So you’re shopping around for the best deal on your backup solution. Nothing wrong with that. In fact, it’s what you should be doing. But there’s a very big difference between paying the lowest possible price for the capabilities your business needs, and undercutting the recoverability of crucial systems and data to save a few bucks.
At the end of the day, your business is going to lose a lot more money if it can’t recover its vital data and systems, than it ever would have paid for a decent backup solution.
Let’s take a look at 4 telltale signs that you might be compromising the recoverability your business may one day depend upon.
Telltale sign #4: You’ve just uttered the phrase “I’m looking for a free solution”
Unfortunately, in life there is no such thing as a free lunch. Well, there’s no such thing as a free backup solution either. At least not a comprehensive one.
No matter what free backup solution you’re looking at, we can promise you it’s always going to fall into one of these three categories:
- The hobby
- The bait
- The default
So let’s drill down on what each of these categories represents, and why they’re usually a bad idea if you’re serious about recovering mission-critical systems and data.
What we’re talking about here is open-source backup solutions. These are generally hobby-projects thrown together either by amateur developers, or professionals who have a bit of free time on their hands and thought it might be a fun project. Don’t get us wrong – these kinds of solutions can often work for certain non-production environments. But there are some serious downsides that mean you should think very carefully before placing the recoverability of your business into the hands of this kind of solution.
- No support
- No (or inadequate) development and fixes
- Limited features
- Difficult or time-consuming administration
Here, we’re talking big-name commercial solutions that kindly offer a ‘free version.’ Well, remember what we said about there being no such thing as a free lunch?
Surprising though it may be, multi-million or billion dollar businesses are not interested in giving you things for free simply out of the kindness of their collective hearts. The reason they offer free versions, is because they want to give you a taste of what you could be having if you ponied up the dough for their premium version. These free versions will always have serious limitations that are going to affect either the performance of your backup and recovery capabilities, the amount of time you have to put into maintaining them, or both.
- No (or very limited) support
- Limited, restrictive features
- Difficult or time-consuming administration
This final category refers to built-in backup solutions that are included in the system you’re looking to back up. These can be tempting, because who knows the software better than its own developers, right? Wrong. The fact is that these solutions are an afterthought for the software developers who build the systems you’re looking to protect. It’s an added bonus they throw in after the fact and it’s not something they spend a lot of time developing.
That’s the whole reason the third-party backup and disaster recovery industry exists – because having developers who focus on just one thing (protecting your systems and data!), will always yield better results than those offered by developers whose main focus is making sure those systems perform all the other myriad tasks you expect of them.
- Very limited support (often just documentation)
- Very limited features
- Very difficult or time-consuming administration
Telltale sign #3: You’ve blown 99.9% of your budget on hardware without thinking about how you’ll back it up
As anyone who has been in the IT industry for any decent amount of time will know – this is a classic rookie mistake. It’s one that’s usually made either by inexperienced IT professionals, or by non-IT people. Either it’s a newbie who hasn’t quite thought things through, or it’s a business person who doesn’t understand that fancy new tech is often next to worthless if you can’t protect the systems and data it contains.
The unavoidable fact of life in IT is that no matter how much you spend on hardware, hardware will let you down eventually. Maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, maybe not even in this job. But one day, you’re going to have a crash. Or a fire. Or a flood. Or a malicious attack. And if you can’t recover the systems and data your business needs to operate, well your business is in some seriously hot water.
Always take backup and disaster recovery into consideration in your budget at the earliest possible opportunity. You shouldn’t be buying any hardware, until you’ve planned out exactly how you’re going to back it up, what will be needed to do so, and how much that will cost.
Telltale sign #2: You think “I can do it myself” without taking time into account
As a tech savvy IT professional, it’s often tempting to question why you need a backup solution at all. After all, you can just take the free solutions we crossed off the list above and overcome their shortcomings by writing your own script to add the additional features you need, right? Well, maybe, maybe not. Even if you do have the technical capabilities to do so, don’t even attempt it before taking time considerations into account.
There are a heck of a lot of variables to consider in backup and disaster recovery that you probably wouldn’t even consider until you attempt to write a script to do it yourself. Accounting for these variables is going to take trial-and-error. It’s going to take debugging and tweaking. It’s going to take testing, testing and more testing. In a nutshell? It’s going to take time. A lot of it.
As any business of any size will know all too well, the old truism that “time is money” is so much more than just a cliche. Any amount of time spent administering, tweaking and debugging your home-brewed backup solution, is time that’s taken away from the other tasks you have on your plate. Not only that, it’s time that your business is paying for in the form of your wages/salary. It doesn’t take long at all before it’s a lot cheaper to purchase a purpose-built third party solution than it is to pay you to take the time to manage your own slap-dash script.
One of our all-time favorite web comics and general life-hero XKCD sums this problem up amazingly well:
And all this is assuming that you can even get the recoverability of your home-made backup solution up to an acceptable level. Don’t forget, a backup that can’t be recovered completely and within an acceptable time-frame is the very definition of useless.
Telltale sign #1: You haven’t considered what happens when it’s time to recover!
This brings us to the final sign that you’re lowballing yourself out of adequate recoverability – you haven’t considered recoverability at all!
If you think backups are all that matters, you couldn’t be more wrong. That’s why the attitude that “I can do my backups well enough for free” is so sorely misguided – because what you simply can’t achieve for free is the ability to recover completely, let alone recover with minimal downtime.
When it comes to backup and disaster recovery, the emphasis isn’t on backup. It’s on recovery.
The main reason many people don’t take recoverability into consideration is because they haven’t considered their RTO/RPOs. This means they don’t understand how quickly they need to be back up and running before it starts to seriously affect their business, and how much (or little!) data they can afford to lose.
Not sure what RTO/RPO means or how you calculate it? This article is a great place to start.
Before you ever even look twice at a free backup solution, make sure it meets your recoverability needs. 9 times out of every 10, it probably won’t.
What’s really crazy? Great backup software doesn’t cost a fortune
We’re not going to go into a massive plug for our software here. Suffice to say that we offer the complete range of backup and disaster recovery features your business needs, at a price that definitely won’t break any budgets. Why go with free and problematic, when you can go with cost-effective and complete?