If you need a better answer for in-house data backup services but can't afford full-blown high-availability solutions, here are some other options.
Thirty years ago (or maybe as recently as last night at some small businesses), a "typical" in-house backup and recovery strategy was to back up all the hard drives on the server and hang the tape in a library until next week, when it would be time to overwrite "Monday's" tape with next Monday's backup.
You know your business is small if you can still get away with this approach. Now, formulating a backup and recovery strategy is a thicket of decisions about choosing tape or no tape, hanging the tape onsite or offsite, using software only or a combined hardware/software solution, or just signing up with some cloud-service provider and be done with it all. And that doesn't take into account whether you're including all the client machines or just all the servers in the backup plan.
High-availability software and service providers will tell you the best plan is hot backup to an offsite server. That way, you can make the offsite machine your production server with the flick of a switch so you won't lose a single byte of data or a single second of processing time, no matter what's happening at your site or in your general neighborhood.
And of course, they're right about that being the best solution from a reliability standpoint.
But maybe you can't afford that, handy and airtight and slick as that would be. Maybe you can afford the four or six hours of downtime it would take to recover manually from your own backups more easily than you can pay for the service and licensing fees that come with high-availability systems. If that's your decision, though, that's not the end of the thinking.
Should you use some kind of software-only backup and recovery software? Should you rely on a combined hardware/software solution for the best results? Or should you just leave it in the hands of some service provider? Opinions differ on what the best path might be, and money isn’t the only consideration.
Hardware vs. Software vs. Service Solutions
"The choice of a software or hardware appliance backup solution is largely dependent on how an enterprise wishes to deploy their backup technology," observes Dave LeClair, vice president of product marketing at Unitrends. "With an all-in-one physical backup appliance, the hard work of integrating servers, storage, operating systems, backup software, and so forth, is removed. You simply buy it, turn it on, configure it, and get on with your other tasks. A software-only solution requires IT to do more integration work but lets them run their backup solution on their choice of hardware. Both have their advantages."
"Whether the backup and recovery platform is on premises or leverages some off-premise or cloud-based services is not as important so long as the solution chosen by the backup team does not expose a company to liability," stresses Giacomo Lorenzin, managing director of HiT Software, a BackOffice Associates company. "For example, the backup and recovery team should make sure that the data from an ERP or CRM application is backed up properly so that, in case of hardware failure, the data can be quickly restored and users will not experience business interruption."
"There are various ways to accomplish this task," he continues. "One way is migrating and synchronizing data among disparate relational databases implementing Change Data Capture (CDC). This refers to an on-premise solution where the main database is replicated in real time to a secondary database so that, if something happens to the production database, the backup database can be made immediately operational. The advantage of using a CDC solution is that it can be applied for other activities, such as reporting, business intelligence, data warehousing, and data integration in general."
On the other hand, opting out via using a cloud service offering may not be the easy solution it might seem. To Brad Jenson, CEO at Electronic Storage Corporation (ESC), the keys to a backup strategy are "capacity and speed. Cloud storage is horribly slow and should only be used as a last-resort backup."
Unitrend's LeClair agrees. "A cloud-only solution is fraught with issues. At first glance, cloud storage provides abundant, cheap storage that can be expanded rapidly as needed. However, for enterprises that have large data sets, there are limitations that must be considered. Cloud solutions are dependent on sending large amounts of data over WAN connections. A typical data center has many terabytes of data on-premise, and moving this to the cloud can be a daunting task. Even with a high transfer-rate WAN pipeline, it can take days to transfer this large amount of data. Likewise, when having to restore from the cloud, WAN bandwidth can be a limiting factor. Therefore, relying solely on a cloud solution may put the enterprise into a situation where they are not able to meet backup windows, recover quickly from a downtime event, or restore data when needed."
Particularly when needing to back up client machines is part of the equation, "using Windows deduplication, the customer can keep many backups close at hand and still replicate them across the network or the Internet," suggests ESC's Jensen, thereby providing better backup services with a local solution than a cloud-based service can.
