Jay Butler, Senior Technical Consultant

Is your data fully protected right now? Perhaps you are concerned with last night’s backup failure, or maybe you worry that something is missing from your backups. Are you frustrated with dealing with tapes or removable hard drives? Are you sure that your backups are secure? Safe Systems is now offering an online backup solution to address these issues and ease the pain associated with traditional backups.

Safe Systems has been investigating online data vaulting as a valuable emerging technology for our clients for more than two years. In partnership with Iron Mountain Digital, we are now offering data vaulting as a managed service for our clients. Safe Systems is employing Iron Mountain’s proven LiveVault software to centrally manage each server backup from our Network Operations Center (NOC). Backup data is securely stored in Iron Mountain’s online storage vault. This service can completely eliminate the need for onsite backups, freeing you or your staff from the time-consuming burden of backup management.

LiveVault is a continuous backup solution that constantly monitors a system for any file changes. As soon as a file change occurs, the altered data is immediately backed up to a central location. This ensures that the most recent copy of data is always available for recovery and eliminates the need for after-hours backup. Additionally, LiveVault offers point-in-time snapshots to allow recovery of files from a specific date and time. This feature protects against accidental file deletion or unwanted file changes. In these two ways, LiveVault is similar to many existing continuous backup products, such as Symantec Backup Exec with Continuous Protection Server (CPS). In many other respects, however, LiveVault greatly outperforms existing onsite solutions.

LiveVault can simultaneously backup data directly to the Iron Mountain data vault and to an optional central Network Attached Storage (NAS) device installed at the customer location (see Figure 1 below). The NAS option allows for local restores, resulting in a faster recovery than Internet only restores.

If your Internet connection fails, LiveVault will automatically resume the backup to the vault archive once connectivity is restored. Additionally, LiveVault continuously protects databases, such as Microsoft Exchange and SQL. If a restore is needed, LiveVault can recover email or databases changes to the time immediately preceding the loss event. This feature extends beyond the capability of Backup Exec and CPS to provide a real-time backup of these critical applications.

Figure 1: Schematic of a LiveVault implementation (click to view larger)

Security is another area where LiveVault stands out. LiveVault server agents report over a secure channel to the management console where backup jobs are monitored and configured. Strong encryption protects all data as it leaves the server during continuous off-site backup to Iron Mountainâ’s redundant digital bunkers. Encryption passwords created during the setup process are used to effectively protect the data, even during storage in the online vault. These controls provide complete end-to-end security throughout the entire backup process and reduce the risks of identity theft due to data loss. With LiveVault, there is virtually zero risk of data exposure.

Perhaps the most significant benefit of LiveVault, however, is its simplicity. LiveVault fully protects all critical data, including databases, via a single backup job. A single backup job to configure also means a single backup job to monitor. Additionally, there is a single console from which to manage the entire process. This service also completely eliminates the need for offline media, such as backup tapes or removable hard drives. Removing offline media eliminates a host of other issues: complex media rotation schedules, courier services, cleaning tape drives, daily swapping of backup media, annually purchasing new backup tapes, etc. As a managed service, Safe Systems can provide real-time monitoring of LiveVault backups through our NOC to further reduce the burden on your institution.

The following chart details some of the advantages of the LiveVault backup option:

LiveVault Symantec CPS with Backup Exec
Offline backups Continuous. Point in time, after hours.
Offsite backups Continuous. Next day.
Transportation of offsite backups No employee involvement. An employee must physically remove the backup then transport it offsite.
Transportation of offsite backup – risks Data encrypted over entire path. Risk of tape/drive being lost, stolen, or damaged.
Encryption Data encrypted by default from server to storage. Only the offline backup is encrypted.
Offsite storage Redundant digital bunkers 1000s of miles away from most clients. Often close enough to main office that a disaster could take out both.
Encryption passwords Securely stored at Iron Mountain. Password is recoverable and changeable. Data Recoverable. Lost if the employee(s) who knew the password is gone.
Microsoft databases (including Exchange and SQL) Backed up continuously. Only backed up during the nightly backup job.
Software licenses None. When adding new servers, often necessary to upgrade all servers to current version.
Capacity limitations None. Capacity limitations inherent with external media.
Recovery Can recover anywhere. Online recovery can begin at anytime. Must track down media and transport to recovery site, potential compatibility issues with recovery servers.

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