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

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The end of backup software?
For years, backup applications focused primarily on two main functions: moving data from client to server, and managing tapes and tape libraries. Numerous optimizations, like multistreaming and SAN media servers, were developed to essentially overcome performance limitations inherent to the serial nature of tape.

At the same time, the range of available options for data recovery expanded well beyond backup to the point that, for many organizations, restoring from tape has become their option of last resort.

This world of recovery possibilities, enabled by disk technology, is pushing backup apps into a new role. Backup apps are evolving as the central entity for managing the multiple means by which disk is used for recovery. This includes:

Snapshot management: Snapshots and split mirrors have long been used to facilitate the backup of key apps. Beyond improving backup, many environments snapshot throughout the day and retain snapshots. In most cases, they're managed independent of backup.

Replication: Like snapshots, replication has become an important recovery mechanism, particularly for

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disaster recovery, and needs to be included in any comprehensive recovery management capability.

Virtual tape libraries (VTLs) as intelligent disk: For large tape environments, tape emulation remains the simplest and least disruptive means of leveraging disk, and VTL vendors are working to enrich their feature sets beyond just emulation. However, functions performed outside of the awareness of the backup app (e.g., replication) can often create confusion when it comes to recovery and overall data recovery management.

Deduplication: Deduplication has created opportunity and confusion. It's a technology that can be performed at the client, server, within a NAS appliance or in a VTL. Backup applications must be able to accommodate any of those approaches and often more than one at a time.

Continuous data protection (CDP): Like deduplication, CDP is a technology that takes a number of forms. In some cases, it exists as a standalone technology, but its real value is as an integrated element of a tiered recovery strategy, and it should be managed as such.

Enhanced application recovery: In some cases, disk can be used to simplify and improve recovery capabilities for environments like VMware and apps such as Exchange and SharePoint with both volume-level and granular object recovery available from a single backup.


This was first published in September 2008

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