The ability to automatically send data to the cloud greatly simplifies the offsite backup process, but there’s a catch. A slow or over-utilized Internet connection can become a choke point, slowing backup performance to where it seems like you’re pushing bytes through a straw.

Let’s explore some things you can do with your Axcient appliance to optimize the performance of offsite backups. We’ll cover tuning bandwidth consumption (QoS) to maximize utilization, “seeding” as a way to jump start offsite backups, and determining whether everything really needs to go off site.Quality of Service (QoS)
Offsite backups compete for network bandwidth, which can bog down business applications that utilize the network. An all too common tactic is to severely restrict the bandwidth that the Axcient appliance may consume. This approach is rather dramatic when you consider the other options available. It’s a case where you can “have your cake and eat it too” by using new features available as of Axcient release 2.4.6.

In this release, the Quality of Service (QoS) controls in the Unified Management Console (UMC) have been greatly enhanced. The QoS controls offer tremendous flexibility for tuning bandwidth consumption:

  • Before configuring anything on your appliance, give thought to when it’s most appropriate to open up network bandwidth for maximum throughput. For example, this might be between certain evening hours during the week, and all day on weekends.
  • In the UMC, go to System -> Quality of Service. Here you can specify your client’s business hours for each day of the week and enter a rate limit for external upload during business and non-business hours. Typically you’d limit bandwidth during business hours and maximize throughput during non-business hours.
  • With business hours and upload limits set, don’t forget to enable offsite backups to kick off during non-business hours. The setting can be found in the UMC under System->Offsite Configuration.

By tuning bandwidth consumption to align with your client’s business hours, you’ll maximize network utilization with minimal disruption to the business.

Seeding

If you’re about to deploy an Axcient appliance, consider whether you need to seed the Axcient cloud before running your first offsite backup. Rather than trickling a large initial data set over the wire, seeding entails copying backup data from the appliance to portable storage, which is then shipped to Axcient for upload to the data center. Offsite backups then send incremental updates to the cloud.

The decision whether to seed comes down to initial backup size and available network bandwidth. You can apply some easy math to help figure this out:

  1. Determine the upload speed of your Internet connection. [Hint: A Web search on “connection speed test” will return a number of convenient online tools that can tell you your Internet upload speed.]
  2. Approximate the total size of all systems to be backed up or look at how much data is consumed on the appliance after all systems have been backed up.
  3. To compute the duration of the initial offsite backup, divide the data size by the upload speed. Don’t forget to convert units!

To illustrate, consider an initial offsite backup of 175 GB. Assuming you haven’t set QoS to constrain the appliance, the backup would take almost 40 hours to complete over a 10 Mbps connection. If the connection were 1Mbps, the backup would take 400 hours (more than two weeks.) Clearly the latter case is a candidate for seeding.

Do you really need all this data?

If your situation is such that even incremental backups are too slow, consider whether all the data really needs to go off site.

For instance, imagine a server image backup that includes a repository of high resolution graphics. Do those graphics files really need to be included in the image backup?

If the source of those files were an external Web site, then the answer is “probably not”. In this case, setting up the server image backup to exclude the graphics repository would yield smaller incremental backups, which would speed up the offsite process. (The repository of files can still be protected on the Axcient appliance using a file backup. That way, if there were a local server failure, one could simply light up a virtual instance of the server on the appliance and then perform a file restore to repopulate the repository.)

Even if you’ve already set up offsite backups for your clients, it’s worth a second look to make sure each has the optimal QoS settings, has been seeded or had a successful initial offsite backup, and isn’t bloating offsite backups with unnecessary data.

tscallan