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Online vs Offline Data Backup: Part 2

written by: •edited by: Bill Bunter•updated: 7/23/2010

The importance of establishing a scheduled backup routine goes without saying. Now consider the importance of the backup destination and the method it takes to get there. Is an online backup better than an offline backup? Is one more secure than the other? That is the focus of this 3-part series.

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    A Look at Offline Data Backup

    Improved Security

    As I mentioned in Part 1, the offline data backup method may be the better option for you if you're concerned about transmitting sensitive data (albeit, encrypted data) over public internet pathways. However, I should note that there are ways to add another layer of security to this transmission process.

    For example, configuring a VPN (Virtual Private Network) tunnel between your business location and your secondary office / backup location. Check out this great article on Secure VPNs for Small Businesses by BrightHub contributing editor Joe Taylor, Jr. There are multiple encryption levels to choose from as well so you should choose the type that makes the most sense for the type of data you're backing up. To help you get an idea of where to start, check out Encryption Planning - What Data Should You Encrypt?, a great article by BrightHub managing editor Brett Callow.

    So let's say you've looked into VPN and data encryption and you still feel that managing your data backup offline with, for example, a product such as Acronis True Image is a better fit for your business. What's the next step?

    How to Start

    There are a number of different backup media types to choose from. The most popular type of offline backup system is probably a specialized backup server that incorporates some type of RAID configuration for fault tolerance. Other popular types of backup systems incorporate burnable CD/DVD drives or digital tape drives.

    In a way, these types of removal media (since it's not ideal to remove server drives on a nightly/weekly basis) add an off-site twist to your on-site backup. I once worked for a company where I was responsible for all server data backup and storage. We used a digital tape backup system that employed an incremental backup schedule. We also used four different sets of seven backup tapes (one set for each week) and rotated them on a weekly basis. This added a layer of fault tolerance should a tape fail or get damaged.

    Every Friday, that week's set would be placed in a fireproof case and my team would take turns taking it home with them for the weekend. This ensured that data could be restored should something happen to the office such as a fire or break-in. Granted this was roughly ten years ago, so more reliable media and more advanced backup systems are currently available, but I wanted to give you an example of an offline data backup routine put into practice.

    Hopefully you now have a grasp on the differences between online and offline data backup systems. But which is better? That decision is somewhat subjective based on the sensitivity of the data you're backing up and the method you're most comfortable with. But is one more secure than the other? Is one more costly than the other? Is it possible to have a combination of both? Check out Part 3 for answers to these questions and more.

Offline vs Online Backup

The importance of establishing a scheduled backup routine goes without saying. Now consider the importance of the backup destination and the method it takes to get there. Is an online backup better than an offline backup? Is one more secure than the other? That is the focus of this 3-part series.
  1. Online vs Offline Data Backup: Part 1
  2. Online vs Offline Data Backup: Part 2
  3. Online vs Offline Data Backup: Part 3