Creating storage tiers for backup services


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Backup storage tiers offer business units choices regarding how their data will be protected and how much that protection will cost.

Defining, ranking and implementing storage tiers for backup services is tough. Part of the challenge stems from the fact that there are no tools that make it easy to carve storage technologies into tiers of service. The problem is compounded by storage staffs that don't think in terms of delivering, monitoring and charging for different levels of backup service.

During the past decade, storage managers have been aggressively upgrading their backup capabilities by incorporating advancements in hard disk, tape drive, virtualization and software management technologies. Those efforts have improved backup performance by accommodating shrinking backup windows and the need for better system recovery times.

Storage admins are being asked to rebundle backup capabilities in terms of gold, silver and bronze levels with corresponding prices. For example, within months of taking the helm at MoneyGram International, senior capacity planner Tom Becchetti built a five-tiered service availability model. The main attribute defining each service level at the St. Louis Park, MN, financial services firm was recovery time objective (RTO). Tier one promised no data loss and an aggressive backup-to-disk configuration, while tier five made no promises with regard to data loss. Tiers two through four offered gradually more expansive

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RTOs and backup functionality.

Attributes of backup service levels
Click here for a comprehensive list of attributes of backup service levels (PDF).

Because this was MoneyGram's first foray into internal OS and storage service-level agreements (SLAs), Becchetti decided to take an integrated and basic approach that combined backup with other storage-related technologies, allowing every application to be lumped into one of five different tiers. Other companies have taken a different and more difficult tack, choosing to develop tiers specific to backup functions (see "Attributes of backup service levels," PDF). This allows backup capabilities to be reprovisioned and rearchitected along tiered lines so that they can be served to the business units on an a la carte menu.

This was first published in May 2006

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