Data Recovery

Reliable Backups: As easy as 3-2-1

The 3-2-1 Backup: (3) Have at least three copies of your data; (2) Store the copies on two different media; (1) Keep one backup copy offsite.

The 3-2-1 Backup: (3) Have at least three copies of your data; (2) Store the copies on two different media; (1) Keep one backup copy offsite.

The "3-2-1 Data Backup Rule"

This rule was popularized by noted photographer Peter Krogh, who wrote of two groups of people: those who have already had a storage failure and those who will have one in the future. While we wouldn't go so far as to insist on the inevitability of the latter, we nonetheless maintain that 3-2-1 is the most sound backup strategy.  
If you maintain three copies of your data all at the same location, all are susceptible to loss in the event of a catastrophe (fire, earthquake, etc.) hence, a copy should be maintained elsewhere.

There has been a lot of talk the last five or so years about “migrating to the cloud” and the benefits in terms of solutions that grow with your business, cheap storage and data recovery. And it's true. Depending on the needs of the client, there are benefits to be found in nearly every computing situation, including the cloud.  But when it comes to true security for your data, no “latest greatest thing” can substitute for a sound back-up strategy (see sidebar).

What is your Recovery Time Objective?

What is the cost of losing your data - for an hour, for a day or even more?  In the event of a catastrophe, how long can you afford to have your employees sitting around? Customers waiting? Data inaccessible while it is being restored from a backup?  The loss can be enormous, not only in terms of production but in terms of your company's reputation. These, as well as other factors, determine a company's Recovery Time Objective.

A Case in Point

The following story details the actual case of a business which recently came to us for disaster recovery, and shows why reliance on the cloud alone for backup can - and did - compound an already bad situation. The names have been changed to protect the unprotected.

The Blank Garage (TBG) manufactures garage door hardware, with approximately 170 employees in several locations in the U.S. They had been using one of the better known online backup services as primary backup for their Microsoft Exchange server; 126+ gigabytes of email data were stored up in "the cloud".

On Thursday, July 31, 2014, TBG experienced a serious disaster: all Exchange data was lost locally and email communication to and from TBG's customers and between company offices had been severed. The clock began ticking away at so many dollars per second.  

The obvious response to such a scenario would be “Data backed up in the cloud > download backed-up data to local server > Voila! Back in business!”   Sounds simple, but it was not going to happen that easily. 
Compass Computing was called in to help rebuild TBG's server and recover their 126 gigs of data. Over the next 24 hours, it became evident that it was not going to be a quick fix. The download of the backup alone was a 15-18 hour proposition, assuming the first attempt was successful, which it wasn't. And even if it had succeeded, there was no guarantee from the online backup service that the backup software they were using would be able to restore the information. 
In the end, after rebuilding the server from scratch, Compass initiated an alternate means of recovery but even then, not all of TBG's data was recoverable.  The costs in terms of lost productivity went into the tens of thousands of dollars. That, in addition to the costs of disaster recovery, made reliance solely on a cloud-based system very risky and very expensive.

Had TBG had a proper 3-2-1 Backup system in place, they probably would have been able to fully recover from the failure in less than hour, beating their Recovery Time Objective, and with no significant production losses.
To be fair, there are scenarios when using a cloud backup service alone is sensible, such as home users or employees working in the field, but enterprise data is not among them.

The 3-2-1 rule, which could include the cloud as a supplemental backup, is the most logical and failsafe backup strategy we've seen.

Affordable 3-2-1 Solutions 

In the middle of 2014, Compass began researching a backup solution that when implemented properly could, in the event of a catastrophe, have your data restored and your company back in business, not in days.....but in minutes.

It is a technology designed to fix problems such as the above, fully covers the 3-2-1 backup protocol, and has begun replacing antiquated backup products such as tape drives and other slow media.  Imagine completing your daily backups in a fraction of the time overnight backup systems usually require. 

By implementing such solutions proactively, Compass helps you minimize the impact of the unforeseen on your business.  If you are a client and you haven't already been moved over to the new backup solution, please contact me to talk about how we can protect your business from these risks.


Matthew Meltzer
Compass Computing, Inc.