Prepare for next-generation backup

Learn how to plan and be well-prepared for changes, new technologies and techniques in data protection.

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What you will learn from this tip: Learn how to plan and be well-prepared for changes, new technologies and techniques in data protection.

If you have embraced the concepts and technologies associated with disk-based backup, then you've already begun to extend your backup comfort zone. However, there is more to consider and plan for in order to evolve your data backup practices for a next-generation data protection strategy.

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Assume that backup windows will continue to decrease, if not disappear altogether. Also, keep in mind that even with diligent storage management, including pruning stale and archived data, the number and size of files being stored will continue to increase. Even with archiving and data classification to remove and relocate data files, rest assured that new applications and business factors will consume available storage capacity. Assume that there will be more government regulations with enforcement as well as increased self governance pertaining to data retention and information privacy associated topics. You can also assume that threats to data will increase as will the value of information being stored locally and in remote locations.

Now that you have these and other assumptions in hand, what can you do to plan and prepare for a changing data protection and backup landscape? Short of taking early retirement, a career change or having an up-to-date resume, the first step is accepting that change is inevitable. Then, look at your environment and determine what dependencies exist within your current backup and data protection practices. For example, do you have custom scripts and batch jobs integrated with job schedulers and applications? Have you customized any software to support specialized processing? Do you leverage unique hardware features? While virtualization and abstraction technologies can help isolate and mask physical dependences, there may be specific items in your environment that might not be readily addressed by virtualization technologies.

Some basic things to keep in mind when planning for backup include:

  • What threats and operational reasons are you performing backup for? Is it to support disaster recovery and business continuance? Is it to restore deleted or corrupted files?
  • Do you know what data needs to be backed up, when it needs to be backed up, and how long the backup needs to be available?
  • Where do you need to backup your data to? Do you need a copy onsite and online? Do you need to have a copy offsite?

Talk with your backup and other storage software vendors to see how they will evolve their technology and what they have planned for the future. Talk with your vendors to see what they have on their roadmaps under a nondisclosure agreement (NDA) to help you plan for your future. If you currently are not using a virtual tape library (VTL) device, start looking at this technology. VTLs are a great way to extend your comfort zone. Look for ways to leverage existing knowledge and personal skill sets, practices, polices and backup procedures while eliminating future stocking points. Learn about VTLs in the tips "DR approaches for your VTL" and "Three steps for evaluating a VTL product."

Also, keep an eye on storage virtualization appliances that can provide an abstraction layer for your storage. Also watch out for data classification and context-based categorization tools like those from Abrevity Inc., HP (AppIQ), Kazeon, StoredIQ and Tek-Tools Inc. (among others), and activity and coverage tools from a number of companies, including Bocada Inc., EMC Corp., IBM Corp., Onaro Inc., and WySDM Software Inc.

Wide area file services and wide area data management tools can also help to address data protection and backup of remote and branch offices of all sizes. Data differencing also known as factoring, data filtering, intelligent compression and deduplication is finding its way into technologies including disk-based VTLs, network bandwidth and optimization and other products. Data differencing, along with encryption technologies, will continue to evolve over the next 18-30 months as well as become standard baseline, and must have capabilities in products that that support or enable data protection.

If you do not have a data protection strategy, start working on one; and if you do have one, re-evaluate it and make sure it is up to date. The longer you wait to address changes with regard to data protection, the more challenging it will be to address. Reassess your current environment and look for ways to expand or step out of your current backup and data protection comfort zone.

Do you know…

How to keep your backup within your window?

How to move your backup to a SAN?

About the author: Greg Schulz is founder and senior analyst with the IT infrastructure analyst and consulting firm StorageIO. Greg is also the author and illustrator of "Resilient Storage Networks" (Elsevier) and has contributed material to "Storage" magazine and other TechTarget venues.


This was first published in April 2006

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