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As information technology evolves, an organization's data backup strategy must also evolve to ensure that the organization remains protected against data loss. The mainstream acceptance of technologies such as virtualization and cloud means that legacy backup tools and techniques may not be up to the challenge of addressing modern data protection requirements, and a new platform may be in order.
But which type of data protection product should you be using? There are several different types of integrated products available, each with its own strengths and weaknesses, for your data backup strategy.
Backup software running on physical servers
Numerous vendors offer backup software that is designed to run on a physical server within an organization's own data center. The primary advantage to using this type of platform for your data backup strategy is flexibility. Backup software running on a physical server -- or even on a virtual server -- in a data center can be outfitted to meet the organization's unique needs. The IT department can decide what type of hardware will be used by the backup server and can also choose the type of backup medium.
Using an on-premises backup server is a good option for organizations that need to protect data and workloads that primarily reside on premises. While an on-premises backup server may be able to protect data residing in the cloud, bandwidth constraints limit the volume of cloud data that can be backed up.
Data protection-optimized backup appliances
Data protection-optimized backup appliances have a lot of similarities to backups based on backup software running on physical or virtual servers. After all, a backup appliance is essentially just a highly optimized, self-contained backup server.
Because integrated data protection appliances have been preconfigured by the backup vendor, administrators are freed from the task of installing backup software and then trying to get that software to recognize the backup target. The vendor has already done all of the work. In the case of a physical appliance, the vendor has also already selected hardware that is certified to be fully compatible with the backup software.
As a data backup strategy alternative, some vendors offer virtual appliances. They work almost identically to their physical counterparts, except that they are designed to run on an organization's virtualization hosts rather than using dedicated hardware.
Backup appliances are widely varied in terms of capabilities, but many vendors include target storage in their physical appliances. In many cases, backup appliances can also act as cloud storage gateways, enabling backups to be replicated to the cloud.
Secondary storage systems dedicated to integrated data protection
There are currently a small number of vendors that provide hyper-converged systems, which include secondary storage, as the basis for their backup products. These integrated products tend to be more expensive than backup appliances because they require a substantial amount of hardware. However, hyper-convergence offers several advantages.
One benefit is scalability. As an organization's data grows, the backup capacity can easily be increased by adding modules.
Another advantage is that hyper-convergence is well-suited to providing instant recovery capabilities. Modern backup products based on the use of physical backup servers or backup appliances usually include instant recovery capabilities. Instant recovery enables failed virtual machines (VMs) to be immediately brought online, running directly on the backup server, while a restoration is performed in the background. The caveat to this process is that the backup server must have sufficient memory, network, storage and CPU resources to be able to run the protected VMs. Since hyper-converged products are usually made up of several servers, they often have far greater capacity to host instant recovery workloads than an appliance or a physical backup server might.
Not surprisingly, there are several vendors that offer cloud-based backup services. These services are great for backing up data and workloads that are running in the cloud. Although some of these services are also able to protect workloads residing on premises, organizations must consider the bandwidth that will be required for the data backup strategy.