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Snapshots: The alternative backup

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How do you beat the backup window? Use snapshots and you can forget about backup windows.

Snapshot-based backup, also known as near-continuous data protection (or near-CDP), currently offers one of the most cost-effective, worry-free and efficient ways to provide operational recovery. Before we get into why, let's first look at a few of the alternatives.

Tape systems, when used in conjunction with a traditional data backup system, are the most cost-efficient way to provide long-term storage of backups and archives; however, the mismatch between the speed of backups and the speed of modern tape drives creates quite a challenge when performing operational backup and recovery directly to and from tape.

A popular option is to augment tape with a data deduplication target for your traditional backup system. This significantly improves the efficiency of traditional backup systems and reduces the amount of ongoing maintenance they need; however, dedupe systems aren't cheap. And while deduplication technology makes backups more efficient, it does so using a very inefficient process: Move 100 GB across the network, process it to shrink it to 10 GB and store it, and then process it again to restore or copy the 100 GB to tape.

Source deduplication is arguably more efficient than traditional backup as it removes the duplicate data before it's sent across the network. It's also a completely disk-based system that tends to offer good performance

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for both backup and restore. But restores from source dedupe systems are still performed just like those from traditional systems -- a bulk copy of data from one place to another.

Continuous data protection (CDP) systems are also very efficient and they can offer tighter recovery point objectives (RPOs) than any other type of system. However, they come with their own set of challenges. Most true CDP products are specialized so they work only with a particular operating system or application. There are a few CDP products designed to work with any operating system or application, but they're often expensive. Still, if you need RPOs measured in seconds or minutes you should absolutely consider a true CDP system.

This was first published in January 2011

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