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SD2003: Integrating disk into backup for faster restores

Tape may have its challenges, but in his Storage Decisions conference session on the role of disk versus tape in your backup architectures, W. Curtis Preston, President and CEO, The Storage Group, maintained that archiving your data to tape is still a great solution. The low cost of tape makes it ideal to record your data on tape and drop it on the shelf for next to nothing. Especially with new data retention regulations now on the horizon, Preston maintained that you'll need to keep your records in order to stay in compliance.

Preston then went on to describe some of the drawbacks of tape when used for backup versus archival purposes. Backing up all your data to tape is extremely time consuming and fraught with its own challenges, he said. For starters, in order to stream your data to tape during network backups, you have to use multiplexing which extends the amount of time it takes to back up your data. In addition, incremental backups don't supply enough data to stream a tape and -- perhaps, the worst problem -- you never know if a tape is good until you try to restore your data.

With disk-based backup, however, you don't run into these types of challenges, he said. Specifically, Preston advised users to take advantage of new inexpensive IDE/ATA-based disk arrays. He recommended using disk as a staging area first for both your full and incremental backups. Then, he recommended archiving such backups to tape, either onsite or to an offsite vaulting location

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where they can be safely in case of a disaster. The reason? It's easier to go from disk to tape than it is to go from tape to tape.

By incorporating disk as your first-line backup procedure, it guarantees you'll have faster restores when most of the most common data interruptions and disasters strike, Preston said. Preston's advice on the use of disk as a staging area for backups seemed to resonate with many session attendees, who are grappling with the growing challenge of managing their backups and restores in the midst of shrinking backup windows and exponential data growth.

Presentation slides and other links to the full session proceedings are available here.


About the speaker: For more than 10 years, W. Curtis Preston has been designing storage systems for environments ranging from backup systems for small businesses to enterprise storage systems for Fortune 100 companies. Mr. Preston also authored Using SANs and NAS and Unix Backup and Recovery, the seminal O'Reilly book on backup.

His passion for backup and recovery began with managing the data growth of a 24x7, mission-critical environment, running five versions of UNIX, three databases, and 250 servers. Since that time, Mr. Preston has been able to help dozens of companies design resilient storage systems, and his client list includes many Fortune 500 and Fortune 100 companies. Realizing that there seems to be a great demand for those who can understand storage technology from an implementation level and be able to explain it in plain language, Mr. Preston has extended his services to the vendor community, assisting them in designing, developing, and marketing new products. Mr. Preston is the President/CEO of The Storage Group, Inc., a unique company that provides consulting services to end users as well as analyst services to vendors.


This was first published in September 2003

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