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The 10 biggest data backup trends for the year ahead

In part two of our series on data backup issues facing organizations today, we look at the biggest backup trends of 2008, and look at the year ahead.

In the first part of our series on data protection trends and the future of backup, we looked at the drivers that contributed to technology trends impacting data protection. In this part, we'll look at the biggest backup trends of 2008, and look ahead at the future of backup. The following are the 10 biggest backup trends today.

  1. Data deduplication. Optimizing the capacity of data transferred and stored was the low-hanging fruit of increasing efficiency. Data deduplication emerged as a game-changing technology in backup environments and saw a great deal of IT investment in 2008. Data deduplication allowed organizations to spread the use of disk in secondary storage processes -- often eliminating tape -- resulting in greater backup and recovery performance and reliability.
  2. Disk-to-disk backup and recovery. While not new, the use of disk in backup and recovery continued to have an impact in 2008. Driven by explosive data growth rates that organizations were largely unable to keep in check (as well as the availability of lower cost disk and deduplication technologies), disk-based data protection contributed to lower operational expenses for data protection, the ability to complete backups within prescribed windows and improvements in meeting recovery objectives.
  3. Server virtualization. Hypervisors were the hype in 2008. Server virtualization's contribution to consolidation, power and cooling, and cost-savings outweighed the investments in re-architecting the environment and reinvesting in the server and storage infrastructure. Server virtualization forced improvements in backup/recovery and enabled disaster recovery where it didn't exist before.
  4. Snapshot or image-level backup is the concept behind VMware Consolidated Backup (VCB) and Volume Shadow Copy Service (VSS) in server virtualization environments. It enables the capture of active systems, such as live databases and running virtual machines, and provides encapsulation of data for disaster recovery processes. Providing rapid recovery and eliminating backup windows, snapshots grew in popularity in 2008 -- as a wholesale replacement for file-level backup and recovery or as an additional layer of protection.
  5. Outsourcing backup /online backup, also known as cloud services, or Software as a Service (SaaS), is part "green" and part "budget-cutting." While it might not reduce an organization's overall carbon footprint in the world, offsetting the storage footprint in the local data center by leveraging cloud-based storage for backup, archiving and disaster recovery is an approach many organizations opted for this year. Similarly, subscribing to SaaS for backup or archiving helped reduce onsite operational personnel and lower capital investments for these processes.
  6. The storage consolidation theme in 2008 extended from data center and server consolidation to converging technology into integrated solutions from a single vendor and vendor consolidation. IT organizations continued to eliminate point products by choosing platforms and applications with consolidated functionality. In the data protection arena, organizations showed interest in platforms that combined backup with integrated archiving, replication, deduplication, snapshot or reporting. By doing so, organizations benefited from economies of scale in procuring, deploying, and managing technology and services.
  7. Archiving. Those companies without an archiving strategy for compliance initiatives turned to archiving -- especially e-mail archiving -- for operational benefits in 2008. Moving infrequently accessed and/or unchanging data off of costly primary storage to another tier in the hierarchy contributed to reduced storage costs and improved backup performance. This trend is especially apparent in organizations where a single group manages both archiving and backup operations.
  8. Low-cost disaster recovery. Tape's lower cost and portability continued to satisfy long-term retention and disaster recovery requirements. However, server virtualization, cloud storage, WAN optimization, data deduplication, and host- or network-based replication all contributed to organizations instituting low-cost DR in 2008 -- in many cases where it didn't exist before.
  9. Integrated encryption. Security breaches and compliance mandates motivated organizations to adopt encryption in tape backup processes. In 2008, the trend favored integration of encryption technology in tape devices and a sharp decline in standalone encryption appliances.
  10. Backup reporting tools. Capacity planning, backup success/failure reporting, and proving service-level agreement (SLA) compliance are just a few reasons why reporting capabilities -- whether built into data protection platforms or delivered via standalone reporting software -- were important assets in 2008. Whether due to lack of operational manpower or the desire to drive greater efficiency in data protection processes, reporting provided visibility and enabled organizations to get their arms around the systems and data, driving efficiency and operational excellence.

Given the current economic climate, many of the big themes of efficiency and cost-savings should continue to drive data protection technology decisions in 2009. It will be easy to rationalize investments that reduce backup storage capacity, report the backup system utilization, shift backup expenses from a capital to an operating budget, or eliminate the need for remote office IT personnel as organizations continue to tighten their belts next year.

About the author:
Lauren Whitehouse is an analyst with Enterprise Strategy Group covering data protection technologies. Lauren is a 20-plus-year veteran in the software industry, formerly serving in marketing and software development roles.

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