Backup-to-disk performance tuning


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The key to achieving top backup-to-disk performance is to fine-tune the storage configuration and conduct benchmarking tests to determine the best combination of production and backup storage configurations.

Not long ago, a company asked me to help redesign its backup system. What prompted the request was a corrupt file system that took more than 36 hours to restore from its four-year-old tape backup system. Data growth at the company had increased between 100% and 200% per year.

The company wanted to look at new technology to protect its data. The usual questions were asked: How much will it cost to upgrade our current tape resources? How many more tape drives will we need to meet the growing backup window? We looked at all of the company's data protection requirements, including the length of the backup windows, restore speeds and internal service-level agreements. Several solutions were presented, ranging from entirely new backup technologies like Axion from Irvine, CA-based Avamar Technologies Inc., to upgrading or replacing existing DLT tape libraries with faster LTO, to leveraging existing backup software and using disk for backup storage.

Because the company had invested hundreds of thousands of dollars in its existing backup software and hardware, it wanted to see that investment leveraged in some way. There was also a concern about replacing tape drives that still worked and the painful process of upgrading from one tape drive

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technology to another. Alternative backup solutions such as Avamar's Axion with commonality factoring, although great for the right environment, didn't help this firm. After looking at all of the existing backup software solutions on the market, there wasn't much justification in displacing the firm's existing Veritas NetBackup software from Symantec Corp.

At that point in the review process, the focus changed; should we upgrade the company's tape drives or replace them with a SATA disk system?

After looking at products from several tape and disk vendors, it was determined that the cost to upgrade the tape libraries was more than the price of a comparable disk-based solution. The company had a specific goal: Eliminate the need to vault tapes offsite and restore up to 1TB of data in less than eight hours. Our proposed solution was to back up all data at the company's primary data center and then send backup copies to a second site for disaster recovery protection.

This was first published in September 2006

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