Time To Rethink Corporate Backups

There are two technologies that have converged in the last several years to make the traditional approach to corporate backups insufficient to ensure that company data is secured through a backup. The first is the proliferation of broadband connections. The second is the dramatic drop in the price of laptops.

Many corporations are now opting to purchase laptops for their corporate users so that they can connect remotely to the company's network. I have observed this transition myself. In 1999 while managing a data center for Digital Insight an online banking company the only employees that were issued laptops were Executives and System Administrators. All other employees worked on desktop machines. Laptops were much more expensive then the average corporate desktop in 1999, so this policy made good economical sense for businesses. While managing the data center for Digital Insight I also observed many System Administrators openly express their indifference to the data that is stored on the corporate laptops. I was one of them. Even though we were using ARCserve for backing up all the servers, we were not concerned about the other corporate systems. The IT department instructed all the employees to save their critical work to the network drives. The corporate file servers were then backed up nightly. We did not even attempt to backup the desktops, and there simply was not a good solution for backing up the laptops, which were frequently disconnected from the network.

Fast forward to 2006 where laptop prices have almost reached parity with desktop prices (when you factor in the cost of flat panel monitors) that many businesses are not even purchasing desktops. For instance, the last company that I consulted for only issued laptops computers to its employees. Desktop computers were setup for users that were shift-based and who were required to be onsite to complete their work. While equipping employees with laptops does make sense for many businesses, laptops are more likely to be stolen, lost, damaged or suffer hard drive failures. One thing that still has not changed since 1999 is the indifference from many System Administrators to the data that is stored on these corporate laptops.

The rapid adoption of laptops as the standard corporate computer has changed the paradigm of what information needs to be backed up. Remote users simply do not even think about storing their critical information on network drives because the transfer speeds can be very slow over VPN connections. In my experience, remote users do not even bother to upload their data to the network drives. It is not unusual for me to encounter situations where laptops are disconnected from the corporate network for long periods of time and the data on these laptops never gets backed up. As the American workforce continues to become more tele-communicate friendly, the amount of corporate data on remote laptops not being backed up will only increase.

Traditional approaches such as network drives and client-server software do not take into account workers that are telecommuting. Obviously, a new approach is needed. The only thing that the Backup Administrators can depend on is that the remote users will have internet connectivity.

The situation gets much worse. Many System Administrators are asleep at the wheel, relying on the older backup solutions that depend upon the users to knowingly upload their documents to the network drives. Let me say this once and for all... It is not the users responsibility to backup their corporate laptops it is the companies responsibility! This responsibility then falls to the IT staff to insure that corporate data is not lost.

As I work with many System Administrators it is obvious that remotely backing up laptops is one of the more complex requirements that confronts corporate IT staffs. Corporate backup policies have to be updated to accommodate the modern workforce and the new backup requirements of highly mobile laptops. When Backup Administrators are analyzing possible solutions they must take these remote users into consideration and deploy a solution that with accommodate remote laptops without inconveniencing the mobile users.

Internet based backup solutions are the only solution that meet all the of the unique requirements of the modern workforce. Internet based backups are the only solutions that make good since for Administrators to manage these remote users. Many of the more robust solutions allow Administrators to manage the remote backup software configuration via a web interface. Any of the changes that the Administrator makes to the backup configuration will be automatically downloaded to the client software the next time it begins a backup. This centralized management capability is a god-send to Backup Administrators trying to implement and manage remote users.

System Administrators, Backup Administrators, and IT staff need to rethink their approach to corporate backups and integrate the new exciting capabilities that Internet backups offer. While I do not think that any organization should rely solely upon this new technology, it can dramatically simplify the complex issue of securing and backing up corporate data from remote users.

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