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D2D2T: is it quite right for you?

Disk-to-Disk-to-Tape (D2D2T) backup has been touted recently as a "data savior," reducing the time needed to back up distributed systems--which previously required either direct-attached or large tape libraries--in today's time-compressed world. In addition to the speed advantage of caching to disk prior to moving data to tape or other removable media, there are several other inherent benefits that D2D2T delivers.

Unlike tape emulation, which replaces a tape drive with a virtual hard disk equivalent, D2D2T allows users to manage the storage of data closer to an Information Lifecycle Management (ILM) model. Users can specify the destination and duration of stored data as well as its replication and archive life. In addition, D2D2T offers an excellent data recovery option, allowing instant retrieval of lost or corrupted data. D2D2T is also able to address compliance legislation based storage requirements.

So how do you know if D2D2T is for you? Here are some questions you might ask yourself.

How Long are Your Application Servers Non-Operative While You're Backing Up?

If it is 14 hours or more then you match the average for American companies. According to IDC's Robert Amatruda, the average backup operation shuts down an application service for 14 hours or more. That's 14 hours in which your application servers can be accessed by no one within your organization. Couldn't you benefit from a shorter backup window?

With D2D2T, you can transfer your data to disk at night at a much faster rate than to tape, and then migrate that data to tape, as you need to. This dramatically speeds up the transfer process from the application server to the backup caching hard disk, and greatly reduces the time your application server is offline. With integrated software, you can also schedule your data transfer automatically, eliminating the manual labor involved with data replication and storage, which 32% of companies worried about in a recent InfoStor survey.

How Does Meeting Compliance Regulations Affect Your Data Strategy?

Public and private companies alike are bound to compliance regulations that affect the data strategy. A 2003 Network Computing poll found that 72% of readers polled said they were affected by HIPAA, Sarbanes-Oxley, the Gramm-Leach-Bliley ACT (GLBA) or the Patriot Act. Some of these affect only public companies, but the HIPAA regulation, especially its strict requirement to keep personnel files confidential, affects every company. In fact, fines for ignoring specific requirements under HIPAA can reach $25,000 per violation. Scarier still is the Sarbanes-Oxley fine a corporate officer who knowingly signs a false financial report faces: up to $1 million and as many as 10 years in prison.

The ILM capabilities of D2D2T give you the ability to manage your data to specific time requirements. Look for a solution that integrates data traffic and storage management software. Your D2D2T solution should also include policy-based replication, which allows you to initiate multi-storage replication, migration and file grooming automatically. These ILM capabilities give you the ability to automatically manage to your regulatory compliance initiatives, moving individual files to offsite storage when they are less critical and deleting them when you are no longer required to keep them. Sophisticated, yet simple to use ILM capabilities built into your D2D2T can ensure you are managing your regulated data correctly and save your company (and you) potentially millions of dollars in fines.

How Much Data Do You Backup Daily?

A 2003 Imation study estimated that 66% of small to medium sized enterprises and businesses back up their data daily. That percentage grows for larger companies with higher volumes of data: 86% of companies back up 10-100 gigabytes or more of data every day.

And if you are like most companies, data your regularly back up is growing at an alarming rate: an increase of ten times is predicted over the next five years. As your data grows, your backup window shrinks, forcing you to backup more data in the same window.

While backups have gotten faster, the data growth has stripped the speed benefits. The result is that backups simply take longer. Couple this with a "risk window," or the amount of time your application server is at risk of being unavailable, and your ability to back up data efficiently has never been more critical.

A staged D2D2T system gives you the ability to manage the time data is transferred directly to disk, rather than to tape. Because this transfer usually occurs at the maximum Network or SAN speed, it is often 4-5 times faster than when you backup data directly to a tape library. This makes your application server accessible sooner as well as decreases your multiple tape drive requirement down to a single autoloader, saving hardware and software costs. In addition, today's latest tape drives require data feeds at a constant rate to maximize their high transfer rates. Unfortunately, pulling data to a tape library over the network doesn't achieve this, particularly with small files. D2D2T solves this problem by supplying the tape drive with the data rate needed to keep it on stream.

How Vulnerable is Your Data?

Hopefully, you're better than the 55% of small businesses that rated themselves poor (in the 2003 Imation study) in terms of having a documented disaster recovery plan. Thirty percent of those sample companies also admitted that they did not have formal backup and storage procedures at all. Of course, backup strategies are only critical if something happens to your data.

With D2D2T, you have a built-in backup and recovery strategy. D2D, which typically puts replicated data in the same site, is simply not enough. For effective data recovery from a catastrophic event, you need D2D2T, which can replicate data to tape at an offsite location. Because the data is off site, it protects it from the online disasters that can happen on any given day. In a truly integrated D2D2T solution, you also have the ability to perform individual file recovery from the offsite data, making data restore of a single file or an entire data recovery simple and fast.

How Important is Instant Data Recovery to You?

If it's okay that it takes a week or longer to recover the data you've lost, then tape alone will deliver a good data storage solution. But, if you're like most companies and your employees need instant access to individual files deleted accidentally, or need access to a series of files to recover from an individual hard-drive crash, you need a fast-recovery data solution.

Because data is stored on both a backup disk as well as to tape in a D2D2T configuration, it is more easily recovered. Data on the backup disk can be saved for up to 10 days or more, depending on your data amount, before it is purged from the disk. To access recently deleted or lost data, D2D2T can pull it much faster from the backup disk than it can from the tape, making data recovery--whether it's one single file, or a complete hard drive--virtually instantaneous.

How is D2D2T Really Used?

Still thinking about how D2D2T might help you? Perhaps these examples will help:

* Store backup data on disk and immediately migrate it to tape automatically purging the disk copy

* Store backup data on disk and immediately migrate it to tape, purging the disk copy after a fixed time period

* Store backup data on disk and migrate it to tape based upon rules (move if not accessed after x days; move all .jpg files), purging the disk copy after migration

* Write to disk and tape simultaneously (usually for compliance reasons which includes the use of WORM tape)

* Archive all video files in these directories to hard disk, keep the low-resolution files (.wmv) on hard disk and migrate the high-resolution files (.mpg) to the tape drive.

Using an integrated D2D2T strategy increases the flexibility for both backup and archiving strategies. So how does this affect the small to medium enterprise or business? A recent InfoStor survey revealed that of the respondents who had implemented some type of D2D2T technology, 32% reported better backup speeds, 30% cited improved data recoverability, 19% said it helped consolidate their backup environments, and 13% cited cost savings as a result of their investments. An undocumented benefit is the fact that D2D2T's inherent storage software offloads work, makes regulatory compliance automatic and simplifies life for what is usually an understaffed, over-taxed IT staff.

Phil Pascarelli is president of Breece Hill (Louisville, CO)
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Title Annotation:Regulatory Compliance, Disk-to-Disk-to-Tape
Author:Pascarelli, Phil
Publication:Computer Technology Review
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:May 1, 2004
Previous Article:Assessing the foundation of long distance disaster recovery.
Next Article:SMS for open systems: the time is now.

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