Above all, HiT Software's Lorenzin says, "It's very important for enterprises to maintain an in-house team that is responsible for planning a backup and recovery strategy. Having a team that understands a company’s best practices for managing backup and recovery activities ensures the enterprise's ability to properly address challenges and that any hardware or software problems will be resolved in an efficient and timely manner."
Backing Up Into the Future
As varied as backup and recovery strategies might be, life isn't going to get easier for IT strategists anytime soon.
"In the next 10 years, there will be a tenfold increase in servers, a 50-fold increase in data, and data files will grow 75 times, while IT staff will only increase by 50 percent," warns LeClair. "The explosion of data and servers, limited IT staff and budgets, and the pressing need to adopt the new IT design paradigms, such as cloud, big data and mobile initiative, all strain IT today."
Jensen agrees. "The biggest problem is the ever-increasing size of backups and the desire for improved recovery point objectives [RPOs] and recovery time objectives [RTOs]."
Perhaps the best plan for the future of backups is formulating a hybrid plan that uses the best elements of hardware, software, local, and remote options. "By having local backup available (for fast recovery when needed) augmented by a cloud solution (for disaster recovery or to store many years of archives), enterprises can get the best of both worlds and be protected from a wide range of potential issues that can disrupt their businesses," LeClair concludes.
"If a company chooses a hybrid backup and recovery solution, then the cloud component must be in alignment with the on-premise one,” Lorenzin emphasizes. "Additionally, every company planning for a backup and recovery process should also address data archiving. Data that is no longer needed in everyday operations should be removed from the database and archived in a consistent, secure, and easy-to-be-retrieved manner."
Regardless of what sort of backup and recovery strategy you might follow, below are a number of options that support numerous paths to saving your data. Please be aware that the product and service descriptions only summarize the highpoints of each offering. For more complete information, be sure to use the links to the product websites included with the name of each offering.
Backup and Recovery Software for IBM i Servers
ASG Software Solutions
ASG-Time Navigator is a backup and recovery solution for saving and restoring files from any point in time from any backup media for IBM i servers running Linux or Windows. Security features include encryption, digital signatures, and hierarchical encryption-key management.
Simpana is backup and recovery software for a variety of platforms, including servers running DB2 and Lotus Notes. Features include virtual machine integration, data snapshot management, single-pass backup and archiving, and data replication for disaster recovery.
Electronic Storage Corporation
LaserVault Backup is a software library for IBM i servers that provides a tapeless disk-to-disk backup system without requiring a virtual tape library. It implements custom versions of save commands similar to current IBM commands and requires only a Windows-based backup server to function.
Avamar is backup and data deduplication software for IBM i and other servers running AIX and Linux. It emphasizes full daily backups and one-step recovery processes and can handle up to 124 TB of data.
Evault's backup software automatically backs up multiplatform physical and virtual servers, either onsite or remotely. It lets users monitor and control backups via browser and offers WAN-based methods that speed backup operations.
Robot/SAVE is automated backup and disaster-recovery software that includes automatic backup and recovery, data encryption, object archiving, automated restricted-state saves, and other features.
HiT Software, a BackOffice Associates Company
DBMoto for IBM i lets users migrate, convert, share, or synchronize data between multiple IBM i servers. It includes APIs for interfacing with other software applications, captures data changes based on event logs, and supports any number of transactions.
Tivoli Storage Manager for System Backup and Recovery is designed for IBM i servers running AIX. The product provides system backup, restore, and reinstallation capabilities, as well as utilities to create backup scripts or schedules, choices of backup types, and pass-through support that lets servers communicate with other AIX servers through firewalls.
LXI Enterprise Storage
The iSeries Open Client offering lets enterprises control backups of multiple open-systems servers, including IBM i servers, from a single console. It lets users standardize backup policies across all platforms, access detailed lists of libraries and objects on IBM i servers, and bring IBM i servers under central management via an open API.
