End-user file recovery: bonus or bust?


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Setting up end-user file recovery

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  1. Implement snapshot technology

  2. Define snapshot policies and schedules for point-in-time snapshots of end-user files

  3. Allocate sufficient disk capacity

  4. Educate users

  5. Monitor activity

  6. Continue to educate users

The school system recently installed a disk-based virtual tape system using FalconStor's IPStor, but hasn't purchased the additional snapshot capability that would make end-user-managed file restoration possible. Snapshot capabilities from independent software vendors allow the organization to store a snapshot on a disk array from a vendor other than the primary array vendor. With snapshot capabilities provided by disk array vendors, however, both the primary array and the target array where the snapshot resides must be from the same vendor.

Certainly, there's a potential for problems. "Users may try to recover something that shouldn't be recovered--let's say something that has passed its retention date or maybe should never have been saved in the first place," suggests Gruener. There are, however, ways to prevent this, he quickly adds, mainly through access controls.

Kerns downplays any fears about end-user file recovery. "The users are only going to see the files they are authorized to see," he says. And the files they do access are read-only, so they won't be able to change anything. To make changes, they will have to bring the file back to their system and save it as a new file. At this point in the adoption of end-user file recovery, there haven't been enough reports of problems to merit developing and deploying special tools to manage the task. Managers who provide end-user file recovery rely on their standard access controls to handle the new capability.

Although it's pretty simple, don't expect users to intuitively know how to recover a file. "You will still have to educate the users properly," says Cordis.

Finally, end-user management isn't free. You must have the snapshot capability--for which some storage vendors charge extra--and you need to purchase sufficient additional disk capacity to store the snapshots. Typically, an organization will keep a series of point-in-time snapshots online--usually about a week's worth--before moving them to tape or deleting them.

End-user file recovery is not for every organization. It doesn't work, for instance, for databases or where files may be synchronized. But wherever the storage group is distracted by requests for file restoration, end-user file recovery promises relief.

This was first published in August 2004

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