Effective long-distance data protection

Keeping data safe and available is a unique challenge at remote offices

Protecting data properly is challenging in any circumstances but can be even more difficult to do at a remote office. It’s easy to understand why: Most data-protection tasks require both human labor and the computing power necessary to move large amounts of data, digging into two resources that are typically in short supply at a remote office.

To minimize the effects of WAN latency, you may choose to store branch data locally, a strategy that ensures easy, reliable access for branch workers but makes life harder for admins. Nobody likes to worry about critical backup jobs at a remote office getting stuck in the middle of the night.

A centralized data structure -- where all the major databases and file systems are stored and protected in the glass house, while branches access the data remotely -- consolidates control and reduces the operational burden. The shortcomings of this approach may include unacceptably slow application response times; further, connection problems will have a noticeable impact on business activities.

How do you find a balance between prompt, reliable user access and foolproof data protection for remote offices? Luckily there are numerous tools and technologies to choose from. Your company must find a balance between centralized and distributed data that meets the needs of the business.

For example, leaving data locally at the branch office and contracting an online, hands-off backup service could be an acceptable solution if remote access to branch data is an occasional or infrequent event. Some service providers offer a consolidated view of all remote-office backups, which simplifies monitoring and enforces centralized control.

By contrast, if interoffice data access is a frequent occurrence, you may be better off choosing a solution, such as a set of WAFS (Wide Area File Services) appliances, that mirrors remote data at a central location and keeps it carefully synced to minimize access delays.

Naturally, the solution you choose should support the range of applications and the business process flow inside your company. For a Windows environment that does not require infinite restore points, Microsoft DPM (Data Protection Manager) offers good automated data protection of files at remote offices.

However, companies with a decentralized IT structure -- think of multiple datacenters serving remote users at various locations -- may have requirements for fail-over, performance, and multiple mirroring instances that neither a WAFS solution nor a Microsoft DPM is capable of supporting.

For those demanding environments, a solution based on YottaYotta NetStorage control nodes can provide seamless data sharing at the block level -- as opposed to the file level -- and create what’s essentially a resilient, distributed SAN that users and applications can access quickly and transparently from any location.

Implementing a foolproof data-protection scheme for your remote offices is not a luxury but a necessity. And the goal is within reach. If you understand how and when the data and files flow at your branches, you can find a solution that is safe and sane for both users and admins. It might even give your company that additional competitive advantage that makes all the difference with customers.