Backup Leaps Forward
- From The Confident SMB, March 2010 Issue (Download This Entire Issue in PDF)
Who has time for this topic? You’re in a hurry, with bigger and more important goals.
Just like the captain of the Titanic.
Seriously, there are new strategies in data protection that can not only keep your business off the bottom of the Atlantic, but also reduce costs, save time, and boost productivity. The Confident SMB has prepared a quick summary.
Reviewing the strategies are several IT decision-makers at small and midsize businesses, along with their IT partners. Some interviewees are the sole IT resources at their companies, serving hundreds of users. Like you, they’re stretched thin, and they’re looking for ways to stretch further.
If analyst Jon Collins, managing director of Freeform Dynamics Limited, had only a few moments to sum up data protection, he’d want to leave you with two points:
1. There are some things in data protection that are easy to do, such as making a copy of data and storing it elsewhere (often done) and validating that the copy can be restored (not done enough).
2. And there are some things that if you don’t do them, then you are risking a great deal.
Ask the right questions
True data protection, Collins explains, is not about finding the right answers, but sitting down and asking the right questions.
“You need to understand what kind of information you’re storing and what kind of risks exist for that information,” Collins adds. “The key word is classification. Probably 20 percent of your information has 80 percent of your business value. Which small bits of information would put you most at risk if they were lost or stolen? And what might go wrong with that information?”
Many businesses have a customer database that gets regularly backed up, Collins says, and those tapes should be validated. But a data protection review might also identify that the business’ most sensitive data is elsewhere—such as pricing information that is stored on the CEO’s laptop. “Then the question is more about guarding against data loss,” Collins points out. “Instead of just backing that data up, a better answer may well be encrypting that data or storing it on the main server and giving the CEO secure access.”
Have less to protect: deduplicate
Data protection becomes simpler with deduplication—technology that enables only a single backup copy to be made if there are multiple instances of the same information.
“Even a non-technical person understands the value of deduplication immediately,” Collins points out. “Instead of ‘why deduplicate?’ the question becomes “why duplicate?’”
When deduplication first emerged, it was expensive and often required a special appliance, Collins acknowledges. “The uptake hasn’t been that fast for smaller organizations for perfectly valid reasons,” he observes. “But because deduplication shortens backup times and conserves storage capacity, it will become a part of the landscape—a feature rather than a technology—and part of the way we do backups.”
Deduplication is already an integrated feature of Symantec Backup Exec 2010, released in February 2010. And it will be put to use at Orion Registrar, Inc., an Arvada, Colorado based quality and environmental systems registrar that provides audits to organizations seeking ISO 9001 and other types of certification. The company is busy migrating from paper to digital processes.
“We can’t go wrong with deduplication,” says Nick Joseph, network manager at Orion. “We’re digitizing nearly two floors of file cabinets, and I can’t wait until they’re gone.
Data volume is now 200 gigabytes, and Joseph expects it to as much as triple in the next 18 months. Backup time had already been reduced by 33 percent with an upgrade to Symantec Backup Exec 12, and Joseph expects that deduplication in Backup Exec 2010 will further streamline backup and reclaim a substantial amount of disk space. “And that moves directly over to cost savings,” he says.
Joseph is a one-man IT operation serving 24 employees, 80 subcontractors, and 11 offices in 9 countries, and like many other small businesses depends heavily on his IT partner, in this case Symantec Gold Partner Advanced Internet Security. “I couldn’t do this without help from people like David Kramer at Advanced Internet Security,” Joseph adds. “They keep me up on the latest advances such as deduplication and make sure I take advantage of them.”
Get a load off your servers: archive
Mike Levine is experiencing another benefi t of deduplication. He’s senior vice president and chief information officer of Winebow, a leading U.S. importer of international wines, spirits, and sakes that represent high quality and good value. A sales force of 250 promotes the Winebow portfolio in the field, relying extensively on email.
As the volume of email grew, performance slowed. “I was getting several complaints a day from reps trying to sync up their email and having to wait up to 30 seconds,” Levine says. “That can seem like a lifetime when you’re sitting across from a customer.”
Levine turned to Quality Technology Solutions, Inc. (QTS), a Symantec Silver Partner serving hundreds of businesses in the northeast United States. QTS deployed Symantec Enterprise Vault, a solution that deduplicates and compresses messages and their attachments as it migrates them off Winebow’s email server to an archive.
“Symantec Enterprise Vault reduces the volume of messages by about 40 to 60 percent as it archives them for our customers,” says Neil Rosenberg, president and chief executive officer of QTS. “That leaves just current messages on the email server, which can then work as intended.”
