The Changing Face of Disaster Recovery

Disaster recovery and remote office replication are increasingly becoming top-of-mind issues for IT professionals. It is ironic that tape, the most operationally unpredictable and error-prone media for backup and recovery, over time has become the primary media deployed in enterprise backup and disaster recovery implementations. The Gartner Group estimates that one-in-ten recovery images on tape is actually unrecoverable. A ten percent failure rate is by far the worst operational dependency in enterprise IT. Yet, the majority of enterprises rely on tape as a “safeguard” for their most precious corporate assets.

Just as tape is not inherently reliable as a storage media, using third party trucking services to transport tapes back and forth is not an inherently reliable process. Might the same flood, power outage or severe weather that takes down your data center make it difficult for a truck to deliver tapes to the same data center?

IT people are generally pretty intelligent, so how did this ostrich-style approach to disaster recovery become the industry standard? Well, tape is cheap and disasters don’t happen every day. Juxtaposed against IT budget and staffing constraints, tape enabled companies to cost effectively deploy some measure of disaster recovery, and to feel some measure of comfort that, in the event of a disaster, the data that was the lifeblood of their organization still existed and was to some degree recoverable. How long to recovery? Hopefully, not too long (fingers crossed).

Major disasters such as Hurricane Katrina, worldwide terrorism, and new laws enacted specifying data retention and retrieval policies for litigation purposes are making CFOs and CEOs (not just IT guys!) wake up to the stark realities associated with their companies’ disaster recovery capabilities.

Capacity Optimized Storage: A cost-effective, automated, reliable alternative for better backup and disaster recovery Capacity Optimized Storage (COS) is an emerging category of disk-based backup and recovery storage solutions that directly addresses the data volume challenge—and the disaster recovery challenge as well. For the first time in decades, it presents a viable alternative to tape backup, offering superior price-performance and far more responsive disaster recovery capabilities.

Capacity Optimized Storage is enabled by deduplication technology, which massively reduces data (by more than 20x) down to its smallest possible size, into an amount of bytes that can be easily transferred over the network to a disk system in the disaster recovery site, and readily be retrieved should the need arise.

Capacity Optimized Storage is ideally suited for disaster recovery applications. By reducing data volume, deduplication enables efficient bandwidth utilization for automatic WAN vaulting of backup data to disaster recovery sites. As the term implies, “WAN vaulting” delivers cost-effective offsite storage capacity similar to the physical “vault” where backup tapes are stored, but with immediate accessibility via the network.

By vaulting backup data across wide area networks, the operational inefficiencies and risks associated with tape based disaster recovery are solved easily and effectively, at the absolute minimum WAN cost. The local tape autoloader can simply be replaced with capacity optimized disk-based storage to provide local recoverability that is highly reliable. Backups can be replicated to a central hub site or sites, where a larger system can store the replica backup data for several remote offices. Once the data has been written at the hub, it can then be moved to physical tape as required for archiving.

A variety of topologies are in fact very easy to design and deploy, once backup data is reduced via deduplication and compression technologies for WAN vaulting. Disk-based backup appliances can then replace the tapes and trucks.

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