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Why Archiving and Backup Make Sense

Created: 08 Apr 2009 • Updated: 21 May 2009 • 1 comment
Steve C Blair's picture
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Over the past 10 years, a now accepted technology called “Archiving” or “Active Archiving” has come into play in almost all IT groups operations. When we look back over the past 15-20 years of IT history, we traditionally spent our time as SysAdmin’s doing weekly backups, nightly incremental backups, and quarterly/yearly save sets. The backups we took, provided we had time in our diary for all the other demands in our day, were periodically checked to make sure we could read them, and left alone. Then came a visit from a Legal firm, Government regulator, or HR staffer “We need information contained in files and emails” for John Doe, please restore the backups and give us access to search them. This was typically met with a real groan, sigh, and you knew when this happened that you were going to be sitting with tape catalogues, restoring files, running scripts on the directories/folders/files/emails restored, hoping to give whatever content the folks requesting wanted.

This was fine and pretty much BAU (Business as Usual) for most all of us in the IT industry, until Governments stepped in and mandated certain practises for this electronic content. First they passed rules about how long to find and retain content, then (depending on the country you are in) either narrowed this to certain content (email, IM) or expanded it to include everything so vendors added indexing to this content to overcome the legacy issues with finding things on Backups. Conclusively producing from all the sources, producing the right content, and don’t forget in a timely manner led to the rise of Active Archiving about 10 years ago and thus spawned an industry that Symantec’s solutions are market leading with our Enterprise Vault product suite. With the advent of Active Archiving, besides the obvious (and quite potential) savings in Backup times, as a “safe copy” was stored online somewhere, an IT manager somewhere figured out “hey we don’t need to back up all this content as we have it in the Archiving system, and it is stored on (spinning) WORM, or tightly access-controlled storage, so we can save money/time” so we saw a departure of Backups and Archiving becoming two distinctly separate functions in many companies. For a moment, consider in your mind there is no appreciable difference in the content of these two systems, provided that they both contain the same data from the same source and you can see the point the IT manager was making. 

The IT manager was clearly looking at two motivating factors: less labour cost for not doing backups, and less media costs if they contained the content in one system and they were right to do that thinking. What was flawed about that thinking unfortunately was that events like floods, wildfires, earthquakes, industrial accidents (like an underground fibre / power trunk becoming cut) and terrorist activities could (and have) caused a real loss of service. When the IT manager considered their potential exposure, they then discussed the situation with their Change Control Board, or Risk Management team to seek advise. IT departments for the two reasons above looked at certain hardware solutions that offered replication technology, as well as snapshot, and  copying their entire infrastructure to a second location as part of their DR plans. They planned and planned and tested and tested, added in clustering for server High Availability, yet still were not backing up the data as the size of data grew in a logarithmic scale.

Let me categorically say that Backup and  Archiving in my mind are mutually inclusive, and not exclusive operations and justify why.

Backup can be very long term retention, on removable media. As the media changes more inline with with Archiving has done, the lines blur. Archiving can also be very long term retention, but on spinning media with Index & Search technology, and licensable SDK's that allow 3rd party products to help produce required content. Both Backup and Archive gain strength on protecting information -- that is the true essence of security in this regard. It is the production of the data in an extremely timely manner that to a certain extent highlights Archiving over Backup. With that in mind, let us remember that both are required to adequately secure your data and get back to our IT manager's choices.

The IT manager is now facing a decision of not “whether to backup” but more one of “what to backup” and the obvious “why to backup” becomes part of their planning and operational guidelines. Let’s look at the content contained in an archiving solution – source data (email, IM, files, SQL), the Archiving infrastructure itself (Servers, SQL, Indexes) and the storage platform. First, any IT manager knows that they need to have at least one (if not more in certain industries) fall back positions, with the final being restore from tape. Were our IT manager to backup the source data they could well run out of hours work into their working day, thus impacting users. If our IT manager were just to backup the Archiving infrastructure, they might be able to restore some level of services in a relatively reasonable period of time; save the original content. The smartest of IT managers is now looking / running active snapshot copies to their DR infrastructure for their “closest available backup/restore source” then a full backup of their DR site as their “ultimate, worst case solution” were a true disaster to occur. By combining Archiving and Backup in the plans the IT manager runs his business with, they may also consider the Backup solution integration to the Archiving system as a “final resting place” for Archived data, as a tertiary storage location to deliver a high degree of efficiency vs. the stored content.

We are working hard to insure that solutions from Symantec such as Enterprise Vault, NetBackup, and Backup Exec address today's Backup customer's requirementsneeding a smarter approach of integrating both the Archiving and Backup environments. Integrated solutions mean that customers need not have 2 sets of policies and procedures to insure total protection and security for their environments are required. By intelligent leverage of the right technology, the IT manager can rest with confidence at night knowing their critical infrastructure is protected. 

At the end of the day, the IT manager’s job is to deliver reliable infrastructure to their company AND to maintain a good DR preparedness at all times. By combining an Active Archiving solution for email, IM, and file systems, that has (at a minimum) periodic backups to removable media, the IT manager maintains the best of both worlds – ease of search/production when requested with the Archiving solution and security for their business with backups as a final resting place.

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rookie11's picture

now this article or blog as u say is informative
looks like an MBA has written this for magazine purpose.
cheers for MR. blair

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