Today’s Windows-based organizations find themselves in a quandary. On the one hand, users require instant, on demand data recovery. On the other, industry estimates show data volumes continue to grow 40% to 50% per year. While traditional tape backup has proven effective over the years, today’s business climate demands a more efficient approach to both backup and recovery.
This article looks at three data protection strategies and makes the case that Windows-based organizations can best manage data growth and speed data recovery by employing continuous disk-based protection.
To help determine the right data protection strategy for your organization, it’s important to first understand the differences between traditional tape-based, traditional disk-based, and continuous disk-based data protection offerings.
Over the years, tape backups have proven to be an effective means for data protection and recovery. Tape is an inexpensive medium on which to store data. It’s also a format that can be moved off-site easily. Plus it’s familiar to administrators. However, there are some important challenges with tape. The first is reliability. Industry reports indicate that tape can fail in 17% to 40% of the time. The second is complexity. Tape lacks the flexibility and simplicity that many organizations require today in a data protection solution. Then there’s speed. As data volumes continue to escalate, tape backups are taking longer and longer. Also, the recovery process can be time-consuming, making it difficult to get the right file to the right person at the right time. In addition, only trained administrators can recover data.
Disk-based backups provide several benefits that can’t be realized with tape. For example, backups can be faster and more efficient, while recovery time improves dramatically. Disk also provides a more reliable format for initial data protection. In addition, simultaneous backup jobs (or multistreaming) improve performance. Disk-based data can still be backed up to tape for long-term archival and off-site storage. Drawbacks to disk-based backups include the potential impact on production servers, its complexity to manage, and the fact that data is backed up in a format requiring IT administration for restores. As for the recovery process, because the backup is sitting on disk, it is much faster to restore. There is no need to locate the tape, load it, and then reload the data.
Continuous data protection fundamentally changes the nature of backups by bringing the core benefits of disk-based data protection (faster backups, near-instant restore) while eliminating some of the key pain points of current backups. Among the benefits: data is always protected; only the changed portion of files (block-level changes) are captured; multiple file servers can be backed up simultaneously; there is no impact on Business Servers (i.e., no backup windows); and files are in native format, enabling end user recovery. The main drawback to continuous disk-based protection is that it may not integrate into an organization’s current backup solution.
Instant, granular recovery is the central focus for continuous disk-based protection. This can help reduce IT administration, while improving service levels and end-user productivity by enabling end users to find and retrieve files without contacting IT.
While traditional tape and disk-based backups have proven effective over the years, today’s dynamic business climate is changing the rules. As a result, IT administrators find it increasingly difficult to back up mission-critical data within available backup windows. Continuous data protection can eliminate these windows.
A continuous disk-based data protection solution monitors whenever a change is made to a file and makes sure the change is captured and protected. It captures only granular or block-level changes, not the whole file, thereby reducing impact on network performance. Not only is the most recent data protected, but multiple versions of files are captured and available for recovery. Such a solution means there are no more complex full, incremental, or differential backups of business critical data.
By using disk as the primary medium for Windows protection and recovery, organizations can leverage traditional tape backups to provide secondary Windows protection for longer-term retention and offsite storage.
A solution such as Symantec Backup Exec now provides continuous data protection not only for Windows File Servers but also for such Microsoft applications as Exchange and SQL Server. Microsoft Exchange is often the mission-critical application running in organizations today — especially Windows-based organizations. Users now have the ability to recover individual mailboxes and mail messages. In the past, in order to achieve this level of granular recovery, a separate, time-consuming backup job had to be run.
Backup Exec also provides "Google-like" Web-based file retrieval so users can retrieve their own files without IT intervention. Files are indexed by name and type. A standard Web browser enables users to retrieve lost, overwritten, or corrupted files, and there is no software to deploy or update on the individual workstations. Retrieving a file, or its previous versions, is like clicking a link to download a file from the Internet. This helps improve service levels without additional administration overhead. And it lets IT resources focus on other business-critical needs.
IT administrators today require a reliable, easy-to-use data protection solution that is cost-effective and simple enough for the novice user to install and administer, yet flexible enough to protect large Windows environments, departmental workgroups, remote office environments, and critical data on desktops and laptops.
A continuous disk-based data protection solution eliminates backup windows, enables faster backups and restores, and improves reliability. That’s a solution that meets the needs of today’s Windows-based businesses.