Alternatives to Tape Backup

Where do the server's responsibilities end and the clients' responsibilities begin?

Where do the servers responsibilities end and the clients responsibilities begin? This question in corporate computing applies to backup systems as well. If your organization accumulates a lot of corporate data on individual systems, you may want to forget traditional tape backup and move your solution to the client side. Optical storage, online backup services, and network-attached storage (NAS) are alternatives.

Current optical storage media, such as DVD-R, are good for data archiving; they provide enough capacity to store a small backup set (9.4GB). But the nonrecyclable nature of DVD-Rs makes them unsuitable for day-to-day backup. And while DVD-RW, DVD+RW, and DVD-RAM are economical backup solutions, individual users remain responsible for putting backup rotation schemes in place and for keeping track of the media. With individual tapes total data capacity well below that of hard drives found in todays PCs, backups would often have to span multiple tapes, making these tasks even more of a chore.

Online backup services make more sense. Connected Corp. ( and NovaStor Corp. ( sell subscriptions to their online services as well as server-side software that customers can deploy in-house.

Connecteds client software, Connected TLM, scans for files that need to be backed up according to predefined rules such as file extension, age, or location, and once youve scheduled the backups, this once-periodic chore can largely be forgotten. We did not see any significant slowdown in our system while a backup ran in the background. Although the initial backup may last several hours to a few days, subsequent backups take much less time and bandwidth, because only newly created files and changes are transferred.

Connected offers three types of subscriptions: individual, small-business, and enterprise. An individual account costs $6.95 per month for 200MB or $14.95 per month for 4GB. Small businesses can purchase 5 to 200 accounts, at about $16 per month for each 10GB account. Connected reports, however, that most enterprise customers buy the server-side software, also called Connected TLM, and host it internally rather than subscribing to the Web-based service.

The pricing options are a lot simpler for NovaStors NovaNet-WEB: $17.95 per month for a 500MB base account and an extra $9.95 per month for an additional 250MB. NovaStor also ships NovaNet-WEB Server for customers that want the online backup service in-house.

NovaStors product and service are similar in features and performance, enabling scheduled, unattended backup with minimal user interaction.

Sensing the opportunity in the client backup market, some NAS manufacturers ship their storage appliances with client-side backup software. Snap Appliance (, a recent spin-off of Quantum, bundles its Snap Server 4400 with an unlimited-user license for PowerQuests DataKeeper (

DataKeeper is designed to back up mobile clients to Snap Servers. Backup jobs run in the background whether or not a given client is connected to the network. When the client is off-line, the backup job is buffered locally until the network connection is reestablished. Purchasing a NAS device bundled with such backup software is a quick and easy way to create an in-house client-side backup system for a smaller organization—from roughly 5 to 24 employees—while spending under $10,000.