Remote backup service explained

A remote, online, or hosting managed backup service is a service that provides users with an online system for backing up and storing computer files on web hositng servers. Managed backup providers are companies that provide this type of service.

Online backup systems are typically built around a client software program that runs on a schedule, typically once a day. This program collects, compresses, encrypts, and transfers the data to the remote backup service provider's servers. Other types of product are also available in the market, such as remote continuous data protection (CDP).

Best Hosting Providers of this type of service frequently target specific market segments. High-end LAN-based backup systems may offer services such as near-realtime transaction-level replication or open file backups. Consumer online backup companies frequently have beta software offerings and/or free-trial backup services.

Typical features

Opened File Backup: The ability to back up files that are extensively opened, such as Outlook files (*.pst) or SQL database files can be useful. Such ability allows IT administrators to run back up jobs any time of the day, not requiring setting aside server maintenance time. Most online backup products need an add-on for this. Higher-end products support this natively.
Multi-platform: A Multi-platform backup service can back up multiple platforms such as the various flavours of Windows, Macintosh, and Linux/UNIX. Many newer entrants only back up Windows XP, for example.
Multi-site: A feature of some services is the capability to back up the primary site data plus remote offices and branch offices in a relatively seamless manner.
Continuous backup: allows the tool to back up continuously or on a predefined schedule. Both methods have advantages and disadvantages. Most backup tools are schedule-based and perform backups at a predetermined time. Some services provide continuous data backups which are used by large financial institutions and large online retailers. However, there is typically a tradeoff with performance and system resources.
Online Access to files: Some services allow you to access your backed up files via a normal web browser. Many tools do not provide this type of functionality.
Binary Compression: A way to minimize network traffic is to transfer only the binary data that has changed from one day to the next. The more serious tools use this method rather than transfer entire files. Tools originally designed for network backup use this method.

Cost factors

Online backup services are usually priced as a function of the following things:

  1. The total amount of data being backed up.
  2. The number of machines covered by the backup service.
  3. The maximum number of versions of each file that are kept.

Vendors typically limit the number of versions of a file that can be kept in the system. Some services omit this restriction and provide an unlimited number of versions. Add-on features (plug-ins), like the ability to back up currently open or locked files, are usually charged as an extra, but some services provide this built in.

Advantages of remote backup

Remote backup has advantages over traditional backup methods:
  • Remote backup does not require user intervention. The user does not have to change tapes, label CDs or perform other manual steps.
  • Remote backup maintains data offsite. Perhaps the most important aspect of backing up is that backups are stored in a different location from the original data. Traditional backup requires manually taking the backup media offsite.
  • Some remote backup services will work continuously, backing up files as they are changed.
  • Most remote backup services will maintain a list of versions of your files.

Disadvantages of remote backup

Remote backup has some disadvantages:
  • Depending on the available network bandwidth, the restoration of data can be slow. Because data is stored offsite, the data must be recovered either via the Internet or via tape or disk shipped from the online backup service provider.
  • It is possible that a remote backup service provider could go out of business or be purchased, which may affect the accessibility of one's data or the cost to continue using the service.

See also

  • Off-site Data Protection - The practice of sending data off-site for safe keeping, but not necessarily using a remote backup service.
  • List of backup software (includes Managed backup providers)
  • Distributed internet backup system - An Open Source remote backup scheme.

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