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Do you backup data? Or do you have a data protection strategy?

You walk to the closet in the corner of the computer room and, after digging around for a few minutes, you find what you were looking for--a tape with a handwritten label that says "August 2003." So, this must mean that you have a data protection strategy, fight?

Think again. Even if you back up your data, you may miss out on technologies that can give you a faster, more efficient data protection strategy.

While a backup to tape is critical to protecting data, enhancing your backup strategy is simple. You can accelerate your backup with a disk-based appliance and provide control with storage resource management (SRM) software. The three solutions--tape, disk and software management--work together for a complete data protection strategy.

Tape as the Foundation

Tape is and will continue to be the proven foundation of data protection. With its low cost and removable media characteristics, tape remains the ultimate destination for files that need to be duplicated, stored and available for restores.

For years now, experts have predicted the death of tape and the takeover by other methods and media types. But in 2003, tape is still alive and well and relied on daily as the primary storage media for corporate data. According to an IDC research report in September 2003 by Robert Amatruda, approximately 153,000 tape automation units were shipped in 2002--making tape automation a $2.03 billion industry. Additionally, according to Freeman Reports, the tape automation market is expected to grow units shipped by 11% in 2004. With continuing advancements in the cost of ownership of tape, technology enhancements and new applications, the need for tape is as great as ever. A Data Mobility Group research report by Dianne B. McAdam (February 2003) "Debunking the Seven Myths of Tape, stated, "Tape will be around for many years to do what it does best, protect data on removable media." As the well known quote goes, the reports of tape's demise have been greatly exaggerated.

But with data now being measured in petabytes, storage administrators need to take advantage of additional methods for making data protection faster, more efficient and better managed.

The Growth of Data

For the last several years, the amount of data contained on corporate storage has doubled every year. In keeping with that, hard disk manufacturers have also doubled the capacity of their drives every year. Consider these statistics, compiled by a Gartner report from Carolyn DiCenzo in June 2001:

* Email messages carried over SMTP will grow by approximately 40% per year through 2005

* The number of people reachable via the Internet will grow approximately 20% per year through 2008

* Disk capacity, network speed and processing resources will expand to accommodate increases in e-mail message size, per year through 2005.

At the same time and given the tight economy, IT departments frequently have a flat or even reduced headcount. And, unfortunately for storage administrators, the average day still has only 24 hours. With the effects of global business, instant communication, telecommuting and expanded work hours, the backup "window" is an ever-shrinking target.

So, what's an IT manager to do?

Disk: The Need for Speed

"I feel the need, the need for speed!" Top Gun movie fighter pilot "Maverick" must have been a struggling storage administrator before he learned to fly jets.

Disk-to-disk-to-tape (D2D2T) solutions address shrinking backup windows by combining the advantages of tape with the high-speed, random access capabilities of disk. Backups complete faster, and application servers are free to resume their normal, round-the-clock functions. At the same time, files stored on both disk and tape are well protected but easy to restore, almost immediately.

A large, multi-national financial institution recently found its own proof. During an evaluation of a D2D2T backup appliance that uses the iSCSI protocol, serial ATA disks and built-in software to provide backup acceleration, they achieved some eye-opening results. The IT department recorded a 300% improvement in backup speed, reduced their tape consumption by 50% and noted a 33% possible reduction in the number of backup (media) servers required.

And, they're not alone.

Davenport & Company LLC is a well established, 400-employee investment firm with 18 branches throughout the East Coast. As a financial institution and a member of the New York Stock Exchange and the National Association of Securities Dealers, Davenport manages a massive amount of data and has to ensure that its critical financial files are confidential and securely managed. Although the firm has a tape backup solution in place, it became apparent that they needed to use additional measures. The company's particular situation--sensitive data to back up, maintain and quickly retrieve if necessary; multiple remote locations to manage; and a strong desire to be as cost-effective as possible--made it clear that a backup and recovery appliance was vital to their data protection strategy.