“Now email is instantaneous,” Winebow’s Levine adds. “There are no more complaints. Yet users still see the older, archived messages in their mailboxes because of Enterprise Vault, and can open them with a double-click.”
Recover faster: archive
Why continue to back up data that’s not changing? That’s a good question. “Once you’ve archived data you don’t need and stored it safely with a tested plan for disaster recovery, you shouldn’t have to back it up anymore,” notes analyst Collins.
This is the case at Winebow, where the Microsoft Exchange database is replicated with a third-party solution over a wide area network (WAN) to another site for disaster recovery purposes. “The amount of data pushed over the circuits was too high, even with WAN optimization,” QTS’ Rosenberg observes. “And the target servers were running out of disk space to keep up with the source servers, which are on a SAN. So by implementing Symantec Enterprise Vault, we were essentially able to reset the replication and send only current data to the DR site.”
Recover smarter: granular recovery
Orion’s Joseph can also recover email in minutes because of patent-pending granular recovery technology in Symantec Backup Exec. “It’s been absolutely incredible, saving us an extra two hours of backup time and also space we would have used for a brick-level backup in addition to the granular backup,” he says. “I can get what I need in one backup pass. I can recover individual Exchange messages—or virtual machine files—and prevent issues from occurring ahead of time.”
Recover sooner: image-based backup
Harry Dente had a tough data protection challenge. He’s IT manager of ETD Discount Tire Center (ETD), a major wholesaler/retailer with seven locations in New Jersey, 300 employees, and 100 workstations. Dente supports them all as a one-person IT team.
The company’s infrastructure includes several servers that are older, but critical to the business.“Downtime for our point-of-sale server could easily cause a high five or six-figure disruption,” Dente notes.
He used to perform a full backup of the servers each night using Computer Associates’ ARCserve. But as systems got older, if a server totally crashed it became harder to recreate them on similar hardware. “Over time, you get different disk drives, controllers, and applications that require different drivers,” Dente explains, “making the likelihood of successful recovery slim.”
Dente turned to IT provider Pascack Data Services, Inc., a Symantec Silver Partner, and was introduced to Symantec Backup Exec System Recovery Server Edition, an image-based backup and disaster recovery solution that easily recovers individual files/folders or complete Windows systems in minutes instead of hours or days—even to different hardware, virtual environments, or remote locations.
“One of its big plusses for us,” Dente notes, “is that in testing, Symantec Backup Exec System Recovery Server Edition has worked great for bringing our servers back on dissimilar hardware.” Adds David Navara, vice president at Pascack Data Services, “We can now recover servers in under an hour. Before we started using Symantec Backup Exec System Recovery it would have taken many hours and probably even a day or two.”
Reduce risk: delete!
Winebow’s Mike Levine is looking forward to an ultimate form of protection: deleting data that’s no longer needed. “We’ve just been through a workshop with QTS to set data lifecycle policies and will be able to discard older information according to policy,” Levine explains. “We’re close to finalizing what our policies will be.”
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The usefulness of data lifecycle management is often overlooked, QTS’ Rosenberg notes. “Organizations tend to just keep adding storage, and more than half the stored data will never be needed again. Meanwhile, keeping significant amounts of old data can create exposure.”
It’s safer and more efficient, Rosenberg notes, to have lifecycle policies that identify how long certain information needs to be kept, and at what point it can be deleted. When policies like these are consistently enforced, courts have held that organizations can’t be required to produce information they are not legally obligated to keep. Symantec Enterprise Vault includes features that can automate the enforcement of data lifecycle policies.
Good data protection secures more than just data, Orion’s Joseph points out. “Years ago, backup was something we considered after the fact—after a deployment,” he recalls. “Now, we look at data protection in tandem with planning an implementation. And because our employees can count on backup and recovery success, they have much more trust in IT and are more willing to try new operating systems and applications we roll out, such as Microsoft Windows 7 and Microsoft Office 2007. Good data protection makes us all more productive.”
Back out on the North Atlantic, it was a clear, calm, and cold night on Sunday, April 14, 1912. Judging from dinner menus, everyone on the Titanic had enjoyed a good meal—from 10 courses in first class down to the simple but nutritious dishes in steerage. And if the captain had been focused on concepts other than fast and unsinkable, the meal might have been followed with a good night’s sleep.
Alan Drummer is Creative Director for Content at NAVAJO Company. His work has appeared in CIO Digest, Los Angeles Times, Create Magazine, and on The History Channel.