the industry, backup is now easier and faster than ever before. If you are not using virtualised servers and running individual servers on their own hardware it is well worth looking into getting them virtualised – it will provide options and benefits for your environment, not just from a backup perspective.
 
There are many options for backup available on the market and it would be wise to seek advice on which will be best for your organisation in terms of both cost and functionality.
 
One of the products we use, which we really like, is called Altaro. It is a very flexible product which gives us many options to suit our clients’ needs when it comes to the backup of their virtual machines.
 
Altaro provides;
  • A choice of backup media destination for onsite - physical drives or network shares.
  • A choice of backup media destination for offsite - physical drive (which can be manually swapped), network path or server (at another geographical site) or Cloud.
  • A choice of which machines to backup.
  • Compression is impressive so backup storage is efficiently used. We have seen rates of up to 80% compression!
  • Backups are incremental meaning backup time is reduced.
  • The ability to test backup by using sandpit restores.
  • File level or whole machine restore is possible, along with Exchange item level restore.
  • With Altaro a new host can be introduced into the infrastructure and restored to – a great benefit if your physical host is broken beyond repair or it is quicker to run on a temporary host.
  • Whole machines can be booted on the backup media providing a quick restore, though operational speed will be determined by the speed of the backup storage. 

What is important once you have your backup solution in place is that you ensure your backups are working reliably. Firstly, a decent backup solution should come with inbuilt alerting, at a minimum this should be configured to alert on failures and warnings. In addition to this there should be regular tests of the backups implemented. By doing this you will avoid nasty surprises when you need your backup the most, and gain peace of mind that they are working as you would expect.
 
In addition to checking your backups onsite you should also consider shipping backups to an offsite location (and adding checks for these!) this will protect against a complete site disaster where your onsite backups have also been destroyed.
 
With the advent of the Cloud and technologies such as Microsoft Azure it is now easier than ever to ship backups offsite automatically (i.e. they cannot be forgotten by the onsite user / engineer who, in the past, would manually swap a disk on a daily / weekly basis). A good backup solution such as Altaro will now incorporate the ability ship backups to an offsite location of your choice. You will however need a decent and reliable internet connection!
 
You are only as good as your last backup!
 

 
If you do need any help or advice with a similar issue, please give us a call on 01923 537247, and I or one of my colleagues would be more than happy to assist. 

 IT Support London - Tom

Written by Mark Hartley, 3rd Line Engineer