Developing scalable enterprise applications on Oracle, SQL Server, MySQL, and other databases requires efficient ways to protect and store data. Developers need to make database replicas quickly for production and dev/test scenarios as well as ways to reduce data, manage it more easily, and increase storage efficiency. Storage snapshots meet many of these demands.
Instead of copying all the data in the database, a snapshot is a fast point-in-time copy of metadata that acts as a pointer to the underlying raw data map. Think of it like a table of contents that shows which files existed and the blocks where they were stored.
Here are four ways to use snapshots to boost storage efficiency, streamline database management, and increase security and reliability.
Using Snapshots for Data Recovery
Standard backups of huge databases and storage repositories can take the technology equivalent of an eternity. Snapshots eliminate the wait when backing up databases, and work just as quickly to recover the data.
Anthony Nocentino, principal field solutions architect at Pure Storage, suggested that organizations with millions of files use snapshots to backup and recover their most vital primary data and rely on backups for everything else, giving them access to the most urgently needed files. Nocentino stressed following the longstanding best practice for backups known as the 3-2-1 system, in which organizations retain three copies of their data. The primary copy is kept on one type of media, a secondary copy on a different media—for example, one copy kept in the cloud and another on offsite tape—and a third copy kept offsite.
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Using Snapshots for Data Security
With the surge of ransomware attacks, companies need all the help they can get when it comes to shoring up cyberdefenses. In addition to using endpoint protection and other safeguards, enterprises can augment their defenses by using snapshots to protect their storage systems.
When used with intelligent file indexing, snapshots make files easily referenceable for version tracking and recoverability. Gartner analyst Jerry Rozeman recommended immutable snapshots—data snapshots that cannot be changed or altered in any way—as a way to aid recovery and provide additional protection from ransomware.
While snapshots are naturally immutable, attackers can delete them. Vendors are adding immutability features that provide protection against such efforts by making it impossible to delete data snapshots within an administrator-specified time frame. For example, snapshots can be scheduled to copy data every two hours and retain the contents for two weeks. During those two weeks, snapshots cannot be deleted.
Learn about vulnerability scanners for cybersecurity.
Using Snapshots for Data Migration
The cloud’s dominance has created a growing need to migrate lots of data—from on-premises solutions to the cloud, from one application or platform to another, and from cloud to cloud. Occasionally the flow must be reversed. For example, for data recovery, or when a company decides to repatriate cloud data on-premises, vast amounts of data must be moved around.
The traditional way to do this is using backups. But this approach ties up central processing unit (CPU), memory, and networking resources, which makes scheduling migrations difficult. If done during production hours, users might experience sluggish or unavailable systems, and done after hours, migrations can last for days or even weeks.
Snapshots provide a smoother alternative. By taking a snapshot of data before migrating to a new platform, companies have a reliable fallback if something goes wrong or data is corrupted. Everything can be rolled back to before the start of the data move. Snapshots enable organizations to seamlessly move their data externally, to the cloud or between cloud vendors, as well, shortening downtimes and increasing reliability.
Learn about the difference between data migration and ETL.
Using Snapshots for DevOps and Testing
Development and testing are all about creating things rapidly, testing them, and then moving on by rolling the environment back to its original state. Snapshots offer the velocity and performance required for this fast-paced workflow.
Database or application development is sometimes done on-premises and sometimes in the cloud, and data may need to be moved from one location to another. Snapshots provide developers with the tools they need to not get bogged down in data movement and environment resets.
Learn more about the top DevOps tools.
Bottom Line: Database Storage Snapshots
With data growing at a rate of 20-30 percent annually in many organizations, storage managers and database managers can easily become mired down by the demands of data storage, movement, migration, and archiving. Multiple approaches must be used. Snapshots offer many advantages, but they must be used in conjunction with other tools such as backup and replication. They can improve efficiency, increase security and reliability, and streamline migrations when used as part of an overall storage strategy.
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