Backups, Backups, Backups!

Yup, you guessed it – we are going to talk about backups.

Here at TCH we take backups very seriously and when I say that I do not say it lightly, there is no single more important aspect of our management regime than our backup infrastructure. I am going to explain a bit about the extent to which we go through to protect the data you host with TCH.

The first layer of protection we use is raid 1 mirroring on all our shared, reseller and operations servers (help desk, dns servers etc..), this allows for the servers to maintain an identical copy of the system so that in the event of a disk failure the server can continue operating with no adverse effects. There is a catch here though, that is the fact that software support for raid cards in Linux and even under Windows is severely lacking in the capacity of failure notification, which means when a disk fails there is no industry standard method for alerting someone that there is a problem. At TCH, we have developed an in-house software solution that works with our two preferred raid hardware vendors (AMC 3ware and ARECA raid) to the extent that when there is a disk failure in a raid array it captures information on the failure then sends e-mail alerts to management blackberry pagers and to our help desk ensuring that problems are identified and maintenance is immediately scheduled.

Using raid however reliable it may be, is still not impervious to data loss, which brings us to our next level of protection. All our servers are setup with a spare hard disk and configured to take weekly backups of all user data and server configurations. Although these backups have proven to be extremely reliable they are not always ideal as they can be up to a week old depending on the situation where they are required. We look at these backups as a strictly first-line restore point in the event of a failure that allows us to restore accounts in a fashion that is application compatible with the cPanel interface which makes sure accounts function properly and consistently and overcome the data gaps using our CDP solution below.

Finally, we have our gigabit network enabled continuous data protection (CDP) which runs on absolutely every server that retains client and mission critical data. This is a solution we maintain on network accessible storage (NAS) devices that we have build in house, they contain hardware raid across 16 hard disks with redundant power supplies and a capacity of between 6-13tb of space. The continuous data protection (CDP) is a low-level software run on servers with minimal load impact as it does not read the file system but rather the disk in a raw block-by-block method. This allows CDP to identify differences on the disk quickly and backup only those areas of the disk that have changed since the last backup run (incremental backups). These backups are captured on a 12h schedule of every day, 365 days a year and saved to the NAS devices in a “snapshot” capacity. The snapshots make it possible to recover data as it was 12h ago or 5 days ago or anywhere in between – we save copies of the data in every state from every backup run, we do not overwrite backups!. We can further leverage this backup solution as it is a backup of the servers entire hard disk once you pancake together all the snapshots, so in the event of a catastrophic failure we can take the CDP backup image and restore an entire hard disk in a single swift action. You can also leverage this solution from inside cPanel with the R1Soft Backup feature that allows you to restore from the CDP backup images any data you require just as we would without having to request support, although we are always more than happy to help you with any data recovery needs you may have, so do not hesitate.

I hope you have enjoyed learning a bit more about how we protect the data you host with TCH and understand that there is never any substitute for a well planned and executed backup solution. Before I sign off, let me remind you to take the time and consider the data you store at home or work and ask, do you have a backup solution? If not consider storing some of your more important data on your TCH account so in the event of a failure you can rest assured knowing that TCH has you covered.

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