How Do You Avoid Bad Backups?

Every backup process is fraught with risks. The cloud is no exception. However, unlike in tape and other kinds of backup, bad backups or backup failures in the cloud can be instantly tracked and corrected.

Backup failures in the cloud can occur at source. If the backup software manager is not resilient, power failures can disrupt a backup schedule and cause a backup failure. Most cloud vendors are conscious of this problem. The software comes with log files which immediately record the failure of the backup or backup reports can be set to automatically popup on restoration of power or manually called up by the system administrator monitoring the status of the backup.

Where the client based cloud software provisions for continuous backup, the backup failure is registered in the log and the backup will resume automatically on the restoration of power. In either case, proactive cloud vendors handle bad backups and backup failures by constantly monitoring the status of customer backups from their end of the chain and notifying the customer of a backup failure via email or telephone in addition to any alerting mechanisms that may be triggered at the client end.

Poor compression, de-duplication and encryption algorithms can generate bad backups. The data being encrypted, compressed and deduplicated may become corrupted by poorly constructed algorithms, making the data unrecoverable. A similar problem can arise at destination if the data is encrypted, compressed or deduplicated at the cloud vendor’s server with poorly structured algorithms. Mid process power failures may be blamed for other types of data corruption that can occur at the client or server side of the backup process.

Unauthorised listeners on the network, employees with malafide intent or even ignorant personnel can cause a good backup to go bad. While most cloud vendors attempt to prevent hijack of data during transmission and make an all out effort to safeguard customer data from malicious attackers, no system is absolutely hacker proof. Wise users will insist on maintaining multiple copies of their backup as insurance against possible corruption of any one copy.

Data replication, data mirroring are done at the server end of the chain by cloud vendors to ensure high availability and security of customer data. Many cloud vendors encourage their customers to maintain a local copy of their data in addition to the offsite copies that they create. Many vendors offer local backup devices as part of their package. The client based software creates a local copy of the data on the onsite device even as a cloud based copy is being created on the remote server.

We, at Backup Technology, understand the security needs of our customers. Our software logs every activity that is performed and backup failures are instantly reported. The continuous backup option enables the backup to automatically resume after power is restored, while a failed schedule can be completed by manually invoking the backup process. Our encryption, decryption and compression algorithms are well tested and proven. We replicate, mirror and maintain customer information in multiple servers that are geographically disbursed to ensure high availability and disaster recovery.

Opening Doors for Innovation

Cloud is hailed as a disruptive technology, the next norm in computing. Those who have not switched to the cloud are being warned that they will be left behind in the race to tap the global market. Cloud experts sadly shake their head and say that small and medium enterprises that have not taken to the cloud are either ignorant of its benefits or are extremely risk averse. They insist that the future is in the cloud and cloudnomics will drive business innovation.

Cloudnomics banishes the 80/20 concept. Experts agree that 80/20 will no longer be the standard for innovation. Organisations can release captive IT infrastructure for redeployment in more meaningful and relevant ways. Cloud enabled services come packaged with all the hardware, software or platforms that enterprises need to optimise on their business operations.

Open standards rule the economics of the cloud. Cloudnomics is all about competition, driving down costs and improving efficiencies. The Unique selling proposition of each cloud vendor gains significance when customers are not starved for choice. The market demands “quality” of service and cloud vendors are forced to rise up to the expectations.

Cloud computing enables all kinds of businesses. It empowers small and medium enterprises compete against large, established enterprises by providing all the tools and services that were earlier available only to the latter. Branches of the enterprise, mobile workers situated in remote locations, partners, collaborators and others who interact with the enterprise can now remain connected at all times over the Internet. External and internal team collaboration, project or task management, communication and service availability can be orchestrated with amazing ease. Operational efficiency and competitiveness improve in unprecedented ways.

Scalability of the cloud is the added attraction. The pay per use model of pricing makes the latest and the most advanced technologies affordable and available to SMBs with no additional investment. The cloud vendor undertakes upgrades of hardware/software, while the user can just pay for the utility that is being enjoyed by the enterprise.

Asigra, our enabling company, is an award winning cloud service provider, who is committed to the success of its partners and customers. The unique selling proposition of the services, apart from other standard cloud features is the agentless backup technology that detects, encrypts and saves changes in the network. Bandwidth throttling ensures that the continuous backup system does not interfere with the day to day activities of the business and runs quietly and efficiently in the background.

