Data protection management (DPM) comprises the administration, monitoring and management of backup processes to ensure backup tasks run on schedule and data is securely backed up and recoverable. Good data protection management means having effective backup processes and methodologies in place to maintain data integrity.
Although data protection management refers to the best practices an organization applies to managing data protection applications and operations, it's also a technology and product category with both backup and systems management application vendors providing software that specifically addresses data protection.
Data protection management software first entered the enterprise data storage market with data backup reporting tools designed to help storage and backup administrators analyze their backup environments. Early DPM products reported on backup failure and success rates, typically relying on the backup applications' operational logs. But DPM products became more than just log analyzers; they also could survey the environment and determine if any volumes, directories or files were missed during the backup process. Data protection management software can also discover orphaned servers that aren't included in current protection policies.
Why is data protection management so important?
Data protection management applications provide backup management features that many backup apps lack. DPM programs have been around for two decades and, over that time, some backup applications have added DPM features, but they still might fall short when compared to the comprehensiveness of dedicated protection management applications.
In addition to reporting on the effectiveness of backup activities, DPM can also indicate the likely success of recovery efforts. Confidence in the recoverability of backed up data is important for routine recoveries where a file or two or a directory has been deleted or damaged, but it's critical for disaster recovery (DR) planning. Many DPM applications can simulate a DR scenario and, thus, indicate if all necessary files can be recovered to ensure business continuity.
DPM is particularly useful for customers who use more than one vendor's backup application in their data protection infrastructure. Those mixed-vendor environments would require expertise in each of the backup apps in use, as well as monitoring and reporting on each one separately. A DPM product might support a variety of backup applications, making it possible to access and monitor the various backup systems from a single management pane.
DPM can enhance the backup process and data protection policies in other ways, including:
- Managing snapshots. Increasingly, users are turning to storage arrays' snapshotting capabilities to accelerate data backup. DPM apps provide tools to manage those proprietary snapshots from different storage vendors.
- Ensuring compliance. DPM tools can track data to ensure that it's used in a manner that doesn't conflict with specific regulatory directives such as the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA).
- Storage management. Given their reach across multiple server and storage systems and cloud computing resources, DPM applications can report on the general health of these systems, going beyond just managing data protection processes.
What should be part of a data protection management strategy?
Modern data protection management tools enable storage administrators to set service-level-driven backup and recovery policies and tier data protection based on its value to the business. The newer products are designed to help administrators understand what is or isn't working in their environment so they can spend less time troubleshooting and more time managing errors and infrastructure issues. A data protection management tool can provide visibility into such issues, which isn't possible with a standalone backup application.
In addition to the features and capabilities describe above, a good data protection management process should also include:
- The ability to configure storage systems and related software, which might include general storage management such as space allocation.
- The ability to view and determine the status of all current and past data protection processes.
- A system for handling any alerts that would indicate a failure during a backup process, and a methodology for responding to and resolving alerts.
Examples of data protection management tools
Many backup applications have been enhanced to include data protection management features as backup applications evolve into data management platforms, so some of the early DPM entrants have been acquired by other companies.
Vendors of data protection management products include:
- NetApp. NetApp acquired Akorri Networks in 2011 and incorporated its technology into NetApp's cross-platform management application.
- Veritas. Veritas acquired Aptare Inc. and now markets it as Aptare IT Analytics. Veritas' flagship backup product, NetBackup, offers extensive DPM features.
- Bocada Inc. Bocada rolled out its first DPM product in 2001; its application now also manages cloud backup.
- Dell Technologies. Dell Technologies Data Protection Suite includes Dell's 2015 acquisition of EMC's DPM technology.
- Servergraph. Servergraph is another early entrant in the DPM market. It was acquired by Rocket Software, which markets the app as Rocket Servergraph.
- SolarWinds. SolarWinds, which offers a variety of IT management applications, acquired Tek-Tools in 2010.