Rapid storage growth across the enterprise, both inside and outside the data center, has challenged traditional backup approaches. This article examines these challenges, sheds light on symptoms that often precede larger data protection problems, and investigates how a new disk-based backup technology called data deduplication can be an effective tool for solving pressing backup and recovery challenges.
Enterprise backup policies haven’t evolved all that much in recent years. Backup data is still, for the most part, written to magnetic tape each night and sent off-site for secure storage and availability in case of disaster.
But as the business world moves to a 24x 7 cycle, and as the amount of data to be backed up continues to rapidly grow, the notion of a long period of “downtime” for backups and related maintenance appears almost quaint.
Some statistics from research firm TheInfoPro indicate the severity of the situation. TheInfoPro found that, among Fortune 1000 companies, average storage capacity grew from 198 terabytes in early 2005 to 680 terabytes in October 2006. New disk-based backup technologies have emerged to address this problem.
“Backup has emerged as the leading area of focused improvement for Fortune 1000 storage organizations in 2007,” wrote TheInfoPro Managing Director Robert Stevenson in a December 2006 report. “Front-end storage growth, regulatory compliance, and increasing data retention times have created a need for backup innovation to maintain the highest levels of data protection.”
Here are just a few of the symptoms that signal data protection problems:
- Frequent failure to complete backup jobs on the first attempt
- Backup jobs delayed until the next available backup window
- Critical data not backed up or backed up too infrequently
- Backup tapes not sent offsite in a timely manner or not protected from destruction
Enterprises assessing the business needs for advanced disk-based data protection would do well to begin by asking the following questions:
- Is data at your remote offices protected consistently?
- Can you quickly retrieve data such as files or email from online and offline sources in audit situations or recovery emergencies?
- Do you frequently test data recovery as well as your state of disaster recovery readiness?
- Do you know how much money you spend to protect different types of data and whether or not your most important data has the highest level of protection?
- Are you able to quickly recovery applications as well as data in the event of human error, system failure, or disaster?
- Can you effectively demonstrate and report on protected data across business units, locations, and applications?
- Is your investment in data protection solutions and skills adequate to maintain a state-of-the-art environment?
- Are you able to find, retain, and replace skilled data protection professionals?
While few organizations can answer all of these questions affirmatively, too many negative responses are a strong argument that data protection is not being adequately addressed.
One of the ways companies can reduce the sheer weight of data being pushed to backup is through data deduplication, also known as capacity optimization and redundancy elimination. Data deduplication involves looking for redundant instances of backup data at a sub-file or block level across all backup data and all locations, thereby allowing companies to reduce the amount of storage needed for backups. It can occur as part of the backup process on the source server — greatly reducing the bandwidth needed for backup data — or as a separate process after data has been sent to a backup application, but before writing it to disk. In addition to improving the backup process, data deduplication technology can enhance disaster recovery by reducing the bandwidth needed to transmit large volumes of data between different sites.
According to some experts, deduplication can reduce total backup storage needs by factors of 100:1 or more (depending on the nature of the data) when compared to traditional backup methods to tape. The bandwidth reductions delivered by client-side data deduplication technology are even more significant because the technology eliminates the need for a regular cycle of full backups.
Veritas NetBackup PureDisk offers secure, storage-optimized, data protection for remote offices, data centers, and virtual environments. NetBackup PureDisk combines disk-based backup with global data deduplication technology to improve backup performance and reduce both the storage and bandwidth consumed from backups. Web-based administration and data recovery allow flexible administration from any location as well as drag-and-drop recovery of files. With less tape media, storage, and network resources to manage, enterprise IT groups can more consistently enforce enterprise data management and compliance policies across the organization.
Corporate data volume is growing at such a rapid pace that there isn't enough time for overnight backups to be completed. Enterprises struggling to meet backup windows are therefore exploring new disk-based backup solutions and how they can integrate them into their existing backup infrastructure. By leveraging data deduplication as part of their overall backup strategy, enterprises can significantly reduce storage and bandwidth consumed from backups, which helps them more easily meet compliance and service-level requirements for data recovery.