Asigra does not hesitate to state that the success of its customers is the testimony of its own success as a service provider and is unswerving in its promise to deliver the best of the breed services. The company strongly believes in putting state-of-the-art infrastructure, software and computing tools in the hands of its customers. With more than 1,000,000 customer site deployments, Asigra leads the industry in cloud backup and recovery of mission-critical digital assets. Thousands of Asigra partners extend the market reach of the company and open the doors for innovation.

Mis-Saves—Is your Data Lost Forever?

Mis-saves happen. It is a fact of the computing world. The ‘Intelligent’ recognise the fact and provide for it. Cloud service vendors live with this reality and understand its implications. They consequently, take extraordinary efforts to ensure that mis-saves do not cause data loss for their customers.

Most cloud vendors use versioning and time stamps to distinguish between backups and protect customer data against mis-saves.

Each file that is saved into the system is tagged with a unique identifier and a time stamp. The original or the first copy of the file that is saved into the system, is called the primary file and any copies of the file saved from the same node or different nodes are identified as replicas of the original. These copies are then deleted and only one copy of the file is retained.

If changes are made to the file and it is saved into the repository, the new version of the file is compared with the existing version of the file and it is tagged as a new version with a version identifier. The backup algorithm identifies changes in the file and saves the changes to the file as a new version with references to unchanged content in the original file. Users, however, will be able to see all the content in the file version called, as data from the original file replaces the referenced sections of the file when the file is being displayed.

It follows that mis-saved files will not result in complete loss of data. Only the changes made to the new file will be lost and users can recall the original version of the file from the backup repository and redo the changes required once more. They can even use the latest version of the file that is available on the system to rebuild the lost version of the file since most cloud vendors permit users save and retain many versions of a file in the backup repository.

We, at Backup Technology, are powered by Asigra, a robust agentless cloud backup system. Our continuous backup system in place constantly monitors changes to files and saves the changed file as a new version of the file. Since new versions are created after extracting the changes and creating pointers to unchanged content—the new versions occupy less disk space and are smaller in size. Users can access versions of a single file from the storage. Additionally, the open file driver that comes with our software automatically backs up files that have been left open for long periods of time in applications such as Outlook, QuickBooks and Simply Accounting. It performs backup snapshots of data as scheduled back on to servers. So, we invite you to try our software and experience first-hand the power of always having your files saved for you automatically and constantly without conscious effort on your part!

Saving Space and Money with Data De-duplication

Like every disruptive technology, the cloud is hungrily absorbing and assimilating within itself, a number of minor innovations and utilities. Data de-duplication is one such innovation that has been successfully integrated with cloud technologies to deliver value.

Technology experts are quick to point out that data deduplication is not really a technology. It is a methodology. It is software driven process that identifies and removes data duplicates in a given data set. A single copy of the data is retained in the store, while all duplicates of the data are removed and replaced with references to the retained copy. All files that initially contained a copy of the data, now contains a reference to the data item retained in the store. Whenever the file containing the deduplicated data item is called for, an instance of the data will be inserted at the right place and a fully functional file will be generated for the user. This method of compressing data reduces the amount of disk space that is being used for data storage and reduces costs of storage.

The growing importance of de-duplication can be traced to the growing volumes of data being generated by businesses. As businesses continue to generate data, space becomes a major constraint and financial resources may have to be allocated for acquiring larger storage capacities. Consequently, any technology that allows them to “have the cake and eat it too” is welcome!

Data deduplication can be “in-line” or “post process”.

In line data deduplication is a process that de-duplicates data before it is sent to storage server. This saves on bandwidth and time-to-backup, as the amount of data being transmitted over the Internet is reduced and only the “clean” data reaches the storage server. However, the process of de-duplication at the client end of the system is itself a time consuming process and is extremely resource intensive.

Post-process de-duplication removes duplicates from the data that has been uploaded to the storage server. There is neither saving of time or bandwidth during transmission, but there is certainly a saving of processing time and client hardware resources at the point of transmission of data, since all de-duplication processes happen on the cloud vendor’s server. Modern day backup companies use a combination of the two methods for obvious advantages.

