A few months back StorageCraft published a case study that touched on the issue of “hot swapping.” In this scenario, hot swapping is when you back up crucial data on two hard drives, one that stays at your business and a second that you take home with you as an extra layer of protection. A film editor friend tells me his three-person team uses a form of hot swapping in their business. They use several Drobo enclosures, each of which hold five hard drives, and a RAID scheme that lets them swap out failed hard drives without missing a beat. And one of the editors takes home a Drobo backup that is a clone of the files and apps they are currently using to edit a film. That way they can get back to work should an unforeseen disaster strike, such as a burglary or a fire.
If you’re running a small business, hot swapping can be useful. In fact, I use a form of it in mine. Although I have file-based backup and use an online backup service, the clone I make of my hard drive every night has made it possible for me to continue working after two separate hard drive failures.
But hot swapping has some major limitations even for small businesses (and should never be used as your only backup strategy – but I don’t need to tell you that, right?). Here are a few problems right off the bat:
- Figuring out what constitutes “mission-critical data.” As the need for storage grows at exponential rates, how do you, as an SMB, determine what data is mission-critical? If you’re a film editor, you may think you have all the files you need on that replacement Drobo, only to discover that for a certain effect you need an old Avid plugin that is no longer available to purchase or download.
- Data corruption. As I wrote in last week’s post, data corruption can maim files without your knowledge. If you’re only cloning the most recent versions of your mission-critical data, you’re going to have multiple copies of unusable files.
- Human error. As with data corruption, human error can lead to some funky problems. Perhaps you or a coworker accidentally deleted an important file while archiving old email. That file won’t show be accessible in your hot swappable copies either.
- Lost clones. Even if you are lucky enough not to experience data corruption or human error, relying on two or even three or 10 hot-swappable drives may not be sufficient to get your business up and running again. Should a natural disaster, like Hurricane Sandy, strike your home and place of business, you’ll be lucky to hold onto any of those clones.
Given these and other issues, hot swapping is more of a convenience than a viable backup strategy. If you need a reliable means to get up and running quickly, it may be time to consider using a product that can take multiple images of your data, such as StorageCraft’s ShadowProtect and store those images on backup drives, at offsite facilities, and even on public or private clouds. That way you can have multiple images of your data over time, cease worrying about problems like lost or corrupt files—and do the work you need to do.
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