Backup systems have come a long way from the days when they were seen merely as expensive insurance policies for data. During the past few years, backup vendors have improved their products to the point where even basic workgroup-level applications have dozens of features.
Business continuity and data preservation mandates require that IT managers not only create backups but also be able to recover data in a timely fashion. Because of new regulations and compliance measures, among other things, backup is one of the few applications that virtually every company either has or needs to implement.
Backup is a highly competitive market, and with so many solutions to choose from, it is important for IT managers to have a strong grasp of their environment and their business needs before beginning the RFP process.
Obviously, a business that can stand to lose a few hours worth of data will have a decidedly different (and far less expensive) backup implementation than will a business that needs to protect every transaction processed.
The security of removable media and WORM storage has become an important issue, along with basic backup features. This years rash of embarrassing headlines about tape thefts and losses has made encryption a requirement for virtually every company that needs to transport tapes off-site to a data vault. Although tapes can be encrypted using a stand-alone encryption device such as one from Decru Inc. or NeoScale Systems Inc., most backup solutions do have basic encryption capabilities.
The level of encryption and the key management of these bundled solutions may not be acceptable for larger companies with strict compliance requirements, but smaller businesses may find that the basic bundled functions ably meet their needs.
WORM is another requirement for companies with data retention needs. On the market today are several tape drives that have WORM capabilities, and IT staffs can also opt for disk-based solutions that are WORM-enabled.
Disk-to-disk backup and management consolidation with security and other storage products are two major trends in the backup market today, and they speak to the importance of improved recovery times and manageability.
The case for disks
To compensate for the deficiencies of tape—the traditional medium for backups—hard-drive-based solutions have emerged in great numbers. Tape-based backup still has a place in the data center because it is portable and a proven technology for long-term archiving, but more and more companies are moving to disk-to-disk backup.
Disk-to-disk systems speed backup, but, more important, they also provide faster recovery than do traditional tape products—a key advantage, considering the importance of business continuity.
Given tapes tendency to wear out and become unreliable on short recycle rotations, we strongly suggest that companies of all sizes consider a disk-to-disk backup system (or the backup-to-disk options included in their backup software) for their daily backup and restore chores.
Most backup systems on the market support D2D2T (disk to disk to tape) backup implementations, where daily and incremental backups are written to disks and are cached on disks for a specific period of time. As time goes on, the backup utility writes the older data sitting on the disk cache to tape, which frees disk space for future backup jobs.
Another emerging form of disk-to-disk backup is CDP (continuous data protection), which ensures that data is protected throughout the business day. Unlike tape-based backup solutions, where backups are usually run only at night and data created during the day is left unprotected, CDP solutions log transactions as they come in. If something bad happens—regardless of whether its due to user error, a virus or some other disaster—an IT manager can roll back data to a period before the corruption event occurred.
Most CDP solutions currently available are from startup companies such as Revivio Inc. and XOsoft or from established hardware vendors such as Storage Technology Corp. However, major backup vendors, including Symantec Corp., with Backup Exec 10d, and Microsoft Corp., with Data Protection Manager, are entering the fray.
For small businesses that do not even have tape backup, there are solutions such as Lasso Logics Lasso CDP appliance, which runs continuous backups at the office and sends the backed-up data to a hosted data center for off-site storage, eliminating the need for tapes.
Another trend we are seeing in the backup market is tighter integration between security and backup. An example of this is Computer Associates International Inc.s Business Protection Suite r2, which bundles backup management tools with anti-virus and anti-spyware technology.
However, based on what weve seen so far from vendors such as Symantec and CA, it could be a long time before IT managers have consolidated interfaces for security management and backup. Solutions available today are neatly packaged bundles, which make it easier for IT managers to acquire the technology. Based on what weve seen from CAs Business Protection Suite r2, vendors have made subtle improvements to streamline management of backup and security.
Contact Senior Analyst Henry Baltazar at [email protected].