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Banking on Backup

November 28, 2006

Summary

This article looks at why organizations must constantly assess their data protection plans to bulletproof themselves against data disasters.

Introduction

Strange as it may seem, it wasn’t that long ago when disaster recovery and business continuity technologies were mostly about backup. If access to applications was lost, companies would revert to manual processes while data was restored from tape and applications were rebuilt and redeployed.
Fast-forward to today. For such prevalent business practices as just-in-time inventory and online purchasing, manual processes simply aren’t an option. Moreover, in many cases, these practices are key to maintaining competitive advantage. As a result, for more and more of today’s organizations, even minimal downtime can have dire financial consequences.
This article looks at why organizations must constantly assess their data protection plans to bulletproof themselves against data disasters.
It’s a situation that bedevils countless enterprises: The combination of run-away data growth and increasing user demands for data recoverability has today’s IT departments scrambling to meet available backup windows. It’s also hindering their ability to recover critical data in a dependable manner. Not surprisingly, the impact on traditional data protection methods has been profound: less frequent or missed backups, outdated restore points, and increased risk of data loss.
Consider the challenges surrounding email. Many companies today now consider email to be mission critical. Recent studies suggest that email storage now contains as much as 75% of a company’s intellectual property. The fact that email also serves as a detailed transaction record for a company makes it valuable as evidence in a court of law, proof that companies are following regulations, and a source for identifying violations of internal company policies. Given these factors, how do organizations protect their growing email data when email is expected to be available 24 x 7?
Of course, data protection methods have continued to evolve to help enterprises manage this situation. For example, disk-based backup and solutions for both desktops and remote site protection have existed for some time. More recent methods of data protection, such as synthetic backups and snapshots, have emerged to help address backup and recovery needs.
But despite these new methods for data protection and the decreasing cost of disk storage, many backup administrators continue to rely on traditional methods and therefore struggle not just to protect data, but to provide rapid and granular recovery of valuable data that has been lost or corrupted.
Fortunately, the latest data protection solutions are designed to significantly improve how administrators protect and recover their data, regardless of where or how it is stored. In particular, these solutions aim to increase scalability and reliability for 24 x 7 enterprises. They also enable IT to:
  • Manage, monitor, and report on the backup environment through a Web-based portal
  • Instantly back up and recover data using a variety of snapshot technologies
  • Recover both data and servers from one console
  • Support both disk and tape as protection mediums
  • Protect investments in legacy systems and hardware while also supporting emerging databases and applications

Improved disk-based backup

How quickly and how much data can be recovered varies significantly across enterprises. The latest data protection solutions give these organizations more options. One development that has made high availability and rapid recovery more practical is disk-based backup and virtual tape. Combining disk-based backup with incremental snapshots and advanced application failover makes weeks of data available to end users in minutes in case of a system outage or accidental deletion. Disk-based backup also closes the backup window, so that businesses can operate on a 24 x 7 basis without interruption by tape backup processes that take several hours or all night.
While this technology has existed for some years, a number of hurdles – including cost and file and disk management issues – kept it from being widely deployed. But today’s disk-based backup solutions are proving to be more affordable and able to tackle file and disk management. File management has been added so administrators can set size limits and maximum numbers of files per backup job. Disk management has been addressed by letting the backup applications reserve disk space to prevent disk-full errors and even provide early warning when specific capacity thresholds are reached. In addition, the most effective disk backup solutions now support all rewritable and removable media, such as DVD-RW, CD-RW, Zip, and Jazz.

Disk staging and synthetic backups

Another development, disk staging, leverages high performance disk as a cache before storing backup data on long-term storage, such as tape. Automated disk staging helps reap the benefits of both tape and disk media while providing investment protection.
Synthetic backup functionality also significantly enhances backup and recovery operations. Users can store their incremental backups on disk and then synthesize them into a full backup and process the data to tape, helping to reduce the time required to perform a recovery. Synthetic backups reduce the amount of data being moved over the network, minimizing the network bandwidth required for backup and recovery.

Conclusion

Many enterprises today find their backup and recovery process strained. Data (particularly email-related data) is growing at exponential rates, and new challenges such as legal discovery and compliance must be addressed. To tackle these problems, IT and backup administrators should consider flexible, advanced data protection methods for faster backup and recovery.

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