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Offsite Backup Definition and Types. How to choose an offsite backup solution?

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Updated 14th September 2022, Rob Morrison

What is offsite data backup solution? The most popular offsite backup challenges and features.

Every modern company understands that there is a possibility of malfunction in storing important information, so businesses try to protect their data by backing it up. In case of damage to hardware, software, etc. and consequent loss of important data, it is then possible to recover it. There are two ways to backup corporate data and each of them have both advantages and disadvantages: these are onsite and offsite backup.

Offsite backup is the replication of the data to a server which is separated geographically from a production systems site. Offsite data backup may also be done via direct access, over Wide Area Network (WAN). Onsite backup means the storage of the backup data on local storage devices such as hard drives, DVDs, and more.

offsite data backup solutions architecture

Main benefits of the offsite backup:

  • access to the necessary data from any location by using File Transfer Protocol (FTP) or Internet;
  • the data can’t be destroyed in case of fire or other disaster at the principle site, and can’t be stolen unlike onsite storage units;
  • offsite backup solutions may be more reliable than onsite because the data is backed up automatically.

Offsite backup solutions help organizations to safeguard digital information from unexpected events which in one way or another represent data loss, partial or total, which may affect the organizations operation.

For protection of digital information, two different approaches are typically used for the destination of backups: local and/or remote locations.

Local locations are used, generally, for the backup of information of equipment of a LAN to tapes or autochangers connected directly to the servers, or to NAS or SAN solutions, or in a same physical space. They are physically close by, but in a different, accessible place.

Local data backup allows organizations to have a mechanism to recover user or machine information from computer systems, applications, databases, etc., in situations that are usually only affecting operations in a partial manner. Often there are different levels of criticality according to the processes involved. Generally, many of these data recovery situations are accidentally caused by users.

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It may be important that with local backup, the speed of both backup and recovery processes are probably faster, assuming a reasonable network, and the times of recovery are less in comparison with other backup destinations. This may be significant in achieving successful compliance with an organization’s policies regarding backup windows and other requirements.

The use of remote locations on the other hand, guarantees organizations to have recovery mechanisms in case of situations that totally affect their operations. For example, in the case of natural disasters (earthquakes, hurricanes, floods, etc.) or physical failures in infrastructure, such as electrical problems, fires, access control violations, robberies or other forms of attack.

For the management of remote destinations, it is necessary that the backup applications consider and manage the necessary variables needed for operation. This is the offsite backup solution concept, which maintains the characteristics of a backup and recovery solution while allowing the copy and retrieval of the data to/from remote storage sites. This could involve a remote device or computer system, or a service or resource in the cloud, such as Google, Amazon S3, Microsoft Azure, etc. Of course, adequate levels of security and speed are important

Main differences between onsite and offsite backup types

Even though onsite and offsite backups can be useful in specific cases, it’s still possible to directly compare them.

For example, onsite storage is typically less expensive than the offsite, for a number of reasons. The data transfer speed is also faster than with offsite backups, and it requires no internet connection, as well, due to the close proximity of your onsite servers.

On the other hand, onsite storage can be easily destroyed if any disaster occurs at your main office, and you’ll have no way of returning all of your data in that case. This also works for robberies, as well – the consequences of someone stealing your storage units would be the same as in the event of them being destroyed. That’s where offsite backup type comes in, as a way of not losing your data due to an unfortunate event.

Some specific offsite storage advantages also include the ability to share backup data in the several different physical locations, the possibility to gain access to your data from anywhere by using only your internet connection (or via FTP). And, of course, at least one copy of your data survives if there’s a tornado at your main office and your entire main building is gone.

Of course, the offsite backup type isn’t exactly perfect, as well. For once, accessing your data can be problematic in some cases – if you need your data at the time when your server is offline for the routine maintenance job, or something similar. Of course, clients of such servers are warned about these time frames beforehand, but it’s still quite inconvenient if you need immediate access to that data.

Different ways of creating your offsite backups

As it stands, offsite backup means that you have to transfer your data into the remote location somehow. There’s two main ways of doing this – traditional and modern.

