Ask any expert about backup and disaster recovery (BDR) and you’ll quickly learn it is no longer what it used to be. There are more options out there than ever, and figuring out what will work best for your small to midsize business (SMBs) customers up front — before they make the investment — is essential. Image-based backup, also known as sector-based backup, is emerging as a top choice for channel partners and their SMB clients today, and that’s because it makes up for the limitations of competing alternatives in a number of ways.
In a nutshell, image-based backup efficiently records an image of the entire server, allowing for the complete system to be restored very quickly when needed. Incremental backups are then made going forward. All backups are saved to a network-attached storage device or appliance, or even to removable storage such as rotating media. The backups are then archived offsite using automated software, and can still be archived by physical means, often using rotating media.
Keeping that basic definition in mind, here are 10 quick things you should know about image-based backup:
- Ease Of Use: Once installed, creating backup policies for every machine on the network can be accomplished with only a few clicks within a unified management console. In a matter of a few minutes, seamless backup of workstations and servers is ensured, providing peace of mind and conserving valuable technician time for your business.
- High Performance And Redundancy: Image-based backup is designed to be modular to improve performance, scalability, and redundancy. Sophisticated multi-tiered backup policies can be created to address local backups (to an attached USB drive, for example), network backups (to a file server, NAS appliance or SAN) and offsite backups via FTP or other protocols (to the cloud, a remote DR location, or another office). This means that backup images may be maintained onsite on high-speed disks for optimum performance, faster recovery and near real-time updates. Backups can also be archived offsite for disaster recovery purposes.
- Ideal For Virtualized And Hybrid Environments: Featuring agentless backup capabilities, image-based backup works with any of the popular virtualized environments OR with physical servers and workstations. That versatility allows full backup and recovery within any environment, all managed from the console. Another powerful benefit of imaging is the ability to create point-in-time replicas of virtual machines for near instant recovery, allowing you to meet tight service levels.
- Near-Instant Virtualization (P2V): Image-based recovery can be converted to boot up a physical system’s backup image in most popular hypervisors, which gives users access to applications, files or their own desktops — even if physical hardware is momentarily unavailable.
- Native Data Deduplication: Daily, weekly, or monthly backups may be retained longer thanks to block-level deduplication, which can be performed inline during each backup, or as a post process such as during archiving. The storage requirement for full and incremental backups over a longer period of time is therefore greatly reduced.
- Increased Productivity: The user-friendly unified management console available with many image-based backup solutions saves time for your technicians or your client’s IT administrators, who can use it to easily and intuitively restore a machine, set up a backup policy or push an agent to a desktop. In addition, reporting capabilities provide detailed insight into the status of the backup infrastructure, and fulfill daily, weekly, monthly, and custom viewing requirements.
- Easy File-Level Recovery: Administrators can recover individual files and folders for users with ease using image-based backup. As restoring accidentally deleted or modified files is the most common user request for backup and recovery systems, this task is vital to day-to-day systems administration.
- Remote Recovery: The need for onsite IT staff is greatly reduced and often eliminated with the automation of remote recovery operations, which also minimizes the time, effort and opportunity for error. This feature is also highly valuable to resellers, allowing them to handle issues more efficiently without leaving the office.
- Fast Exchange And End User Environment Recovery: Recovery of Microsoft Exchange, any other critical business application, or an end user’s environment on a new workstation can be reduced to mere minutes in virtual environments or commonly completed in under an hour for physical systems. Ensuring business continuity with quick recovery from data loss or interruptions is the true goal behind any backup solution and, with the power of image-based backup, recovery capabilities like this represent a BDR goldmine for resellers.
- No Clunky Tapes: What IT teams and resellers might like best about image-based BDR is that there is no need for clunky tapes. And restoration of deleted or corrupt files can be done either individually or en masse within a matter of minutes, or even initiated remotely — no sorting through or changing of tapes is required. When working with large numbers of files, this makes backup both easy and fast.
The advantages of image-based backup for today’s virtualized environments are many. If your SMB clients are ready to move to a BDR approach that minimizes downtime and provides fast and efficient recovery, the time might be right for image-based backup.
Tom Fedro is President of Paragon Software Group Corp., an Irvine, Calif.-based provider of disaster recovery and backup software solutions for small business and mid-market enterprises, along with embedded file system driver technologies used by large manufacturers of consumer devices including Cisco, Seagate, Western Digital, ASUS, Toshiba, Hewlett Packard, Hitachi and many others.