Backup (in various types and forms) is one of the most effective ways of protecting a company’s data against data loss or corruption. By preventing such a potentially catastrophic event, a company can avoid losing revenue, reputation and in some cases, bankruptcy. There’s a lot of different classifications of backup types, and one depends mainly on the data’s location: onsite backup and offsite backup - each with their own set of features and challenges, pros and cons.
Offsite backup specifically is when a copy of your data is transferred to a data storage that is geographically separated away from your main production site. The same data transfer can be performed using direct access with the help of a WAN (wide area network). Conversely, onsite backup is where data is backed up and then stored on a variety of local storage devices, like disks, hard drives, etc.
The storages’ location-related benefits of free offsite backup software are the following:
- The data that is stored off site is likely to be safe from any sort of disaster or accident that happens on your main site, like fire, robbery, natural disaster, etc.
- Technically, offsite backup as a method can be considered more reliable than the onsite ones since the data is usually backed up and transferred automatically.
- You can get access to your offsite data using either FTP (File transfer protocol) or your usual Internet connection.
- If you’re using tape drives as your offsite backup storage medium, their nature allows for your data that is stored on tape to remain virtually impossible to be affected by the majority of malware and other viruses, since tape backups have no need to be turned on to store the data in question.
One other way to formulate the onsite vs offsite comparison is to look at it in terms of a difference between local data storage locations and remote data storage locations.
Local backups are represented by the data from a LAN to autochangers or tapes that are connected to your servers directly (or they can be connected to SAN/NAS solutions or just belong to the same physical space). There is typically not a lot of physical space between the two, but they are still placed apart from each other in some way. These local backups are most effective for situations when there is only a part of data that has been affected by a disaster or an accident of sorts, allowing for quick recovery to reduce the downtime as much as possible. Such backups are usually faster as well, if the company’s network speed is at least reasonable. This decrease in recovery time and transfer time can also help with compliance to a company’s policies about backup time windows, etc.
Remote backup locations, on the other hand, are much more valuable in case of some kind of natural disaster or other unfortunate event that affects the entire organization’s working process, such as inside threats, robberies, accidental or intentional fires, natural disasters, and more. These are a lot of different free offsite backup solutions, and they typically involve removable storage devices like tape or disk, or they can work with the help of a third-party service providing cloud storage, such as Amazon S3, MS Azure and others. The remote nature of this backup type however, doesn’t mean it is not important to have at least decent levels of security and data transfer speed.
Generally speaking, an open source offsite backup is a popular backup solution architecture that keeps the balance between disaster recovery services and cloud backup services. Here is the list of main features that an offsite backup for an enterprise should have, at a minimum:
- Technical support. Various support sources and channels to help with resolving any possible problem that might occur in regards to the offsite storage’s working process.
- Replication. Minimizing the probability of data loss by duplicating the information and distributing copies in different locations.
- Archiving. Includes capabilities of storing data archives for the purpose of maintaining them for a set period of time with the ability to perform search operations within archived data.
- Collaborative work with disaster recovery solutions. Implementing disaster recovery solutions taking into account all of the offsite backup’s characteristics and limitations allows for a more robust backup and disaster recovery process in general.
- Adequate security. Increases the total reliability of your free offsite backup software.
- Bare metal restore. Allowing for creating specific backups that can restore the entire system from bare metal state. This is a computer or server that has nothing installed on it, not even an OS. This alleviates the requirements of all and any programs to be pre-installed on the machine, making the restore process easier and / or more effective, in some cases.
Of course, there’s a lot more features that may also be included in the better, free offsite backup solutions. Some of the less prevalent functions are:
- Reduced maintenance costs for backup infrastructure when it comes to tape drives, disks, servers, etc.
- Bandwidth management and organization to ensure that there’s no problems in the process of copying your data to or from the offsite storage, if it’s being done remotely.
- Easy remote access to your data in the form of backups from anywhere (if you have the necessary clearance level, of course).
- High adaptability of the solution in general, allowing for some freedom of changing the configuration of the information to be recovered or backed up.
- Resource management that allows for multiple virtual environment functions, like snapshots, virtual instance backups, etc.
- Heightened physical and general security of the offsite location where the data is being stored, both in cases of a third party storage provider and in case of the remote location belonging to the company itself.
There’s also one popular change that’s relatively new for the open source offsite backup environment in the cloud, and it’s the increasing popularity of hybrid platforms (allowing for shared resources for remote and local sites). While these might be a useful approach for some organizations, it’s important to remember that this will likely create more storage locations to take care of and manage.
If you’re looking for a free offsite backup solution, Bacula might be the best solution. It’s an open source solution that is especially capable of handling a variety of different backup and recovery variations. It’s also extremely user-friendly, boasts a high efficiency level in general and offers a number of advanced storage management features that can make your life a lot easier. Bacula is free and immensely popular, with well over 2,5 million downloads and several thousands of contributors from all over the world.