I was asked a general question about performance for different backup options, including the cloud. Such general questions usually elicit a long-winded reply from me. The response was so welcomed; I was encouraged to make a blog post about it, so here you are: the 3 keys to computer network performance.
Speed has more to do with the network than the software, and of course if we’re talking about backups/archives vs. general file transfers there are different standards for performance, but here’s my take on all of that:
Network: On a local area network you must have a Gigabit speed network. This is 1000 BaseT vs. more common 100 BaseT Ethernet networks. While you can buy gold-standard Cisco network switch equipment, for the price you could buy nearly twice as much lower tier equipment and have it on the shelf should something go bad. I stick with Netgear or DLink for that lower tier equipment.
If we are talking about transferring data across the internet, then we need to talk $$$$$. Cable modems won’t cut it, and your standard T1 isn’t enough for today’s large data requirements. Bonded T1 (3 T1’s combined), OC3 networks, Ethernet-Over-Copper, and Fiber are the standards you are looking for. Watchguard Firewalls offer excellent throughput for the level of security they provide.
Hardware: Server storage must include RAID-configured (Redundant Array configurations for data recovery) drives at a minimum of 10,000 RPM speed. SAS drives are preferable (they are faster than the former SCSI benchmark for speed, and enjoy great compatibility). In the last 2 years, IBM has stepped to the fore (in my mind) in providing excellent performance in server hardware and comparable warranty & service to Hewlett Packard (who was my #1 since they merged with Compaq).
Tape storage has come a long way in the last few years. I can get LTO-4 tape hardware which performs faster than Gigabit network speed. That performance is a speed unheard of until about 5 years ago. The LTO-4 standard also gives you the best price vs. storage ratios than we’ve also ever seen. At $80 a cartridge per Terabyte, nothing really comes close. Quantum is my favorite line of equipment; they have set the standard for well over a decade. The price is more than most others but the quality is pretty much unmatched in my opinion.
Software: Transferring files using software typically takes the form of WAN storage (like Dropbox, Google Drive, Carbonite, etc..) or backup/archiving solutions (like Barracuda’s backup products, Symantec Backup Exec, etc.). I honestly don’t have a preference on the WAN storage choices. I am actively using Dropbox, SugarSync and Google Drive right now and while they have small performance differences and some fairly different features, those fall within the realm of personal taste and I can’t really hold one out as better.
For backup/archiving I have to stick with Symantec Backup Exec. While I don’t like the direction the product has taken, and the support from Symantec is less than good, they have the monopoly on making the basics work consistently and delivering it in an easy to use package. You pay a premium for this software too; but considering what it does -and there are few if any other choices- I can’t recommend anything else.