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Happy 'Backup' New Year 2003

Jon Toigo describes five good reasons why 2003 should be a year to focus on getting your backups in order.

The New Year is upon us and many folks still have done nothing to protect their most critical corporate asset (next to skilled personnel) -- namely, data. The reasons are understandable: like dieting or going to the gym or swearing off cigarettes or alcohol, the task of data protection is an onerous one. It is hard to keep the resolution once made and there are more than ample excuses and rationalizations for backsliding.

But 2003 is an excellent year to start doing something about data protection and here are five reasons why...

Reason #1: Free up backup resource dollars by trading in unused storage gear

First, the geometric increase in data predicted by leading pundits and analysts in the late 1990s and early 2000s has proven another tempest in a teapot. In most organizations, data isn't growing at nearly the rate anticipated by the Gartners, the IDCs, or any of the other analysts-qua-marketing-agents-for-the-storage-industry. If your organization was suckered into leasing a lot of extra gear or setting up a SAN in anticipation of the data flood, now's the time to turn it all back into your vendor and, in so doing, to free up some money to do backups.

Think about it: Most storage hardware leases only last about three years and the last time people bought gear in droves was 2000. So, turning in the old junk will free up money better spent on cheaper gear and on data protection. Cool, huh?

Reason #2: Manage multiple backups with third-party backup products

Second, the limitations and proprietary shenanigans of the leading backup vendors have given rise to third party products that manage multiple backup processes for you. Think Bocada or Tek-Tools or any one of a dozen other packages out there: Deploying one can enable you to consolidate the management of multiple backup products from Veritas, Legato, Computer Associates, and a flock of others. So, enterprise backup management doesn't have to be the hassle that it once was.

Reason #3: Use new technologies to reduce your amount of backup data

Third, cool new technology from Avamar Technologies, among others, enable you to cull down your total backup set before you dump it to tape by using techniques such as commonality factoring. Heck, with the cheap price for IDE/ATA arrays and upcoming serial ATA devices, you could move everything to a secondary tier of disk before going to tape and do some really sharp stuff to the data before backing it up. In addition to cutting down on the duplicated files, you could run some virus scanning, cull out the junk files, and even lay on a data naming scheme -- like EMC Centera, but without the Japanese mortgage that obligates you and three generations of your family to footing the bill. Getting the data sorted out and cleaned up, then prioritized for restore -- always a burdensome task -- can now begin to be accomplished with less blood, sweat and tears.

Reason #4: You can now afford to be a storage bargain shopper

Fourth, the price tag on all storage hardware is bargain basement right now. So, whatever you want, from tape libraries to disk arrays, can be had at a price that won't break even the most strangulated budgets in 2003.

Reason #5: Now's the time to try remote vaulting

Fifth, and finally, I want to dwell on some points raised by smart guy and CEO of Horison Information Strategies in Boulder, Colo., Fred Moore. Fred advanced an interesting thesis at the CMG 2002 Conference in Reno, Nev. last month, that there was never a better time to begin using remote vaulting -- that is, writing backups to tape (or disk) remotely located at your favorite off-site storage company or hot site. His reason had to do with the glut in high bandwidth networks that exists today. Here is a summary of his thinking, with which I wholeheartedly agree.

"Now," says Fred, "might be the optimal time to consider using the installed fiber infrastructure because:"

"1) Prices for broadband or metro fiber (Note: this is not DSL or cable) have fallen over 50% in the past 12 months and the trend currently continues due to the 'fiber glut.'"

"2) However, the installed fiber is aging and much of it is becoming obsolete with old/dated transmission technologies before it will ever get used given the slowdown in bandwidth consumption."

"3) Upgrading and replacing the existing unused fiber will drive costs upward as digging dirt means $$$$. When technology upgrades are again needed in a year or so, the expense of installing new fiber will drive bandwidth prices higher reversing the trend created by the bandwidth glut."

"4) The Telecommunications Industry Association estimates that only 45-75% of U.S. metro fiber was lit at the end of 2001. 2002 numbers are not out yet but may be about the same due to Dense Wave Division Multiplexing (DWDM) on existing pipes. [Note: It is more cost-effective to increase bandwidth by adding optical channels using DWDM rather than increasing the data rate per channel. This accelerates consumption of existing healthy fiber pipes and drives prices upward quicker than using dark and potentially obsolete fiber.]"

"5) Prices may never be lower than they are now!"

Bottom Line? The tools for data protection have never been more affordable or manageable than they are in 2003. So, call Iron Mountain (they have a couple of good e-vaulting strategies) or whomever you use for storing your critical data offsite and work out a strategy.

You may find that protecting your data requires a lot less effort than shedding those ten ugly pounds of fat that gathered at your midsection during your holiday food fests in 2002.

About the author: Jon William Toigo has authored hundreds of articles on storage and technology along with his monthly "Toigo's Take on Storage" expert column and backup/recovery feature. He is also a frequent site contributor on the subjects of storage management, disaster recovery and enterprise storage. Toigo has authored a number of storage books, including Disaster recovery planning: Preparing for the unthinkable, 3/e.

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