Smart Backup Storage Tips

Courtesy of InformationWeekEditor's Note: Welcome to SmartAdvice, a column by The Advisory Council that answers questions of core interest to information technology professionals. Question: How can we eliminate shipping (and possibly losing) backup tapes? Our advice: Disaster recovery and business-continuity planning are essential to a prudently managed business. Disasters can be major, such as fires, floods, tornados, and earthquakes, which can destroy a whole data center, or minor, such as the loss of a single important file. A range of backup techniques can be employed depending upon business requirements. Classification Of Data And Backup Backup and recovery investment decisions should be made on two main criteria: Recovery Time Objective: Elapsed time from the occurrence of the disaster until business operations are restored Recovery Point Objective: Point in time before the disaster to which data will be restored Data is classified based on these objectives, which are derived from business needs. A high-availability application (e.g., Web-order processing, or an automatic teller machine network) may demand immediate failure recovery, which requires redundant systems. A document-management system, in contrast, may require a different kind of disaster-recovery scenario. In addition, there may be legal retention requirements for long-term data storage in electronic, optical, or paper form. Storage companies offer electronic record retention in secure locations for this purpose, and with guarantees to deliver media when required. A delivery truck from storage companies typically makes a trip to a particular area for pick-up and drop-off of tapes. The transportation of tapes using delivery trucks, and the loss of such tapes, has recently been embarrassing news for some organizations. These organizations also may face liability issues, especially if personal data from these tapes ends up in the wrong hands. Electronic Vaulting Several storage-application service providers offer an alternative to traditional backups -- secure backup over the Internet or dedicated circuits. This type of service is referred to as electronic vaulting. The services may use intermediary storage devices at the customer site, from which the service electronically transports the data to a secure site using hierarchical storage management, which keeps the least-accessed data in the lowest-cost storage. These services can achieve a faster recovery time, since there's no time lag involved in physically retrieving and loading backup media. The data is transported to the recovery facility over the network. Depending upon the software used and backup frequency, these services can also achieve a more timely recovery, although similar improvements can be obtained using traditional backup systems. An electronic-vaulting vendor also can help in assessing the current backup and disaster-recovery procedures. Vendor selection criteria should include:

  • Functionality and support for backup and restore Pricing
  • Vendor stability
  • User interface
  • Data security during transport and storage
  • Infrastructure

As more vendors offer electronic vaulting, the price for large backups has become cost-effective compared with the cost for traditional backup. Organizations should review their current backup procedures, including previously unexplored exposures of liabilities and loss during transportation. A comprehensive cost of ownership comparison, including liability and loss exposures, will help you make a sound backup system decision. The Advisory Council (TAC), www.tacadvisory.com, is a technology advisory services firm. TAC has formed a strategic business relationship with CMP Media and InformationWeek. CMP Media shares in the revenue for TAC's fee-based advisory services. Submit questions directly to SmartAdvice@tacadvisory.com.

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