Don't get stuck with old backup ideas: Best Practices


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Backup may have been around forever, but it sure looks different these days.

It's said a shark must keep moving or die. While this may not be entirely true, it's something to consider when talking about the realities of IT today. If you aren't moving forward, you're almost certainly falling behind, and standing still inevitably leads to an inability to meet the service needs of your organization.

Data backup is as old as computing itself. Ever since the first paper tapes and punch-card decks were duplicated, IT admins have recognized the need for multiple copies to guard against the unexpected. But even in the days of batch computing, accomplishing this task presented the ever-familiar challenges of resource constraints, limited time to accomplish the backup and managing multiple copies.

Until recently, the basic nature of backup has remained largely a batch-oriented tape management process. Magnetic tape, evolving for decades in terms of speed, capacity and reliability, was the core technology that enabled offsite and long-term storage of backed up data at an affordable price point.

The transition to LAN-based backup in the late '80s and early '90s brought economies of scale and improved the manageability of the backup process. No longer was it necessary

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to arm each server with a dedicated tape drive or enlist armies of tape jockeys to load/retrieve tapes.

With network-based backup came the rise of robotic tape libraries and commercial client/ server backup apps. Before then, backup was most commonly performed by system utilities that were often provided with the OS. Commercial apps like Legato (now EMC) NetWorker, OpenVision (now Symantec's Veritas) NetBackup and IBM ADSM (now IBM Tivoli Storage Manager) led the way and captured the lion's share--roughly 70%, according to research firm Gartner Inc.--of the enterprise backup market.

Readers of this magazine are well aware of the current technology revolution underway in the field of data protection and recovery. As disk (in its many guises) plays an increasingly prominent role in the process, the backup app is changing as never before, and it's important to consider its impact on recovery management.

The forces driving the underlying need for change in the backup realm include:

  • Exponential data growth
  • Increasingly demanding recoverability expectations
  • Non-existent backup windows
  • Long data-retention periods
  • Data security, privacy and governance
  • Cost
These factors are motivating companies to seek out new or enhanced solutions and explain, in part, why a market like backup--which conceptually, at least, should be staid and mature--continues to see double-digit annual growth.

This was first published in September 2008

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