Backup Technology have integrated data-de-duplication with its cloud backup and recovery solutions. The all-in-one suites for cloud computing and online backup automatically provide data de-duplication services to the subscribing clients. The software automatically detects and deletes all duplicate data and creates appropriate references to the data during the backup process. This saves time and money and results in faster time to backup and recover. The extensive versioning that is used in tandem adds to the strength of the software as older versions of any backed up file can be recovered — even if it was deleted from the source computer. For these and other similar reasons, we invite you to try our award winning cloud backup and disaster recovery and business continuity services, powered by Asigra. We are confident that you will be completely satisfied with what we have to offer!

Selecting the Right MIS Cloud Model

Building a database in the cloud for the MIS is the easy part. Building an MIS application that draws inputs from cloud database is the difficult part. Your cloud service provider can help you or baulk your efforts in this direction. But before you look to your cloud service to provide you with the tools you need for designing and delivering a flawless MIS application to your employees, suppliers and customers, you need to get your expectations from the cloud MIS right.

The first question you should ask yourself: What is the kind of performance you expect from a cloud based MIS? Examine all the alternates available to you and arrive at your definition of optimum model for your organisation. Does the current application meet all the MIS objectives? Do you need to review? Re-engineer? Which alternate is the best fit? The answer to these questions will clarify and focus your thoughts on anticipated performance of the MIS.

Next you need to check on cost-effectiveness of the alternate cloud deployments. A cost-benefit analysis of each alternate model may come in useful in determining whether the cloud based MIS model will work for you. Even rough estimates of the costs of different components of the alternate MIS models will do to start with. Include costs of equipments; operations costs; manpower costs, maintenance costs and any other direct or indirect costs that is incurred in keeping the particular cloud MIS operational.

Third, have a deep look at the operational basis of all the MIS alternate models you have developed. Assess the strong and weak points of every alternate MIS application model you have with respect to the cloud database you will be using. Examine the quality of the database; the quality of the data, the ability of the database to withstand pressures of peak loads in processing and storage and anticipated preparedness to process ad hoc demands and handle de-duplication processes. This will give you clarity on what MIS application model will work with the cloud database and what will not.

Finally, examine the technical basis of the alternatives. Does the technology meet the requirements of storage, processing, communication, output and so on? Is the technology really available? If available, is it of the quality/ configuration expected? Will the acquisition of technology bust the budget? Is it too sophisticated for the staff to handle? The answer to these questions will put you on a firm footing with regard to what hardware/software you can and cannot use and the kind of training that may be required by your employees to use the MIS.

Conceptualising Cloud Based MIS

Conceptual design of an MIS is the output of an interactive, highly focused discussion between the business managers and IT professionals. It is a high level definition of the MIS objectives, guiding policies and constraints with reasoned consideration of viable inputs, storage, outputs, communication protocols and business processes for generation of alternate MIS designs and the selection of the best fit design for the organisation.

Input for MIS may be received from external sources or internal sources. For instance, a steel manufacturing company may receive inputs on market price of iron ore; cost of transportation etc from external sources. They may have information about iron ore smelting, cleaning and processing times from internal sources. They may have some intellectual property—a formula for extracting the iron from the iron ore cost effectively. The business managers and the IT professionals will have to decide how they will integrate the information received from these different sources and how they will communicate the re-ordered information with employees at different levels of the organisation.

If the organisation has a number of branches scattered across geographical regions, the MIS design will have to give a serious consideration to whether the data should be centralised or distributed. Both kinds of databases have their advantages and disadvantages will have data retrieval impact. The time to access; the speed of access; latency issues etc will determine how the organisation wants to make its data available to its employees. The volume of information available or generated by the system will impact capacity planning and have a role to play in the kind of scalability of system the organisation wishes to deploy. The sequential or relational nature of the information will further determine how the information is organised and made available.

Organisations may process information in batches or record by record. Combination approaches are also not uncommon. The use of sophisticated modelling techniques in information processing may require the use of complex applications such as CAD/CAM and these applications may have to be re-configured; re-engineered for cloud deployment. Simpler applications such as word processing may be deployed with public licensing or shared licensing systems.

Ultimately, the test of the system is in the output. The system design must ensure that the system will be capable of delivering the right kind of output to the right level of employee in time at the right frequency. The output may be visual or verbal. It may be direct or routed through the senior management.

It is important to get the conceptual level of MIS design for the cloud right. It is the basis on which the detailing for the cloud is built.

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