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Data Migration Strategies: Retiring Non-Production Backup Platforms

Many companies must maintain a legacy backup software instance in order to continue to access aged content on tape, writes Jim McGann of Index Engines. Using the right backup data migration strategy enables intelligent management and access to relevant data for legal and compliance needs.

Jim McGann is vice president of information management company Index Engines. Connect with him on LinkedIn.

Many companies choose to move to a new backup platform that provides better functionality, support or simply superior integration within their storage environment. Others have inherited non-production backup environments through a merger or acquisition.

Either way many companies must maintain a legacy backup software instance in order to continue to access aged content on tape for legal or compliance purposes.

But the benefits outweigh the procrastination as once data with business value is migrated from legacy tape there is no need to maintain this legacy environment. This will result in cost savings through the retirement of the old backup software maintenance as well as data center resources and management overhead. This also provides a key opportunity to decide what data needs to be preserved and what is redundant, outdated or trivial which is something your legal and records team should have a grip on.

There are three recommended backup data migration strategies that enable intelligent management and access to relevant data for legal and compliance needs. The method ultimately chosen depends on industry and company policies to determine what content has business value. This is best decided by working with legal and records management.

Single Instance of All Data

For organizations that cannot determine what should be preserved and what no longer has value, migration of a single instance of legacy backup data from highly redundant tape or disk into an accessible and manageable online archive is the solution.

This allows for legal and records to manage the data going forward where they can determine retention periods and purge what is no longer required. For IT organizations this represents a savings in offsite tape storage as tapes can be remediated once the migration is complete. This also saves ongoing tape restoration costs and provides more efficient support for eDiscovery and compliance requirements.

Single Instance Email, Specific File Types

Many organizations are only concerned with legacy email or a specific file type (i.e. PDF, Excel, etc.) as this content contains important corporate records or sensitive communications that must be preserved and archived.

Preserving a single instance of email or specific files from legacy backups is a much smaller subset and simplifies the migration process, especially if you can define a date range and not extract data that has outlived its retention requirements. This data can then be managed according to existing legal hold and retention polices and content that no longer has value can be purged.

Selective Culled Dataset

The most efficient method of migrating data from backup images is using a culled dataset. A culled dataset is based on what business records are required for long-term preservation. If legal and records management have a defined policy as to what is required for legal hold, compliance and other regulatory requirements, this criteria can be built into the migration strategy and only this content can be restored and persevered. This would typically represent less than 1 percent of the tape content.

Once a strategy is chosen, the migration process can begin. The first phase of this process is optional but in many instances it can significantly streamline the process. The catalog is the key to providing knowledge and access to the legacy tape data. If it is not available or cannot be ingested it can be recreated by scanning tape headers to determine the content.

Once the catalog is ingested or created, the legacy backup software can be retired and eliminated from the data center as it will no longer be required for data access and restoration.

Ingestion of the catalog allows for all the metadata to be indexed including the backup policies. An assessment and analysis of the backup content can then be performed in order to further define the migration strategy to one of the three above.

From there, data can be reported on further and culled down. Some of the migrated content may be outside any retention periods, some may be a file type with no long-term preservation value (databases, log files, etc.), some may exist on hosts or servers that have no sensitive content that would require archiving.

Disposition strategies can include migration to cloud sources, archives, network storage and more, saving the organization money and the time of managing legacy data sources.

Industry Perspectives is a content channel at Data Center Knowledge highlighting thought leadership in the data center arena. See our guidelines and submission process for information on participating. View previously published Industry Perspectives in our Knowledge Library.

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