Today's infrastructure has developed in a way that has rendered traditional methods for data protection impractical. Backup administrators must adopt modern data protection mechanisms that can cope with these next-generation challenges. This section of our primer on data protection discusses some of the data protection options that are available today to address virtual server backups and bring your own device challenges.
Virtual machine backups
As previously discussed, virtual machines (VMs) can pose a number of challenges for backup administrators. Thankfully, backup software has evolved to address most of these challenges. Today there are backup vendors who produce products that are specifically designed to protect virtual data centers. Even most of the legacy backup vendors have retrofitted their products to make them virtualization-aware.
Today, the biggest challenge associated with protecting a virtual data center is application awareness. Most modern backup applications use a snapshot mechanism to back up VMs. This approach works very well for protecting operating systems, but it can result in momentary outages or even data corruption for VMs that are running an unsupported operating system or an unsupported application. That being the case, it is extremely important for administrators to choose a backup application that fully supports the operating system and application sets that are running on their VMs.
Bring your own device
Another challenge for backup administrators is that today many users like to work from mobile devices. These mobile devices may be owned by the organization, or they could be the user's own personal device. The reason such devices present a challenge is that the device types vary widely, and connectivity tends to be intermittent at best.
Today, organizations use two main approaches to protect mobile device data. One approach involves automatically synchronizing mobile device storage to cloud storage. This allows a copy of the end user data to be stored in a centralized location, thereby making it easier to protect.
The other approach is to avoid storing corporate data on the device altogether. Instead, users establish remote connectivity to a centralized storage mechanism. Not only does this approach make data protection a lot easier, it also helps to protect the organization's data in another way. If the user's device were to be lost or stolen, there would be no need to worry about accidental data disclosure because no data is stored on the device.
Backup monitoring and user self service
Although most backup applications have built-in monitoring capabilities, dedicated backup monitoring software is designed to provide a high-level view of backup activity, even if the organization is using backup software from multiple vendors.
Each backup application monitoring vendor has its own unique approach, but generally speaking, the software works by analyzing log files or analyzing the email messages that are generated at the end of the backup jobs. By doing so, the software is able to produce an easy-to-digest report that highlights any problems with the most recent backups.
Another mechanism that can go a long way toward helping administrators to reduce the overall backup-related burden is self-service portals. The idea is that, in some organizations, the users are allowed to restore files and folders to previous versions if they are the ones who created (or own) that data. In most cases, it would be inappropriate to allow users to take it upon themselves to restore a VM or an application, but by allowing users to restore individual files, backup administrators can be freed from many of the day-to-day recovery requests.
Check out our entire data protection primer on identifying data backup solutions for today's challenges.