A New Approach To Data Protection And Management

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In the struggle to ensure data protection, reduce backup windows, and manage costs – both capital and operational – IT managers face increasing challenges. Continual data growth, spurred by an increase in business data from databases, email systems, file shares and other sources, is only one aspect of the problem.

Adding to the burden on IT management is the need to retain data of all sorts for longer periods due to changes in how businesses operate, and evolving regulatory demands.

Many enterprises have turned to tiered storage architectures in an attempt to regain control over the operational costs of managing and protecting differing classes of data. The rise of this type of storage architecture has in turn created an opportunity to change the way enterprises protect and manage backup data.

Recovery management is a relatively new approach to data protection across Europe and it holds the promise of reducing data under protection, improving recoverability and reducing backup windows. Combining tiered storage assets with backup, snapshot and replication technologies, recovery management offers ITmanagers new tools in the quest to resolve data management and backup challenges.

Recovery management

Recovery management solves the problem of lengthy backup windows, difficult restores and growing costs which offer IT personnel the ability to protect, and recover, virtually any amount of data virtually instantaneously. Additional benefits for email applications and databases include preventing business interruption due to data corruption and virus attacks.

Recovery management via “recovery tiers’ enables continuous access to the business data and information needed for decision-making and execution, the lifeblood of competitiveness.

The recovery tier

Traditional storage environments consist of primary storage – the “protection’ tier – and archives, both active and offsite. With the addition of a recovery tier, comprised of recovery volumes created from snapshots and replicated data, IT departments gain the advantage of faster recovery of business-critical data from near-line recovery tiers without the need to touch production data.

Unlike the data protection or backup tier, which includes backup copies of data stored on primary disk, disk-to-disk or disk-to-disk-to-tape, the recovery tier requires only one “touch’ of production data via a storage environment’s native snapshot capability. By snapping a copy of production data on a regular basis – for example hourly – and replicating that data to the near-line recovery tier, applications performance is protected, recovery levels are assured and end-user productivity is unaffected.

Creating on-line replicas

Recovery management centres on the creation and management of online replicas of production data. Online replicas are immediately available without requiring a restore process before data can be used, a marked difference from traditional backup, including backup-to-disk, which requires that backup data be restored before it can be used. In UK, European and global enterprises which rely on Exchange and Oracle, a restore process may take days – blocking end-user access to email and databases and slowing business processes dramatically.

Of course, it has been possible to create online replicas with snapshot and replication technologies for some time – primarily on large enterprise storage arrays. Today, this capability is available on mid-tier and SMB devices from a number of reputable vendors.

Creating a recovery tier of near-line storage can involve physical assets, e.g. a separate storage device, or logical-virtual assets, for example, an online tier co-located with production data. Either approach results in easy access to online replicas of production data. Online replicas can be created more rapidly than traditional backup copies because they maintain data in native format, using snapshot, mirroring, or replication technologies. These online replicas do not require a restore process and are thus more readily accessible than traditional backup copies.

In addition to providing online recovery, recovery tiers supplement the established backup protection tier, as well as the archive tier. This multi-tier approach to data management offers increased service levels, providing enterprises with a comprehensive data management approach and enabling IT to support corporate regulations dictating retention and availability of information.

Improving RTO and RPO

Recovery tiers offer an added benefit: improvement in recovery point objective (RPO) and recovery time objective (RTO) service levels. Of vital importance to corporations subject to virus attacks and other data-corruption that threatens Exchange and other business-critical databases and data stores, recovery tiers using online recovery volumes enable near-instantaneous recovery in situations which typically require days to restore from backup copies.

RPO and RTO service levels are also improved when online recovery volumes are used to create backup copies. By eliminating the need to backup from production data, sound recovery management practices solve the problem of squeezing all of an enterprise’s data into shrinking backup windows.