_800NS+ Frnt Lft DriveBackup appliances offer the best way to backup your network and servers.  The combination of a backup appliance to hold a local copy and an offsite cloud provider is called a “hybrid backup” solution.  Additional protection can be provided if the backup appliance supports removable drives or if the cloud data center replicates to redundant locations.  A Backup appliance is a purpose built Network Attached Storage (NAS) device.  It is typically connected via Gigabit or 10 Gigabit Ethernet.  Performance will be dependent on backup software, speed of machine being backed up, network connectivity, and the speed of the backup appliance.  Here are 10 things to consider when choosing your backup appliance:

  1. Does the backup appliance allow you to use any backup software or does it include licenses for a specific package?
  2. What are the features of the backup software (if it is included).  Does it handle Microsoft active directory, Exchange, Sharepoint, and open files?
  3. Is the core OS Windows or Linux based operating system?  Each has pros and cons.  Linux can be less expensive, and run on lower cost hardware.  But backup appliances based on Windows are helpful when the IT professionals are more familiar with Windows or when running backup software such as StorageCraft’s Shadowprotect which has peripheral windows programs (Image Manager and Head Start restore).
  4. What is the specific variant of the OS?  If Windows the functionality can vary depending on if  is a desktop or server based OS.  Purpose built Windows NAS products often run “Windows Storage Server” rather than desktop OS such as Windows 7 or 8. Either way, the backup appliance should be able to join your domain and handle sufficient network load so the OS isn’t the bottleneck in your backup
  5. Does it offer BDR features?  This means whether the backup appliance has the virtualization software & power to “spin up” a virtual machine.  The BDR becomes the emergency server for a short period of time  until the server can be repaired or replaced.  Whether the CPU has virtualization in hardware features and having enough RAM are the two key issues.
  6. Does it offer replication to the cloud?  Is that cloud proprietary or is there an option to Bring Your Own Cloud (BYOC) such as Amazon S3 or Microsoft Azure?  What is the cost per Gigabyte per month?
  7. What is the security and redundancy of the data center where backup data will be stored?
  8. Does data center offer a service to ship “seed drives” back and forth so the on premise backup appliance can move data offsite more quickly in an emergency recovery operation?
  9. Does the appliance literally integrate a removable drive right in or does it rely on external USB copies to create the initial seed
  10. Does it offer mirroring or RAID functionality to protect the volumes being backed up?

The Netswap and Netswap Plus line of products are intended to cover most of these features.  The processor power and RAM are not sufficient to run as a BDR, but the BNAS family (the next step up in the High-Rely product line) can.  Take a look at the product lines and see what you think!