Redesigning the Data Backup Plan

With more than 20 year years of high-tech expertise, Mike DiMeglio manages the product marketing activity for FalconStor’s data protection technologies.


Backup is now required to do more than just “back up.” A data backup plan must provide reliability, recoverability, and value like never before, especially in light of new e-discovery requirements, server virtualization, and tighter budgets. Backup is no longer just an IT function; it involves every department and should be a corporate-wide effort.

Backup is also painful, a challenge felt throughout the organization. Despite technological advances, the challenges organizations face continue, especially in regard to optimizing existent and future backup infrastructures. Unabated storage growth, required business continuity and disaster recovery plans, and implementation of server virtualization are challenging IT departments to efficiently ensure data is consistently backed up and protected.

CIOs know that the existing model of backup is consuming them with day-to-day tactical problems. Research confirms that this experience is widespread and indicates that it will lead to major change over the next two years. A top analyst firm has reported that by 2013 more than 75 percent of large enterprises will make changes to eliminate their outdated and burdensome backup windows.

However, prior to implementing new technologies, the IT team must review why and where the backup pain exists, evaluate prerequisites to implementing a new solution, and review available cost-effective disk-based backup methodologies.

Before Implementing, Consider This

Since the pain is felt throughout the company, any change or redesign will be under intense scrutiny. The IT department will be expected to provide immediate results, including meeting challenging backup windows, extending retention times, and supporting new server virtualization projects. Therefore, IT should consider these four items before beginning:

  • Eliminate current backup pain, including day-to-day tactical problems such as failed backups and recoveries.
  • Meet heightened recovery expectations using fewer resources.
  • Incorporate adaptability, flexibility, and scalability – responding to changing demands without disruption to the backup infrastructure.
  • Support development and test environments that require multiple copies of production data; with shrinking application development windows, access to near, real-time copies of production data for testing is a growing requirement.

Additionally, many organizations need a more efficient solution for remote offices, the most vulnerable environments for data loss. While these servers need a backup solution, organizations do not want the expense and hassle of managing separate remote backup solutions nor the inefficiencies of tape transport for disaster recovery.

Disk is the New Tape

To deliver on these prerequisites, redesigned plans must first look to implement a disk-based storage system. Disk increases backup and recovery success rates to 99 percent or more while reducing the associated management time. Technological introductions like deduplication, high capacity, low-cost SATA drives, and WAN optimized replication have further added to disk’s appeal by making it as affordable and functional as tape.

Many forms of disk-based data protection are available for consideration. These include networked attached storage (NAS) or virtual tape libraries (VTLs). In fact, VTL with deduplication makes the most sense for organizations that currently use tape as their primary backup targets and offers a few key advantages:

  • VTL emulates tape libraries and drives – A VTL can emulate any number of tape libraries and tape drives that the existing backup infrastructure is already accustomed to seeing. An organization with multiple SAN-based backup servers and processes (jobs) will find a VTL’s non-disruptive solution the most beneficial.
  • Multiplexing of backup streams is still possible – Since the backup software will recognize the VTL as a physical tape drive, organizations can continue their currently scheduled backup jobs, including those with multiplexing in place, even after the VTL replaces the physical tape library.
  • Direct access to virtual tape drives – VTLs allow companies using Fibre Channel SANs to take advantage of the “shared storage option,” an advanced backup feature provided by many backup software solution providers that allows clients direct access to a tape drive.
  • Physical tape for long-term retention – Some VTL solution providers offer clients a direct copy to tape and tape management functionality directly from the VTL, eliminating disruption of the backup production environment for creating physical tape.

Optimizing disk-based backup with data deduplication is seen as the way to combat tight IT budgets with an easy-to-deploy solution that is easy to manage. VTLs increase backup speeds and success rates while keeping backup data stores under control.

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  1. Since the flooding in Thailand, I suspect a lot of business will be going back to tape with the rapidly rising cost of hard disks.

  2. Now that cloud and dislocated facilities options are more secure and access to them is more flexible, more people seem to be considering that in the wake of physical disasters and even tech blunders.