How disk has changed backup


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Aggressive requirements
You should consider switching backup products only if your current backup product can't meet your requirements (see "Pros and cons of alternative backup methods," previous page).

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There are many requirements--such as remote office data protection, backing up large databases, and an app with an RPO of zero--that might have you considering alternatives.

Veritas Software's NetBackup 6.0 (now owned by Symantec) addresses many manageability limitations with its disk storage units (DSUs), the firm's term for disk-as-disk backup targets. Version 6.0 users will now be able to configure the size of each DSU, point backups to a group of DSUs, and have those backups failover to other DSUs based on a choice of usage algorithms. Disk-staging storage units will be able to perform multiple, simultaneous de-staging processes.

It gets more interesting when a Network Appliance NearStore device is used as a NetBackup DSU. With a NetBackup 6.0 master/media server, NearStore will perform data reduction techniques on the incoming NetBackup data stream, reducing the amount of actual disk it will take to store full and incremental backups, thus reducing the effective per-gigabyte cost of the total solution. The next version of NetBackup will present backups as NFS- and CIFS-mountable snapshots, allowing a user to browse through their backed up files without using the NetBackup GUI or bothering NetBackup admins. While this is a great feature, storage admins should consider its security implications before a company-wide implementation.

The most common area where backup requirements are difficult to meet is the remote office. Traditional backup schemes can't meet remote office RTO/RPO requirements. There's either too much data or not enough bandwidth to support a reasonable RTO or backup window. Any CDP product can provide backup and recovery of a remote office; most offer two methods. If long RTOs are acceptable, remote sites can back up directly to your central office. In the case of a disaster, just copy the data from the central data center to a disk or tape and send it to the remote site. If this meets RTO requirements, it's the least-expensive option. For tighter RTO requirements, install a backup device at the remote office. The remote office systems can back up to it, and it can then replicate the data to the central site. This provides local recovery and disaster recovery without touching a tape.

CDP products are also superior to traditional backup methods when backing up very large databases. There isn't enough time or horsepower available to transfer several terabytes of data to tape every day. A CDP product could continually back up a database throughout the day, with no noticeable backup window or application impact. Depending on the product, a stringent RTO and short RPO could also be met. Some products also provide a disk-based copy that can be used in a disaster situation while the real volume is being recovered.

Finally, some database applications require a zero RPO. Most databases can meet such a requirement if they're configured correctly, and if the transaction log is backed up throughout the day. If your database supports that kind of functionality, it's probably best to stick with it. If not, try one of these newer methods.

This was first published in November 2005

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