The NBN's backup potential

Amidst the sound and fury about the billions being poured into the NBN the one big benefit of vastly faster NBN upload speeds has been largely ignored. One reason for this lack of focus has been the incessant bickering on what the fastest NBN download speed should be. 

The Labor party says the NBN should be FTTH and the 100Mbit/1Gigabit top download speeds offered are future proof, whereas the Coalition has argued that it should be FTTN and 100mbit speeds are overkill.

Currently the fastest upload speeds available to most Australians are up to 2 Mbit/s using HFC Cable and up to 2.5Mbit/s using a special kind of ADSL2+mode pioneered by Internode called Annex M. However the majority of Australians with ADSL2+ have a top upload speed of 1Mbit because the only large telco that offers Annex M as an option is the iiNet group of ISP’s (iiNet, Internode, Westnet, Netscape) and their customers require an Annex M capable ADSL2+ modem to take advantage of this feature.

While the base level budget NBN plan will offer a 1Mbit upload speed  the higher level NBN plans , ,which will appeal to heavier home users and business,  offer much higher upload speeds of 5, 20 and 40Mbit/s respectively.

Losing data is pretty easy and can happen in many ways such as user error, failed hard drives or corrupted onsite backups. In some cases the lost data can only be retrieved by doing the work again, which results in unexpected extra labour costs and a hit to productivity.

Onsite backups are useful to some extent but are still potentially subject to a number of risks, such as theft of office equipment, office being flooded because of a water leak, destroyed by storms/natural disasters or damage caused by electricity supply reliability issues such power surges, brownouts or blackouts.

How Pixar was saved by offsite backups

An offsite backup method such as Crashplan.com cloud storage backup can address these risks by offering a disaster recovery option that is totally separate from your business location. By backing up your data automatically and continuously it also avoids the risks of manual offsite data backup methods.

A little known real life example of such a scenario is documented in a short video called “The Movie Vanishes”, set in the offices of Pixar Animation Studios while they were creating Toy Story 2.

What happened was that a Pixar staff member inadvertently entered a command on the production Linux server that started deleting shot and model assets for the movie. They stopped the process as soon as possible but the lost data was extensive and local backups had failed. Pixar calculated it would take 20-30 people working for a year to recreate the lost work.

By sheer luck Toy Story 2’s supervising technical director Galyn Susman was often teleworking at the time from home taking care of her new baby. She had kept a copy of the Toy Story 2 movie assets synched to her home computer, so the company was saved from disaster.

Higher NBN uploads means faster backups

Businesses in Australia who deal with large numbers of big files like photographers, designers, architects and animators can only use an automated cloud storage backup solution like Crashplan if they’re willing to leave their computer on all the time so it can slowly backup data overnight and the next day.

This is frustrating for the business people involved, causes unnecessary wear and tear of computer components and wastes electricity as the computers are left on for far longer than they need to be used by a person.

The high NBN upload speeds of 5, 20 and 40Mbits will enable individuals and businesses to make use of automated offsite cloud backup services like Crashplan and Carbonite much more effectively than ADSL2+/Cable currently allows because data will be finished being fully backed up much sooner after it is created.

The NBN may encourage the launch of automated cloud backup services with similar quality and price points to US operators, by Australian companies who store the data on Australian servers. This would greatly speed up the backup process and could allow file restoration via download or optionally by paying for backed up data to be restored onto hard drive/s and sent overnight by courier within Australia. It could also lessen the potential of jurisdictional issues such as US based cloud servers and US cloud backup providers being subject to the Patriot Act