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Square pegs in round holes

Do all companies fit neatly into the emerging corporate data protection architecture? The predominant model that most enterprise data protection products are pegging corporate users into is backing up data at their remote offices and then sending a copy of that backed up data to a central data center for long term management. One only has to look at recent vendor announcements to support this belief.

With NetBackup 6.1, Symantec started to provide more integration between it and their NetBackup PureDisk product by including an export function in NetBackup PureDisk 6.0. This allows NetBackup 6.1 to import and centrally catalog the remote office data backed up by the PureDisk product. Symantec also announced that they are more closely integrating Veritas Backup Reporter with NetBackup PureDisk. This will allow users to create reports that quantify how much raw data NetBackup PureDisk is backing up at remote sites and what type of deduplication ratios users are realizing using NetBackup PureDisk.

Enterprise VTL vendors are also making similar enhancements to their product lines to centralize data backed up at remote offices. SEPATON’s new S2100-DS2 Series 500 that is targeted for either SMBs or remote offices offers lower storage capacity and less processing power than their enterprise model but uses the same software features as the enterprise model. This allows users to configure it to copy remote office virtual tapes from remote site VTLs back to the central corporate VTL.

But, here is the problem with pegging most users into this model – what if a company has no central data center with a staff dedicated to managing all of their remote office backup data? Suppose companies are made up of loosely federated remote offices that do not have, do not want or can not afford this model. Why standardize on it? Obviously, this does not preclude a company structured this way from fitting into this model but that is a little bit like fitting a square peg in a round hole.

That being said, I find Arkeia Software’s forthcoming EdgeFort Backup Appliance intriguing on two fronts. By itself, the EdgeFort Backup Appliance includes backup software, Arkeia Software’s Network Backup, internal disk that functions as a disk target and, on some of its models, internal tape drives. This gives companies with remote offices a one stop shop for deploying a backup product into their remote offices with all of the functionality they need to get going and stabilize their environment.

But, what makes this product worth a deeper look is that it also includes a policy engine that allows one site to set up policies that can be applied universally to all sites or just one specific site. This is especially important for those companies with a small IT staff, who may have a couple of people adept at using the product but are not responsible for managing each site’s data. This allows companies to create a template of global and/or site specific policies and apply and update them when needed but leave the more burdensome and time consuming daily administration tasks of monitoring and handling daily backups to the designated administrator at each local site.

Is Arkeia Software’s new EdgeFort Backup Appliance perfect? Certainly not. It still does not remove the human factor at remote sites from the backup process, and it lacks deduplication, which forces remote offices to possibly consume more disk and continue to handle and manage tapes more frequently than they may want. But, I do think one should not lightly dismiss this product offering either. The fact that Arkeia Software takes loosely structured companies down an evolutionary rather than a revolutionary path means it has more than a fighting chance of winning over some corporate customers. Especially those that don’t fit neatly into the general data protection hole into which backup software vendors often have users pegged.

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