Backing up to tape
Hartz Mountain Industries Inc., a real estate company based in Secaucus, NJ, initially developed its disaster recovery (DR) plan working with Gartner Inc. Gartner assisted Hartz Mountain with business planning and process design. The result was a basic DR program in which data from satellite offices is replicated across the WAN to headquarters, where it's backed up to tape each night along with the headquarters' data--a total of about 1TB of data--and then shipped offsite. Using 10 DLT tape drives, the company backs up the entire 1TB of data in 4.5 hours.

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the last several years, e-mail has emerged as Hartz Mountain's primary recovery target followed by the usual corporate databases, particularly billing and accounts receivable. Still, the company backs up just about everything, relying on point-in-time copies, replication and dumping to tape to ensure that it can recover in the event of a disaster. Since the initial Gartner planning, Hartz Mountain hasn't engaged in formal business impact analysis. With the exception of the heightened awareness of the importance of e-mail, the program has remained pretty much unchanged in the last several years, reports Jeremy Kahn, assistant vice president of information technology.

At the beginning, the company tested the DR system regularly by assigning logical unit numbers to a server and shutting it off, a manual process. In each test, Hartz Mountain was able to successfully bring back the data from point-in-time copies or tape. In more recent years, the company has dispensed with formal DR testing. Looking ahead, Kahn would like to mirror the data rather than replicate it, but the economics aren't quite there yet. He's waiting until the cost of mirroring comes down a bit further.

To make the backup work, Hartz Mountain uses FalconStor for replication and as a storage router. Replicated copies are backed up to DLT tape each night using Veritas Backup Exec software. Tapes are then shipped offsite.

-Alan Radding

Storage administrators often ask what their peers are doing to solve the same disaster recovery (DR) problems they face. What they really want to know is what's working and what's cost-effective.

Information of this type is usually difficult to make public. Many IT organizations have a policy restricting employees from speaking to the press or others about these issues.

Companies often don't want to bring attention to their problems, even if they've been resolved. To bring you as candid a report as possible, we've withheld some company names in this article. The pertinent facts remain unchanged, however.

Users are also typically tight-lipped about how much they actually paid for a DR solution. Therefore, the "cost to implement" numbers that follow are based on approximate MSRP and estimated operating expenses (OpEx) for the time invested, although all of the companies report that they paid considerably less than the sticker price.

The following case studies have a central theme: Increasing data levels and stricter compliance regulations are forcing companies to look to newer technologies to solve their growing DR and backup pains. The old DR paradigm of backing up to tape and driving the tapes offsite is broken. Companies are increasingly replicating data over high-speed WANs and using incremental backup technologies to meet their service level agreements (SLAs) and backup windows, and to protect their critical data less expensively. Of course, restores are much easier, too.

Compliance crisis
A multinational bank's storage requirements for its worldwide operations and hundreds of distributed locations have been growing at an increasing rate. This put intolerable pressure on its backup/restore systems. The firm's NetBackup and ARCserve systems, from Veritas Software Corp. and Computer Associates (CA) International Inc., respectively, were unable to meet their needs and problems were becoming progressively worse. Backup windows were missed more often than they were met. Simple restores of a single file were taking between five and 10 hours; SQL database restores were taking days to fully restore. The bank estimated that only approximately 70% of its data was protected and recoverable.

These issues led to other problems. Software patch windows were missed because of the time required for backups. Tapes were trucked offsite to a tape-vault service provider, but if a backup window was missed, incomplete backup tapes were shipped offsite.

In addition, backup data security was essentially non-existent. Tape data wasn't encrypted, so anyone could copy/load a tape and have access to highly confidential user information and records--a serious liability as evidenced recently by another big bank's well-publicized loss of tapes containing 1.5 million user records.

It was obvious that the bank would be in serious trouble if it ever had to recover from a disaster. "This was a nightmare of epic proportions," said one bank executive. "And one that was not without its consequences." In an age of regulatory compliance, failure to protect the bank's data and recover it in an adequate period of time put the bank at risk of severe financial penalties. The situation had to be fixed quickly.

To correct its numerous problems, the bank first determined what it needed and then prioritized what to fix first. During the product research phase, storage administrators studied and evaluated products from all the top brand-name vendors and a few startup companies. After much scrutiny, the bank zeroed in on the only solution it felt met its requirements. Backup My Info! Inc., a backup service provider/VAR based in Florida and New York, recommended Televaulting backup-to-disk software from Asigra Inc., a 19-year-old Toronto software firm (see "Pay-as-you-go remote backup"). To ensure data would never be outside its control, the bank elected to license Televaulting from Backup My Info! instead of purchasing the backup/restore service.

This was first published in May 2005

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