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How copy data management differs from traditional backup

Independent backup expert Brien Posey discusses what the term 'copy data management' means and how it differs from traditional backup.

What is copy data management, and how does it differ from traditional backup?

Copy data management is one of those terms that seem to mean different things to different people. Generally speaking however, it refers to an approach to data protection that reduces storage consumption while making the data easier to use.

The reduction in storage consumption is based on the fact that organizations often store redundant copies of their data. For example, an organization might back up its primary data to a backup server, then restore a portion of that data to a lab server that is to be used for testing or development purposes. In this example, the data set is being stored three times.

Copy data management seeks to reduce the number of copies to two -- the primary data and the backup copy. When additional data copies are required, an underlying snapshot mechanism is used to create a virtual copy of the data. In reality, no additional copies of the data are ever created. Instead, the software creates a read/write differencing disk (or a similar mechanism) that has a parent-child relationship with the backup copy of the data.

The benefit to this approach is that the data can be used on an as-needed basis without the organization having to worry about someone accidentally modifying the contents of the backup. Write operations are directed to the differencing disk, never to the actual backup copy of the data. In a development or test environment, this means that the environment can be based on an exact replica of the organization's production data, but without unnecessary storage space being consumed.

A number of vendors offer copy data management features. Some refer to this technology as copy data management or copy data virtualization. Other vendors refer to the technology as a virtual lab. In any case, the technology is becoming much more common.

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This was first published in July 2014

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