News, articles and opinions on the current trends in the IT industry.

Data protection issues, trend toward online backup

Server backup is among the most burdensome and least attractive of tasks for businesses.  More often than not the IT staff who are hired to manage backups are of a junior level and are anxious to progress through the department to what they consider a more responsible position.

In larger companies, with numerous remote servers, backup responsibilities are often assigned to staff who are not IT experts (office administration staff, for example). In small and medium businesses, backups are often performed at irregular intervals, if at all, and backup tapes are frequently left on-site, drastically reducing the possibility of recovery in the event of any on-site disaster.

Issues with data protection

Historically, a backup refers to the daily copy of a business’s data to a backup tape. Typically, IT staff configure an incremental backup of only the files that have changed or been updated in some way. Usually, these backups are run at night, with a full backup of all data taking place only weekly or even monthly.  Many organisations still operate with this model.

However, due to today’s demanding business requirements, recent technology enhancements and marked cost reductions in hardware, many firms are electing to augment at least a portion of their backups with more advanced techniques.

In recent times the concept of tiered recovery has been emerging. Unlike tiered storage, this recovery model may be used as an add-on. A business can choose to combine many of these methods to achieve the desired level of data protection and recovery features, and to ensure that their risk and continuity requirements are also being met. For example, a business may choose to utilise replication in order to achieve increased data availability by performing nightly backups to a virtual tape library (VTL), but may also use continuous data protection (CDP) throughout the day, making copies of data to a physical tape for offsite vaulting.

The key change for many companies will be deciding how to manage their backup architecture. It is likely that many will start managing backup for recovery and also look to archiving for long-term retention. Copies of the backup data for disaster recovery need only be kept for a few weeks or months. Data that needs to be retained for longer periods should be managed via an archive process, often using a different resource to that of the backup product.

For some companies, the ideal solution is to use an IT service provider for all, or part of their backup and/or archiving functions. As IT companies are increasingly providing improved recovery services to customers, the need to focus on the outcome from a business and user perspective, rather than just on the internal process, will become increasingly important.

IT organisations will need to improve their recovery time objectives (RTOs) and recovery point objectives (RPOs). The RTO is the amount of time it takes to recover from a given failure scenario. It includes the total elapsed time for all operations that must be completed to make the data usable by the business. The RPO is the maximum tolerable time period in which data might be lost and thereby dictates how much data is lost when a recovery occurs. Traditional nightly backups presume a worst-case scenario of 24 hours’ worth of data loss.

New online options for backups are adding a greater degree of intelligence and flexibility. This offloads some of the processing that the backup server typically handles. New technologies for data reduction and replication, reduced communication costs, and the technology to build large, inexpensive storage environments are making the decision to use an IT service provider more appealing.

Tapes have been the mainstay of corporate data backup and restoration for the past decade. However the tape systems are being challenged to keep up with increasing volumes of data and the growing requirements of data protection. To address these challenges, companies are moving toward an online backup service that saves on IT workload, reduces the risks of data loss, increases the speed of data recovery and offers superior flexibility in data protection.