Backup Emerging from the Shadow of Storage

Storage Management Essentials: Is your organization on the ball when it comes to backing up your mission critical data? Drew Robb takes a look at how advances in backup technologies are changing the storage landscape and putting businesses on the path to resilient, easy-to-manage recovery systems.


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Backup has always been a key part of storage operations. In the early days, punch cards, printouts, punched paper strips and magnetic tapes running on refrigerator-sized drives duplicated everything that resided on mainframe drives. For the past several years, however, backup has taken a backseat in terms of media attention, overshadowed by stories of mushrooming capacity, SAN, NAS and virtualization.

Despite the lack of hype, however, backup technologies and methodologies have continued to develop. While it is difficult to isolate the backup market from the overall storage management market, Gartner Inc. (Stamford, CT) estimated the market at around $1.5 billion last year, a nine percent increase over the previous year. Veritas claims 41% of the US market followed by Computer Associates (CA) and Legato Systems; CA claims number one spot in Europe with a 45 percent share.

Recently, recovery rates in particular have been receiving a lot of attention. According to Michael Karp, a storage analyst for Enterprise Management Associate (EMA — Boulder, Colorado), "99 percent of IT sites in North America don't know how much of their backup data is actually recoverable."

That fact has many organizations extremely worried. With raised awareness of the importance of disaster recovery, more and more companies have come to realize that accumulating thousands of backup tapes is no longer enough. It's recovering that data in an emergency that is important.

But recovery efficiency is a moot point if you can't even conduct a thorough backup. The traditional approach of overnight or weekend backups is proving inadequate to the 24/7 ecommerce age. With systems operating around the clock, backup windows have diminished or disappeared altogether in some cases.

Exacerbating this problem is the rapid expansion in the volume of data being stored. Not only is more business being transacted and stored electronically, but the transition from text documents to graphics-rich and multimedia files greatly expands document size. Then there is the complexity caused by using multiple device types and platforms throughout the enterprise.

That is what PCMall in Torrance, California ran into when it supplemented its mix of Windows and Unix servers with some Linux boxes for ecommerce, NAT, DHCP, DNS and IPChains. Although the company was pleased with the way operating system itself performed, it found that there was no adequate backup utility that would backup all its machines. That only recently changed when CA came out a backup product that supports all three platforms.

"Initially, we were simply tar-balling the Linux systems up to tape or we'd use AMANDA or some other open source alternative which would work well for backups but there was no way of unifying our environment," says Christopher Swadish, Director of Operations at PCMall. "Data is the bloodline of our company and having complete control over this factor is extremely important."

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