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Data grid disaster puts SMBs at most risk.

It seems like just a short time ago that storage was just another part of the computing infrastructure, allocated as just another responsibility of the network administrator. We've all undoubtedly heard the story before, but it is very true that the proliferation of Web-enabled technologies have dramatically altered the role of storage in the IT environment. As data became a more critical part of an organization's business model, storage became viewed as a revenue-generating asset that must be managed and protected. IT now has the responsibility to protect that asset through the development and execution of well-designed and thorough disaster recovery and business continuity plan. For many organizations, specifically the SMB (small to medium business), the difference between survival and closure rests on its data protection technology and its ability to recovery from a data disaster.

There have always been threats of disaster and data loss, but five years ago, formal data protection/disaster recovery plans were generally only part of larger enterprises. Even the term "disaster recovery" (DR) was synonymous with large budgets and an army of IT personnel to manage the process. LAN-less backup via SANs were just making their way to market, but they were expensive, difficult to install and required an inordinate amount of professional services and proprietary software components to implement. The capital and personnel investment required for SAN implementations forced SMBs (small to medium size enterprises) to continue to use LAN and host-based backup solutions; but they were slow and still very labor intensive. These organizations had, at best, minimal DR plans that excluded tape verification as a regular practice. While some SMBs also used LAN and host-based backup, the vast majority of SMBs never really had a disaster recovery plan at all.



Today's business environment is dramatically different. The decreasing cost of disk storage, combined with the availability of robust data mining and data warehousing tools, enables companies of all sizes to leverage data to their advantage. Organizations that do not proactively protect themselves from data loss put a greater portion of the business at risk. Strategic Research Corporation notes that more than three-quarters of data loss is caused by human error or system and hardware failure. But those aren't the only risks. Natural disasters and malicious activities have also had a devastating impact on business, including:

* Fires that destroy more than 154,000 U.S. businesses per year

* The northeast blackout of 2003 that left more than 50 million people across eight states and Canada without power

* The Sobig virus stormed millions of computers and was expected to worm its way into e-mail boxes for several days

Of companies that experience a data disaster, two out of five will be out of business within five years. Sadly, given all the real-life examples of devastating data loss, many companies still have not learned the lesson about data disasters and business continuance. A study conducted by Veritas in 2002 indicated that 72% of companies either have no business continuity or recovery plan, have not tested their plan, or the plan failed when tested.

In the same fashion as an electrical power grid, the "data grid" touches every part of the organization. And while the media happily talks of companies like American Express who resumed business within minutes or hours of the September 11th disaster, the Veritas study highlights the vast majority of businesses that are unprepared in the event the data grid goes down. Companies must choose technologies and processes that can both protect the data grid from internal and external threats as well as provide the ability to restore lost data and resume operations quickly in the event of a data grid disaster.

Of all of the market segments, the SMB is the most neglected and has the most risk of a data grid disaster. According to both IDC and Gartner Dataquest, the SMB is the fastest growing segment in the storage industry. Ninety percent of new server sales (those under $6,000) are going into SMBs and SMB-like environments, fueling what is expected to be an $18.5 billion market by 2006. Ironically, a significant number of SMBs have no data protection plan, putting themselves at risk of a data grid failure and their business at risk of its continuity.

An explanation stems from the challenges SMBs face relative to data protection. Last year, Certance (a Seagate affiliate) conducted a survey with over 6,000 solutions providers--the results of which begin to explain the difficulties SMBs face in protecting their business-critical data, including:

* Backup failure due to failures of hardware, networking, or media: 62%

* Inability to implement a disaster recovery plan due to the expected cost and complexity associated with hardware and staffing: 61%

* Labor costs associated with file restoration: 27%

* Performance and incompatibility associated with the lack of interoperability between different technologies and products from different vendors: 19%

* Inability to backup all critical data within the available backup windows: 17%

Although targeted at the Enterprise, the recent buzz about Information Lifecycle Management (ILM) makes a lot of sense for SMBs as well. With ILM, the value of data and the medium on which it is stored change as the probability of reuse and the amount of data being stored changes. As the probably of reuse goes down, data is moved from primary disk storage to secondary storage and then off to tape for archiving.

Conceptually, ILM may provide a roadmap for SMBs to minimize the challenges faced in implementing a data protection plan. However, storage vendors must ensure that any solutions implementing an ILM-like process address the data protection challenges SMBs are facing. Vendors must bring to market solutions that reliably use the best technology for the application (backup failure), are simple to use and maintain (cost and complexity), provide faster backup/restore functionality (backup windows) and are tested to interoperate or are from a single vendor (lack of interoperability). Doing so is no small feat, and only a handful of vendors have the business model to meet the market demands of the SMB customer.

Certance is a leader in providing data protection solutions to the SMB community. With a 20-plus-year legacy that includes industry leaders such as Archive, Conner and Seagate Removable Storage Solutions, Certance is in a unique position to address the data protection challenges faced by the SMBs. The worldwide tape drive unit shipment leader for two consecutive years (Gartner/Dataquest and IDC), Certance delivers the economies of scale required to compete in the SMB market as a provider. With an install base of more than 12 million tape drives, Certance provides data storage products to nearly all major system and platform OEMs, delivering quality and innovation not required by vendors not supplying to these channels. A co-developer of LTO and the DAT 72 (DDS 5th Generation) formats, Certance is committed to providing quality, cost-effective open-format data protection solutions to companies of all sizes. For the mobile/laptop and entry-level server market, Certance Travan products continue as the de facto standard.

In September 2003, Certance announced its Data Protection Architecture initiative and DPA technology, a modular hardware/software platform enabling the rapid deployment of data protection solutions based on a common platform. Designed specifically to address the challenges faced in the SMB market, Certance followed with an announcement in October about its CP 3100, a disk-to-disk-to-tape (D2D2T) solution. The first production of DPA technology, CP 3100 simplifies high-end D2D2T functionality and delivers it at a price point SMBs can afford. With a reasonably priced MSRP, the CP 3100 enables SMBs to take advantage of the ILM concept without the burden of additional staff, proprietary hardware or software or additional training.

Today's demanding business environment has created a standard where anything other than flawless execution puts a business at risk. Downtime is a direct result of both data loss and the ability of a business to restore that data and resume operations. The costs associated with downtime have increased dramatically and go beyond the potential financial loss to include intangibles such as customer satisfaction and the perception of quality. Certance has bridged the functionality gap between nearline disk and offline tape, providing the availability and reliability of disk with the portability and affordability of tape.

Ryan Malone is senior product marketing manager at Certance (Costa Mesa, CA)
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Title Annotation:Disaster Recovery; small to medium size enterprises
Author:Malone, Ryan
Publication:Computer Technology Review
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Dec 1, 2003
Previous Article:Simplifying disaster recovery solutions to protect your data.
Next Article:Pro-active storage management on 2004 horizon.

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