What are your backup, DR and data retention policies?


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When i ask people about their backup, data retention and disaster recovery policies, most people fall into one of three groups.

The first group responds by telling me about how often they do fulls and incrementals,

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how long they keep the tapes and how often they send them off site. The second group is only a little more sophisticated: They have one answer for databases and another for files.

Only the third group is sophisticated enough to ask me what I mean: Am I referring to backup or archive? Which service level am I referring to? And so on.

The first two groups are guilty of focusing on the mechanics of their backup environment--dealing primarily with operational concerns, such as tape management. They share two common attributes:

  • All data is essentially treated the same. There's little consideration given to the value of data to the organization or to customer requirements for service levels.
  • Only the minimal number of policy attributes has been taken into account. Other backup policy dimensions have largely been ignored.

In contrast, the third group is more likely to be addressing business needs. They consider a variety of policy attributes. They have classified data and developed policies that are appropriate to each level of classification. They have formal service level agreements (SLAs) between the IT organization and its users. This is the direction toward which many organizations would like to head.

If the first two scenarios remind you of your organization, here are a few things that you can do to begin to evolve to a model more like that of the third group.

How capable are your backup policies?
Performance capacity Measured as deliverable bandwidth, both in terms of single stream and aggregate capacity. Includes individual tape drive performance, aggregate tape drive performance, disk, hosts, networks, etc.
Data volume capacity Total library capacity
Media options Options available within the environment, including disk, optical and tap
Replication options Intended to assist in reducing RTO/RPO times
Off-site options Intended to address DR requirements
Tape management capabilities Considerations include tape duplication capabilities, options for frequency of backups, etc.
Operational capabilities Staffing considerations, notification and reporting tools available, etc.
Costs Budgetary constraints

This was first published in July 2003

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