Nothing but backup

Nothing but backup

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There used to be a nightclub near Washington Square in New York City with a big sign on it that read: "Too much ain't enough." The sign is an apt description of this Special Issue of Storage magazine. We don't think there's such a thing as too much information about backup, but hopefully this issue offers just enough.

Having spoken with scores of storage professionals over the last year or so, I'd be hard-pressed to name more than a few who didn't list backup as their No. 1 source of frustration. And if you've been around storage for even a little while, you know the drill: growing data stores, missed backup windows, jammed tapes, orphaned servers, bandwidth bottlenecks, hard-to-hit RTOs and RPOs--the list of woes goes on and on.

As you know, backup has indelible links to nearly all data center components. Roman Van Liempt, storage administrator for xwave Solutions in St. John's, Newfoundland, notes that backup "touches everything--servers, networks, database applications--everything." And, a bit ironically, he adds that "backup software will bring to light any problems that you have in your network."

In a recent survey conducted as part of Storage's Quality Awards joint project with Diogenes Labs, users registered a litany of complaints about backup, citing buggy apps, complex operations, painful upgrades and onerous licensing plans. The collection of articles in this Special Issue addresses many of these concerns and more--and shows that there is, indeed, some light at the end of the backup tunnel as new or improved technologies begin to take hold.

Disk-based backup, enabled by low-cost disk drives, promises to eliminate missed backup windows while, perhaps more importantly, immeasurably improving recoverability. In this issue, W. Curtis Preston, one of the top backup experts in the country, provides an in-depth evaluation of the various disk-based backup options available (see "How disk has changed backup,").

Continuous data protection (CDP) and advance replication techniques can help lighten the backup burden, too, by tightly integrating backup with applications and providing the means to recover from any point in time, effectively eliminating traditional backup windows.

But even if you opt to stick with more traditional backup methods, there are many ways to gain operational efficiencies. In "10 basic steps to better backups", Jim Damoulakis describes backup best practices that nearly any company can adopt to improve its backup operations--and many of these steps don't involve purchasing new equipment or software. For a relatively modest investment, backup reporting tools help you keep closer tabs on your backup performance and zero-in on any issues or bottlenecks.

Expert advice is invaluable whether you're considering a radical revamping of your backup processes or just a tweak or two to get out the kinks. There's little about backup that's easy, and sometimes it may seem that the cure is deadlier than the disease, especially when considering mass changes such as eliminating tape entirely, moving to a CDP product or deploying an enterprise-wide virtualization strategy to increase capacity.

That's why each month we publish practical, hands-on backup advice and perspectives from some of the top experts in the field. But a backup story or two a month, while useful, may not be enough to help you see your way through the backup miasma. So, we've collected what we think are our best backup articles, updated them and put them all into this single, convenient issue, which we're calling "The complete guide to modern backup practices."

We know there's no such thing as a complete backup guide, but we believe you're holding one of the most complete guides available--one that you'll want to refer to often. But you're the real judge. Drop us a line and tell us what you think.

This was first published in November 2005

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