Traditional method means transferring copies of your data directly over to the different storage devices. For example, creating a copy of your data once a week, moving this copy to your own external drive and storing this drive anywhere other than your office – even using a safe deposit box in a bank isn’t out of the question. On the other hand, using tape as your offsite data storage is a possibility, as well. As you can imagine, this method is difficult, time-consuming and limits the frequency of your offsite backups, which might cost you weeks of progress if you suddenly have to restore a month-old copy of your data.

That’s where the modern way comes in – transferring files via the internet. Simple as that – there’s a number of different internet backup services that you can set up and it’ll be automatically copying your data to the designated location. Most of the third-party backup solutions are capable of offering the same feature, as well.

While the traditional way might come in handy in specific cases, the nature of the modern world leaves no doubt that transferring your data using the Internet is probably the best transferring method we have so far. And while using tape as a primary offsite backup storage can be considered a part of the traditional method – the data itself can be transferred there using an internet connection, as well.

Offsite backup as a helpful measure in case of a data breach

A natural disaster or an unfortunate accident aren’t the only reasons that can cause data loss. Another popular factor of losing a company’s data is a data breach. Data breach is when your sensitive or private data gets into the hands of an unauthorized party. Data breaches are getting more and more common in the last several years, and a new breach happens basically every month or even more often, causing a lot of sensitive data to get into the wrong hands.

There are several different exploits and weaknesses that can be used to gain access to your data, including weak passwords, malware, software vulnerabilities, and more. The main purpose of offsite backups in case of a data breach is the ability to get a clean copy of your data that is not infected to look for a way to start cleaning up your main server from compromised data. Having offsite backups also allows you to lessen the downtime caused by a data breach. Such advantages could’ve been helpful to a lot of companies that suffered a data breach in the last several years, like Landry’s, PhotoSquared, and more.

Offsite backup best practices

Offsite backup can become your last hope in case of a disaster. And even though a lot of companies know this, there’s still a lot of mistakes when it comes to offsite backup handling. Here are some of the best practices that you should implement with your offsite backup.

  • Verify your backups manually or automatically. It is not impossible for a backup to go wrong somehow, and you’ll probably only know it only when you’ll need that backup to be ready for the restoration process. That’s why it’s important to have at least some way of monitoring your backups. One way to do it is to perform it manually or have a specific person that does that for you – although there are some backup solutions that offer automatic backup monitoring, too.
  • Plan your storage expenses. Knowing how much storage you need is quite important when it comes to choosing a proper offsite backup solution. Underestimating your data size would leave you with incomplete backups and other problems, and overestimating may cause you to pay much more that you should have for the same backup service. Some backup solutions might offer estimating your data size and predicting how much you’ll need, as well – it’s a useful feature if you don’t know or don’t want to learn that by yourself.
  • Use a reliable connection and a high data transmission speed. This one is as simple as it gets, the speed of your offsite backup process is heavily dependent on your network speed, increasing your speed should decrease the overall copying time, but might bring additional fees thanks to the network speed increase. On the other hand, keeping your internet connection speed at sub-par levels would bring you a lot more problems than just a longer offsite copying process and is not worth the difference in data plans most of the time.
  • Use services that offer configurable scheduling. While it is possible to perform scheduling by yourself, it’s still a question of time when you’ll make some sort of error that would cost you a lot of money. That’s why a lot of services nowadays are capable of offering various scheduling options and features that take this burden away from you. For example, there’s a question of chaining backups. There are some cases when doing those is necessary, but most of the time it’s an unnecessary risk – one failed backup would bring down the entire chain with it. Automated systems are capable of deciding by themselves if there’s a need for the backup chains to appear, most of the time.

These might be the obvious things, but a lot of companies still tend to forget about at least some of them. And that’s not all of the typical mistakes, as well. But knowing and using these offsite backup best practices might save you a lot of time and money in the possible future.

