Magazine article Computers in Libraries

Researching. Evaluating. and Choosing a Backup Service in the Cloud

Magazine article Computers in Libraries

Researching. Evaluating. and Choosing a Backup Service in the Cloud

Article excerpt

Recovery - another feature that differentiates various cloud backup vendors - should be easily accomplished.

Backups are a modern fact of life. Every organization that has any kind of computing technology (and that is all of them these days) needs to back up its data in case of technological or user errors. Traditionally, large-scale backups have been done via an internal or external tape drive that takes magnetic tapes (minicassettes, essentially) and puts the compressed data from the server onto the tape. These tapes are neither cheap nor fast and require a human being to move them around. From changing tapes on a daily basis to moving tapes out of the initial location in case of catastrophic damage to the organization's building (think earthquake or tornado), their maintenance is pretty labor-intensive, at least in comparison to a backup solution that takes advantage of always-on internet access and nighttime low-bandwidth times to run backup copies of the data and send it, via the internet, to the cloud.

For smaller organizations that have computer workstations but no in-house servers to use for backup, something such as Dropbox ( or Box ( would work to back up important files on each computer. Installation of the client for both backup providers is pretty easy, and once the Dropbox or Box folder is in place, remembering to store documents that you want backed up is the extent of the brain power required to make sure your data is both safe in a physically removed location (the backup providers' servers in the cloud) and easily recoverable (both services allow you to log in to their websites from any computer and redownload your data at any time). Both services mentioned here have free options that run from 2 GB to 5GB of data, and both offer more storage for a relatively small fee. These sorts of services are ideal for very small libraries that have a few staff members who need to easily back up their documents and important files.

For larger libraries that have inhouse servers and a more complicated technological setup, the general idea is the same, but there may be more cost and complexity associated with the setup of a backup solution. Most libraries that have servers in their buildings use those servers for file sharing and domain controlling purposes, as well as for any other purposes from website hosting to ILS management to running displays throughout the library. All of these server functions are important to libraries, and all must be protected in events such as a tornado or a system administrator with fumbling fingers.

Our library, the Missouri River Regional Library, is a midsize public library with several servers that perform domain controller, file-sharing, website serving, and display management services. We used to use traditional tape backups. I would change the tapes on a daily basis, and twice a week, I would send them to off-site storage at our branch library, which was 20 miles away, for physical security purposes. Today, I do none of that. I've switched to cloud backups for all of the computers in the library, and, for just a bit more money than buying tapes, I have completely eliminated the need to fuss with backups at all.

When it came time to buy a new set of magnetic tapes for our backups and to replace one of our servers, I decided to check out the possibility of using the cloud to back up our data, avoiding the purchase of more tapes and a tape drive for the new server. I discovered that there were a number of vendors out there willing and able to provide us with backup solutions - but those solutions were sometimes difficult to compare and required that I have a pretty good idea of everything we were backing up to accurately gauge the storage we would need.

Audit Yourself!

Evaluation of all of our current backups was the first step. I went through each server, which was backing up to its own tape drive, and determined the size of the monthly backups. …

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