How Do We Fix Broken Backup?

April 19, 2012 1 Comment »
How Do We Fix Broken Backup?

A number of analysts and industry experts have recently been reporting on the broken state of backup. A recent series of reports by Gartner on backup problems and trends brings this problem to light, along with ways to fix broken backups. In these reports, including “Best Practices for Addressing the Broken State of Backup” (available to customers with a Gartner subscription), Gartner assesses the key frustrations facing IT organizations around cost, capability and complexity. Let’s examine and further expand on some of their observations.

How Are Midsized Businesses Selecting New Advanced Backup and Recovery Solutions?

In today’s economy, companies are stepping back to re-evaluate the way their backup system should function in order to have the shortest backup window, fastest restores and most cost-effective backup infrastructure as data grows. Although businesses have relied on tape for some part of their backup and disaster recovery process, since it has been a less expensive medium, slow backups and restores and tape backup failures remain problematic.

As the cost of disk has decreased and some disk backup with deduplication systems now match the price of new tape libraries, the move to disk backup is accelerating. Some of the trends include the following:

  • As companies look to replace legacy tape libraries, they are taking the opportunity to evaluate their entire backup and recovery processes.
  • Adoption of disk-based recovery solutions has grown quickly. Disk-to-disk-to-tape (D2D2T) is estimated to be the backup approach for 65% of organizations today. A recent poll of enterprise storage professionals showed 44% were currently using or planning to use target-side disk backup appliances in the next 12 months.
  • Although companies often deferred to their primary storage vendor, new capabilities available in best-of-breed solutions offer a wider variety of options for IT managers to choose from.
  • Server virtualization has triggered a move to upgrade and modernize backup infrastructures, including the move to disk-based backup with deduplication.

What Can IT Departments Do Now?

On the basis of what a number of IT departments have done, here are some suggestions:

  • Develop a comprehensive data backup and recovery plan, including assumptions on data growth anticipated three years ahead, and test any backup and DR systems that rely on tape.
  • Develop a business impact analysis and/or risk assessment to understand the cost of downtime (e.g., lost sales, employee productivity and customer loyalty), determine the acceptable level of downtime and the risk of data loss. Events like power outages or IT system failures should be considered along with natural disasters.
  • Consider or deploy technological advancements in data backup products, including server virtualization backup improvements, instant VM recovery, data deduplication and WAN-efficient replication of deduplicated backup data instead of physically transporting tape off-site and back for recovery.
  • Assess the economics of backup by looking at the total cost of ownership and cost of expanding capacity as data grows.

Gartner’s suggestion of implementing data reduction technologies merits further discussion. Gartner described deduplication as having become “table stakes” in the data backup and recovery market. “The value of data reduction technologies, such as deduplication, cannot be understated. Deduplication materially changes the economics of disk-based backup and recovery approaches by reducing data, resulting in significantly lower disk requirements and cost…data reduction, such as compression and deduplication, is a ‘must have’ capability for backup solutions.”

Marching Forward

The data backup and recovery market is indeed in a state of modernization that favors newer, innovative solutions over installed incumbent providers of backup applications or storage systems. The requirements for faster backups, permanently short backup windows over time, faster file-level and VM restores, reduced complexity to manage virtual server backups, and greater reliability—all largely driven by data growth and technological change—will remain a compelling force. The willingness of IT departments to invest in new data backup capabilities such as disk backup with deduplication will play a key role in helping businesses eliminate the risks and problems associated with legacy backup infrastructures that still rely in some way on tape.

About the Author

Bill Hobbib is Vice President of Marketing for ExaGrid Systems, the leader in cost-effective and scalable disk-based backup solutions with data deduplication.

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