3 enterprise ROBO backup factors admins should think about

Remote office data backup comes with its own unique challenges and considerations. Backup type and media can be affected by the ROBO locations and staffing needs, so choose wisely.

Many organizations have remote or branch offices today, offering locations for employees to work outside of the main office and as a place to back up and store data. Just like on site data, IT teams must ensure that off-site data is backed up and protected.

There isn't a universally preferred method for remote office/branch office (ROBO) backup. ROBO backup, when properly designed and implemented, can be hassle free and reliable. However, it does require upfront investment in tools and technology.

There are numerous ROBO backup factors and questions that can help determine which enterprise remote backup approach is the best fit for your organization.

The age-old problem: Who changes the tapes?

Tape backup is a popular choice for ROBO data because it is inexpensive, relatively low maintenance and securely located off network. However, it also presents a unique dilemma: Who changes the tapes when one is full?

On-site management is a perennial problem in distributed locations. Remote staff might not be as familiar with the data, and ROBO sites typically have IT staff but no one dedicated to backup and recovery. Fewer on-location staff members means it's also more likely that the IT person who typically performs certain tasks might be off due to holidays, vacations or other reasons.

A single failure to swap a tape can mean a day or more without a good backup, or even miss a full backup.

This is a major ROBO backup factor to consider and can make backup options like tape less appealing for a ROBO setting. Organizations might be inclined to choose a backup offering such as disk that does not require anyone in the office to manually switch tapes prior to a backup operation.

There are costs and other obstacles involved with alternatives to tape, but consider whether tape is the right fit with the staff available.

Choosing the best backup type

Typically, ROBO data volumes can vary wildly, but a big part of the puzzle is the rate of change to the data in question. There might be a large set of files that does not change frequently and is mostly read-only. So, while it might take up storage space, it reduces the workload with differential and incremental backups.

The full backups will still be affected but run over a weekend for example; it gives more time to complete the backups.

Today, WAN optimization appliances are available in both physical and virtual options. This is relatively new technology that can help reduce the volume of data to be sent. Again, these can be expensive but do play a role in certain scenarios in reducing bandwidth utilization.

Can cloud help the ROBO backup situation?

Dovetailing with the scenario of disk-based options is the question of whether cloud is an appropriate choice for ROBO backup.

For smaller data volumes the cloud can be a good option, but costs do tend to escalate quickly, especially if the organization uses a "back up absolutely everything" approach. Organizations should also consider long-term data retention off-site, especially where regulatory compliance is essential. Some cloud providers don't offer the ability to have different retention periods.

Some cloud providers such as Azure have backup and recovery tools that can work at larger scales with data retention policies.

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