Pinnacle Business Systems
TRAC/400 software handles backup and recovery and media-management operations across multiple IBM i servers and interfaces with virtually all job-scheduling utilities. It offers total data backups, predefined backups, scheduled backup strategies, and concurrent or simultaneous saves.
Unitrends offers IBM i-specific software for handling backups. Features include user choice of full or differential backup schedules, adaptive deduplication of data, and user-specified granular determination of file and folder exclusions.
Backup and Recovery Hardware/Software Combinations for IBM i Servers
Electronic Storage Corporation
LaserVault Universal Backup Device (UBD) is an appliance that plugs into IBM i servers and appears to the system as a tape drive.
EMC DataDomain is a hardware device with onboard software that offers backup and recovery, domain replication, data deduplication, data encryption, and domain management from a central console.
ANTARES is a storage appliance for IBM i servers and other platforms running Linux, UNIX, and Windows. It offers backup and virtualization services for multiplatform computer environments.
ECLIPSE is a gateway backup storage appliance that attaches EMC DataDomain and other deduplication storage solutions to a variety of platforms, including IBM i and Power Systems servers running i5/OS, AIX, and Linux.
Storage Director is a hardware product that attaches to IBM i machines and other host servers to provide a consolidated connection to backup or virtualization devices. Among other features, onboard software provides backup and recovery services, AES data encryption, monitoring and planning capabilities, and data replication to remote servers or storage devices.
Backup and Recovery Services for IBM i Servers
Asigra Cloud Backup is designed to provide backup and recovery services for public, private, and hybrid cloud environments and supports backups for virtual machines as well as physical servers. It can be purchased either as software for onsite personnel to use or as a SaaS service offering managed by Asigra.
Champion Solutions Group
Champion's Cloud Storage Strategies provides cloud-based backup and recovery, long-term archiving, and disaster-recovery services. Services include 256-bit AES encryption over Secure Sockets Layer (SSL), unlimited online public folders, sharing of files of any size via email, and ability to see file-access and sharing history.
Server Virtualization services include backup/recovery/data-sharing with virtual servers, server consolidation, and disaster recovery. User options include creation of multiple virtual servers on a single physical server, tracking of virtual machine activity, SOX/HIPAA/PCI-DSS standards compliance, and auditing aids.
CPS Technology Solutions
CPS offers backup and disaster recovery services for a variety of platforms, including IBM i servers. Options include disk-to-disk backup, remote replication, cloud backups, and disaster-recovery planning.
Data Storage Corporation
Data Storage Corporation provides remote backup and recovery subscription-based services for IBM i servers. The service provides off-site data storage, electronic data vaulting, and encryption and password protection of data.
HiT Software, a BackOffice Associates Company
DBMoto Cloud Edition provides cloud-based data replication for moving or sharing data with remote systems. It supports IBM DB2 as both source and target databases, enables administrator-defined mapping rules, provides administrative wizards to streamline setup, and offers a mirroring mode that performs incremental replications in real time.
Blue Cloud Services provides hosted-service, cloud-based backup and recovery and HA for IBM i and open-systems servers.
LXI Enterprise Storage
Information Lifecycle Management includes backup and recovery management, tape management, vault management, Lotus Notes/Domino hot backup, and other services for IBM i, AIX, and Linux servers, as well as servers using other operating systems.
Storagepipe Off-Site Cloud Backup & Recovery Service provides backup-related services via either the Internet or custom direct connections. Features include bare-metal restoration capabilities, the ability to back up only files that have been changed or are new, hot backup and recovery of databases and applications from operational systems that run 24/7, and dynamic multi-threaded transfers.
Storagepipe's iSeries Online Backup is a backup and recovery service tailored to IBM i servers that features integrated archiving, automatic backup encryption, incremental backups after an initial full-system backup, an unlimited scalability.
United Computer Group
Vault 400 backs up entire contents of IBM i servers to secure data centers. The service offers compliance with HIPAA and other legal standards, data encryption, online access to backed-up date by authorized users, and data compression for faster service completion.