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SNIA: Recovery is more important than backup

Jacob Van der Eyk

Today’s businesses are forced to deal with an ever-increasing volume of digital data that is threatening to undermine their business agility and continuity. Jacob Van der Eyk, chairman, SNIA ANZ, adds his weight behind the use of continuous data protection (CDP) technologies to address data.

The foundation stone of contemporary business operations is data. Data is a primary asset and yet is dispersed widely across an organisation. The data is present on multiple systems, on hard disks, drives in laptops, on USB key drives, and in large server farms sharing networked storage. The common denominators are the high cost of management, keeping it available 24/7, 365 days a year, and protecting it from damage, corruption and attack.

Data protection is not as simple as it used to be. No longer can computer systems be closed down overnight for backup purposes as backup windows have been almost eliminated. For companies with multiple sites, maintaining a local backup can be a significant cost since backups must be managed at each local site individually. It is neither cost-effective to maintain highly trained IT personnel at every location, nor is it safe to place the burden on local staff for whom performing and verifying backups is not a core competency. As a result, these tasks are likely to be neglected — placing critical corporate data at risk.

Explosive technology growth has resulted in complex environments with dedicated storage area networks housing an assortment of intelligent storage devices. Standalone applications have grown into complex, feature and data rich environments with a thirst for storage. As the business costs associated with downtime and data loss increase, many businesses are adopting new policies and procedures around system protection that provide recovery options to ensure a timely business restart from data corruption or system failure.

Traditional backup methods have struggled to meet the data recovery point objectives (RPO) and recovery time objectives (RTO) of today’s businesses. The focus of IT is shifting to new processes and technologies that deliver full, fast and reliable recovery of data. Simply throwing additional disk into the mix is not enough.

The trend is now towards using disk as the primary backup media and technologies based on that principle are now delivering instant restoration and granular recovery. These technologies are generally referred to as ‘continuous data protection’ (CDP) and form a critical part of recovery management in a business continuity plan.

CDP is a methodology that continuously captures or tracks data modifications and stores changes independent of the primary data, enabling recovery points from any time in the past. CDP systems may be block, file or application based and can provide fine granularities of restorable objects to infinitely variable recovery points. According to the SNIA definition, all CDP solutions incorporate these three fundamental attributes:

  1. Data changes are continuously captured or tracked;
  2. All data changes are stored in a separate location from the primary storage;
  3. Recovery point objectives are arbitrary and need not be defined in advance of the actual recovery.

The benefits of CDP include:

  • Offers faster data retrieval, enhanced data protection, and increased business continuity with lower overall cost and complexity.
  • Gives customers the ability to stage application environments on a completely different SAN or even in a separate geographic location.
  • The technology can, in parallel to online applications, present alternate views of data, from any point or event in time. An important use for these time-based views is as a source for creating copies using traditional methods such as a scheduled backup to tape.
  • Solves the backup window challenge by eliminating the backup window itself, enabling the creation of backup copies any time, day or night, without affecting online operations.

The SNIA CDP Special Interest Group has just released its latest white paper on CDP which addresses best practices for data protection and operational recovery, and how CDP works. You can request a copy of this document by sending an email to mailto:enquiries@snia.org.au.

SNIA ANZ is very keen to expand its independent educational material, so if you find the white paper valuable you can get access to items on many more subjects by joining SNIA ANZ.