Are full backups a thing of the past?


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It's not just about failures
The following broader topics should be considered when evaluating disk-based data protection solutions.

Integration. Because no single tool can perform and manage traditional backups, snapshots, replication and CDP, it's likely you'll deploy multiple data protection products. It's important to understand how--or if--these tools can integrate with each other. As part of a cohesive data protection strategy, you need to know the flow of data through the various layers of data protection (see "Balancing cost and risk," below).

Initial synchronization. Think of this as the equivalent of a traditional full tape backup. Every disk-based solution needs a starting point, and initial synchronization is usually it. CDP must create an initial copy of your data somewhere and replication also creates an initial copy. This initial synchronization process should be understood from a "how" and a "how long" standpoint.

Application support. You also need to know the backup requirements of a specific app. For example, making a snapshot of an Oracle database, Microsoft SQL Server instance or Exchange environment may require the data protection product to perform certain pre-tasks or interfaces with specific APIs. One database

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product could mount a CDP volume from any point in time and automatically recover to the last consistent database state, while another's best practice recommends that you quiesce the database periodically to ensure consistent recovery points.

Storage requirements. Additional storage is required for each disk-based data protection solution. An understanding of business requirements and estimates of metrics such as data change rate will help you estimate additional capacity needs.

Monitoring. You should periodically test your recovery process, but the monitoring and reporting capabilities of the data protection solutions should help you determine if your apps are adequately protected. These capabilities may include predicting potential problems and notifications when exceptions occur. You should also consider if monitoring services can be integrated into your service delivery and service performance dashboards.

Storage vendors are responding to modern data protection needs by integrating disk-based backup technologies into their central backup suites. Until this integration is complete, you'll need to implement and manage a multilayer data protection strategy based on the criticality of the app owning the data.

Balancing cost and risk
The following steps will help you identify which applications require different levels of protection, thereby balancing cost and risk.

  1. Know the business requirements for applications with regard to recovery point objective (RPO), recovery time objective (RTO) and retention requirements.

  2. Identify the probability of various risks occurring for each of the above. For example, the probability of discovering latent data corruption two weeks after the fact may be very small, so you may choose to ignore it.

  3. Consult with each business unit about its RPO/RTO requirements and related costs. For example, continuous data protection may satisfy the desired RPO/RTO requirements, but at a cost much higher than the value of the data being protected.

This was first published in September 2008

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