Traditional backup systems for many SMEs involve a big tape drive, and a set of maybe 10 tapes that are religiously changed each night — perhaps encrypted and taken off site if things are working really well.

The backup jobs will kick into life in the early hours. Typically the backup software will send a report by email to let you know how everything went, and the process will continue each night, with someone swapping the next tape into the drive at some point the next morning.

That’s fine as far as it goes, but if there’s a problem with a server — or worse, a fire, flood or other disaster — at some point that evening, then you could lose a whole day’s work.

You also need to still have a working tape drive, and if there’s been a catastrophic problem with the server, you’d need new server hardware too.

The problem is, that can take a day to arrive, and then you’ve got to do the restore, which can take several hours. So as well as the lost day, you’re looking at perhaps two more days to fully restore everything. And another thing – if it’s a Windows server, quite often you’re only able to restore to identical or similar hardware. Stick your recovery image onto new hardware, and you’ll find that Windows won’t boot — unless you have specialist backup software that can handle it.

I’ve spent a lot of time recently evaluating and testing StorageCraft’s “Shadow Protect” software. I was impressed at how easy it is to restore an image of a server. What’s really cool is that you can bring up a “Virtual Boot” of the backed-up server, using Oracle’s VirtualBox. So you can open up a window on your machine and boot up the server. This provides a really quick way to check that all is okay with your backup images.

And finally, Shadow Protect takes a full image of the server every 15 minutes. That means that if there’s a disaster, then theoretically you should only lose 15 minutes of work. And because you can restore quite easily onto completely new, dissimilar hardware, then it’s a lot quicker to get back up and running to.