Offsite backup is a well-known solution architecture approach between cloud backup and disaster recovery applications, and should offer the following features:

  • Bare metal restore (BMR), a technique that allows backing up the data in a way that is available to be restored in a computer system from “bare metal”, that is, a computer without any operating system and installed applications. The backed up data is available in a form which enables a system administrator to restore a computer system from “bare metal”, i.e. without any requirements as to previously installed software or operating system.
  • Management of snapshots of instances defined and configured in virtualization environments, both in physical equipment and in resources defined in the cloud.
  • Facilities for handling archiving, which allows storing data archives in order to maintain them for a determined period of time and perform search operations and information queries, for specific time scenarios.
  • Replication of information between different locations, which allows for higher levels of protection and security of backup volumes. When this is done to different physical locations, the possibilities of data loss are minimized.
  • Facilitate and allow the implementation of a disaster recovery solution, taking into account the aforementioned characteristics, security and optimization of network speed and bandwidth This is to protect companies from the occurrence of situations that could adversely affect its total operations, not necessarily only in the area of technology.
  • Have mechanisms and tools that provide optimal levels of speed for the execution of backup and recovery activities, as well as the adequate protection of records. This in turn increases the reliability of the solution implemented, since companies have an effective backup of their information, both operational, administrative and management.
  • Offer organizations fair and affordable prices and costs, which allow them not only to install and configure effective offsite backup software, but also to grow as information volume and operation requirements increase with time.
  • Offer excellent technical support, which guarantees users to have effective and timely offsite backup solutions to incidents and problems that may occur in connection with the operation of the application. This support can come from different sources, such as the community of users (in case of using an open source offsite backup solution) and/or the company that sold and/or created the solution. Users may be subject to different levels of service, but the service should have an ultimate outcome: always provide a solution to the user.

In addition to the above functions offsite backup solutions may also allow:

  • Remote access to backed up data from anywhere to people with the appropriate permissions and access levels.
  • Reduced maintenance costs of backup infrastructure in resources such as servers, tape drives and robotics. In the case of cloud-based solutions, expenses related to these items are not necessary. With a cloud based solution, all activities of maintenance and replacement of parts and equipment are carried out by the responsible provider of the datacenter and its platform.
  • Management of the resources defined in virtual environments, in a way that makes their implementation possible in an agile and efficient way. These include: snapshots, virtual instance backups and host that are running virtualized environments, etc.

Therefore, offsite backup software should consider:

  • Security in the safekeeping of the data, since they are in relatively publicly accessible sites on a network. In the case of remote locations belonging to the company, levels of physical access to these sites must to be reinforced.
  • Organization and adequate management of bandwidth, in order to ensure the execution of the copy processes in an integrated manner and with adequate response times for the restoration operations, according to service levels.
  • Easy adaptability to the changes that may occur in the configuration of the information to be backed up or recovered, as well as the resources to be used.

In addition to the above, there is an important point to consider in offsite backup solution based on the cloud: the increasingly frequent use of hybrid platforms, that is, those with shared resources in local and remote sites, managed from a single software platform. This represents an operative scenario with potentially more elements to be taken care of.

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About the author
Rob Morrison
Rob Morrison is the marketing director at Bacula Systems. He started his IT marketing career with Silicon Graphics in Switzerland, performing strongly in various marketing management roles for almost 10 years. In the next 10 years Rob also held various marketing management positions in JBoss, Red Hat and Pentaho ensuring market share growth for these well-known companies. He is a graduate of Plymouth University and holds an Honours Digital Media and Communications degree, and completed an Overseas Studies Program.
  1. Allison

    This is a great post about offsite backup definition and types. Here is also a detailed review of qualities and techniques of offsite data backup.

  2. Martin

    There is a lot of offsite backup solutions, and they have a wide range of benefits such as cost-effectivness and a greater degree of corporate control over backup practices, access to the necessary data from any location, and more. That’s why I prefer offsite, not onsite backup.

  3. Adam

    Great post about onsite and offsite data backup. It’s important to know all features and types of solutions to choose the right one.

  4. Peter

    To prevent the loss of important data every company uses backup solutions. That’s a very useful and informative post for those who wants to choose offsite data backup solution.

  5. Hilda

    @Adam there’s also best practices for offsite backups, as well as use cases for offsite backup solutions. At the end of the day, every bit of information makes your own choice a bit easier.

  6. Darsh

    While the information about offsite backup solutions and their features was important, I’m more interested in the differences between onsite and offsite backups and why there’s a difference in the first place. This was an interesting read.

  7. Matthew

    In my opinion, part of the best practices about a reliable internet connection is probably the most important one. Too many things can go wrong if your internet suddenly disappears in the middle of the working day. Great article all in all.

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