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"We originally went to a SAN architecture for capacity and performance," says Travis McCulloch, systems architect at Hilton Grand Vacations Co. in Orlando, FL. "Then we realized that the SAN could help us consolidate and improve our backup processes. We have a multitude of different platforms, and the SAN allows us to easily manage data protection for all of our hosts."

Like most enterprises, Hilton Grand Vacations started with a small Fibre Channel (FC) SAN primarily to share the resources of a single large storage array. As data storage capacity needs grew, so did the SAN. When they considered streamlining their backup environment, the advantages of networked storage targets became readily apparent. "We have standardized on a single backup environment with CommVault for our Apple, multiple 'flavors' of Unix and Windows servers using disk-to-disk-to-tape methodology," explains McCulloch, "and the results are more reliable backups with much less effort."

Stability was the driving force behind Joe Eastman's SAN purchase. "We had two drives fail in a single direct-attached RAID group on our Exchange server," says Eastman, IT department manager at Griffin, Smalley & Wilkerson Inc., an insurance firm in Farmington Hills, MI. "We were doing daily full tape backups as an accepted best practice. What we didn't realize was that it would take almost a whole business day to restore from tape. We also lost our customers' messages during the outage. After that, we knew

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we needed to get a better storage environment--we needed to get a SAN."

SAN architectures afford far more flexibility in data protection options than can be achieved with plain direct-attached drives. One of the most prevalent new trends is to use a disk array as a backup target. There are several ways to approach this, including using a tape-emulating disk array, snap copying options or local volume replication. This enables a much shorter backup window, while still allowing tape copies of the data to be made for offsite storage. "I went from nervously trying to complete all the backups in a 12-hour window to simply not worrying about backup any more," says Eastman.

This was first published in September 2007

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