Davenport is required by the SEC to keep most internal business data and financial records for six years. As a result, the firm manages more than one terabyte of data on multiple servers. Because of space issues, the company needed to replicate data from several remote office locations to one centralized remote site. Read Branch, senior vice president at Davenport, knew he faced a significant challenge. Branch was determined to find an affordable, dependable and cutting-edge solution. He knew Fibre Channel was an option for his situation, but the infrastructure required to implement that solution, as well as the cost, was an unreasonable investment for their company. So, he turned to an iSCSI disk-to-disk-to-tape appliance to meet the company's needs. Because Davenport backs up data from several locations, remote backup functionality was imperative. The iSCSI-based appliance enables Davenport to simultaneously complete multiple backups and also allows remote data backup across a microwave link. Figure 2 shows two possible network configurations for backup accelerators.


"To me, this is a portable SAN--you can put it on your network anywhere," said Branch. "In other words, its an appliance, providing a lot of space for not a whole lot of money."

Now, this 140-year-old financial institution cannot only consolidate and back up data from remote locations in the fastest possible timeframe, it can also protect and restore its data with minimal disruption.

"It's blazing last," said Branch. "It allows us to do files restores from disk extremely fast. Speed is a huge factor when discussing recovery."

Fighter pilot Maverick would be pleased.

How About a Little Control to go With That Speed?

Backup software products offer management capabilities--log files, statistics, and control over time, type and location of the backup. But is that all you need? You're managing your backup, but are you really managing your data? You may know how much data you backed up last night, but do you really know whether you backed up the "right" data? Did you protect your critical files, or did the marketing department's four-year-old corporate presentation and an employee's Grateful Dead .mp3 collection sneak onto your tapes? Are you sure?

Here's how you can really know what you're backing up, and then go beyond passive reports to actually have control over your data protection. Storage resource management (SRM) software products are the first step in data protection thanks to their ability to quantify and groom data.

A good SRM product has three key functions: provide detailed information on your data, keep you from running out of storage capacity, and automatically enforce data storage policies. Listed below are some of the detailed capabilities you want to look for in an SRM solution.

Providing Detailed Information on Data

The key questions a storage resource management report should answer are:

* What is my data? For example, is it made up of e-mail, the order entry database, quarterly financial records, or is it an old graphic file from an outdated project, or personal photos from an employee's vacation?

* How old is it? This is a key question, especially if your company must follow government regulations on file retention. Some critical files may need to be maintained for years, while others can be eliminated after six months. SRM provides detailed reports on aged and dormant files.

* Who does it belong to? Was it generated by the CFO, or do some of the files belong to employees no longer with the company? A good SRM product can also calculate chargeback values on a per-department basis.

* Where is my data? Are my key servers evenly loaded, or is one about to run out of space while the others are under-utilized? Is the most critical, time-sensitive data on the fastest servers?

* How quickly is my data storage growing? Use SRM to be proactive about planning and justifying storage hardware purchases, using real information on data growth trends.

* Did I backup my critical data? Since we've been talking about data protection, this is a key question. Figure 3 is an example SRM report on files skipped during a backup.


How to Not Run Out of Storage

SRM also protects you against the late night pager summons that tells you that a server has run out of room. A key element of protecting your data is ensuring that your servers stay up and running and there is no threat to data integrity, especially with a key application running on an Oracle or SQL Server database, where continuity is critical.

SRM software can set thresholds on volumes, directories and even e-mail folders, both to protect against out-of-space problems, and to enforce limits set on individual storage.

Enforce Your Data Policies, Don't Just Set Them

A key element for SRM is the ability to take action, not just provide passive reporting capabilities. Before you start your backup, make sure that you're actually backing up the "right" data by grooming noncritical files. SRM cannot only identify dormant, aged, inappropriate or temporary files, it can also automatically run preset policies to delete, compress, stage or copy data, or run a script such as a backup. Your SRM product should be able to carefully filter data by age, type and location and then take action on the files you've identified.

So, Do You Have a Data Protection Strategy?

When you sit down to evaluate how you protect your data, can you answer these three questions?

* Is my data ultimately and reliably backed up to tape, both for additional security and for off-site disaster recovery?

* Is my backup and recovery ability as fast as it can be?

* Did I groom and control my data before I started my backup?

If you can answer these questions, then you have a fast, efficient and complete data protection strategy.

Now, relax.

Jennifer Dion is director, product management at Overland Storage Inc. (San Diego, CA)
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Article Details
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Title Annotation:Backup/Restore
Author:Dion, Jennifer
Publication:Computer Technology Review
Date:Oct 1, 2003
Previous Article:LTO & SDLT: built SAN tough.
Next Article:Lifecycle management for storage consolidation.

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