NOTE: This article is a bit outdated and we hope to update it soon. However, the overall concepts still apply. [June 2019]
Backup and Archive solutions are often confused as being the same. Although it's possible to start with a combined system and use it for Backup and Archive, the greatest benefits are achieved when the backup is optimized for short-term storage and the archive is optimized for long-term storage (two separate systems).
Keep in mind, no matter what system you invest in, it will one day become too small to accommodate ALL your data. When this happens you can purchase another system, or replace the "small" drives with larger drives.
Backup (short-term storage)
We all need backups so we can restore data when it's lost. Loss can occur at any time from accidental deletion, fire, theft, hardware failure or unexpected file corruption. Possessing a few weeks of backup history is desirable. Three copies of the backup is the recommended goal — two copies onsite and one offsite. The two copies onsite are required so one data set can be recycled (erased) without fear of losing any backup history. The offsite backup is for disaster recovery — if all backup copies are onsite during a disaster, then all data may be lost.
WARNING: TIME MACHINE IS UNRELIABLE. We love Apple's easy-to-use products, but we need to be clear here ... Do NOT rely on Time Machine for business backups. Time Machine can fail despite showing no signs of failure. We use CrashPlan to backup our data.
Archive (long-term storage)
The goal with archival data is to store the archive on at least two (ideally three) pieces of media and in two separate and secure locations. All digital media will fail, so we can't trust just one copy. One archive set stays onsite and is always available. The other set lives offsite in a secure location (in case the onsite archive is lost or damaged).
Offsite Backup (disaster recovery)
There are several hosted (offsite) backup solutions available, however many of them can be a challenge for small companies with large amounts of data.
- The first offsite backup can take a long time. Look for solutions that allow you to "seed" the data locally then ship it offsite.
- Restores (even minor ones) can take a long time. It's always best to restore locally, but when disaster strikes you'll be happy to restore from anywhere. Still, it's best to work with a company that will send your data on a hard drive when you need it restored fast.
- Some "unlimited" backup solutions actually have limits so read the fine print.
- Many offsite business backup solutions charge by the amount of backup data. For small creative pro shops with terabytes of data this can get expensive fast.
SOLUTION: We have found that the best way around all of these obstacles is to backup to the cloud. We use CrashPlan to backup to a local destination. At the same time we send a copy through the Internet to a cloud location.
As long as a disaster doesn't take out both locations at the same time (and if that happens, will you be around to care?) you'll always have a disaster recovery destination from which to restore your valuable data.