How to mitigate the performance penalties of data encryption software

What you will learn: Learn three tactics that can help you mitigate performance penalties when dealing with data encryption software.

Data encryption has become an essential tool for protecting sensitive

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corporate data. Software-based encryption offers a convenient and relatively inexpensive means of implementing encryption, whether as a standalone product or integrated into enterprise backup software. But data encryption is a mathematically-intensive process that requires significant amounts of processing power from the local encryption/backup server. This in turn reduces the processing power remaining for the actual backup job or other server tasks. Experts note that data encryption can impose as much as a 40% performance penalty on the backup server, dramatically increasing the time required to complete a backup job. Fortunately, there are some tactics that can help to mitigate performance penalty.

Increase the data backup server's processing power

This can be accomplished through a CPU upgrade or an outright server replacement. For example, an existing single-processor backup server may be replaced with a multiprocessor server. Remember that added processors may involve licensing changes to the backup software.

Reduce the volume of backup data that is actually encrypted

A company may only need to encrypt customer databases or other sensitive files that only comprise a small percentage of the total backup job. If only those sensitive files are encrypted and the bulk of remaining files are left unencrypted, the total performance impact from data encryption is greatly reduced -- yet the company meets its regulatory or privacy obligations.

Experiment with a variety of data encryption tools and settings

Different products will impose different penalties, so test several different backup/encryption packages in a lab setting, and see which ones offer the least performance impact. Also, test a variety of data encryption schemes and key complexities. For example, compare the performance of AES, Triple DES and Blowfish encryption using moderate and strong key strengths. Find the best performing combination that will still meet the security needs of your industry.

This was first published in November 2007

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