Data Redundancy vs Backups

May 14, 2014

Blog

A few weeks ago, I wrote a blog post on Technology Infrastructure and Inclement Weather. In this blog post, I’m writing about a similar topic included in the last blog post, the difference between data redundancy and data backups (and why you should have both).

Imagine this scenario with me:

It’s 8:30am, and your Development Director has spent the last two weeks polishing a grant application and presentation that is scheduled for 11:00 today. As folks are trickling into the office and turning on their computers, your staff starts complaining that they cannot access the Shared Folders on the network. Things become even more tense when your Development Director says she cannot access the files she has painstakingly worked on for the last two weeks.

All of your organization’s important data is stored on these Shared Folders on a central server. You apprehensively go to the room where your server is located, turn on the screen, and see … nothing! Your server has crashed, and it is not turning back on. There was a major thunderstorm last night, and it is likely your server experienced a catastrophic power surge.

You remember purchasing your server over 2 years ago. The seller boasted that it would come with 4 hard drives setup in a “RAID” (Redundant Array of Independent Disks) format, assuring you that if one of the hard drives failed, your data would be safe on the other three hard drives put together.

You have data redundancy. But do you have backups?

But this redundancy of hard drives did not save you from your current situation. Your server is down, and you do not have access to any of the hard drives – even though they are redundant – in your server!

Frantically, you call your IT service provider, and someone shows up to your office by 9:30. You are then reminded of the data backup service your organization took advantage of 9 months earlier. At the end of each work day, all of your organization’s data is backed up to a second remote, secure location.

You breathe a sigh of relief as your IT provider restores your Development Director’s presentation and grant application to her computer, and by 10:00 she is able to add some finishing touches to the presentation before leaving the office at 10:30.

Thankfully, you had (and still have) all of your data backed up.

If you haven’t already noticed, data redundancy and data backups are two different things. In an ideal situation, an organization would have both redundancy and backups in place. Data redundancy should never take the place of data backups.

In this not-so-hard-to-imagine scenario, the organization did everything right. They had redundant hard drives, so that if 1 of the hard drives failed, the server would not be inoperable. However, they also understood that catastrophes can occur, such as a power surge from a lightning strike. As a result, they also had a data backup system in place, so that they could easily recover their files and folders if the entire server went down.

But why worry about redundancy when we can just rely on backups? Hard drive redundancy brings a number of advantages, including that fact that you will have no down time if a hard drive fails (i.e. you can still get on with your mission and you can still access all of your data).

In summary, I always recommend to my clients that they have good backups in place, as well as redundant hard drives (in a RAID format) in their servers. There are other ways to make your organization “redundant” (such as having a redundant internet service provider), but data redundancy is extremely important!

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