Backup and recovery Featured

7:00pm EDT January 29, 2008

You update your business software, launch new technology and roll out advanced applications to be sure

your company’s IT environment is cutting edge, but have you stopped to consider how you will back up your systems? What happens when accidents occur and data is lost?

“As organizations implement new servers and applications, and add more storage to support these systems, their backup and recovery is not necessarily being kept up to date,” says Geoff Hanson, practice director for Pomeroy IT Solutions in Hebron, Ky. “You want to know where the data is that you have to recover, you need processes and procedures in place to recover that data, and you want to do all of this in a timely fashion with zero data loss.”

As privacy issues become more important to businesses in the wake of security regulations, this backed-up data must be stored safely, so it can’t be accessed by unauthorized users. Today, disk storage and virtual tape libraries are ways to update backup and recovery infrastructure.

Smart Business asked Hanson to discuss how to protect the data that is critical to carrying out day-to-day business with an efficient backup and recovery system.

Traditionally, how have companies backed up and recovered data from their computer systems?

Until recently, most companies were using tape media to back up and restore data. A company would back up storage onto tape, and then that tape was taken to an off-site location for protection. In the event a company had to recover data, it had to wait until the tape was retrieved from off-site storage. Backup and recovery was a very manual process. There were days and/or hours associated with a company’s recovery time. Today, companies are moving toward disk-to-disk storage instead of tape. Disk provides quicker recovery capabilities and virtually zero data loss. It’s important to note that today’s backup and recovery software applications are relatively mature. It’s the infrastructure to support the software (the tape) that hasn’t necessarily been kept up to date.

What infrastructure is available today that speeds up recovery time?

First, companies can opt for a virtual tape library (VTL) appliance. This infrastructure allows you to move your backup strategy to a disk-based solution. Many companies use tape for their backup solution. A VTL replaces the tape device with a disk-based solution. There is minimal change in the backup process. The same backup software can be used; the information is simply transferred to disk instead. Recovery is faster because you avoid the lag time associated with tape media and the retrieval from off-site storage. Another approach is disk-to-disk-to-tape backup. Companies are replicating their disk arrays to either local or remote disk arrays and then backing up the data to either VTLs or tape.

What are other advantages of disk storage?

Your backup is only as good as the last piece of information that was backed up. Some companies only back up at night on a 24-hour cycle. If they experience a hardware malfunction and lose their data, they must recover information that was current as of the night before, therefore losing a day’s worth of work. That can represent a serious loss in productivity and revenues for some businesses. People are moving toward disk storage because they can restore information quickly and improve recovery time.

What should a company consider in choosing an appropriate backup and recovery system?

The first question is, how much time can you afford to be down? If you are a financial company and every minute a server is down you lose money, you can’t afford to be down at all. In this case, you need a high-availability solution and a backup and recovery infrastructure to support uptime for your critical applications. Also, you should review your current best practices for managing data. How will you meet all regulations and requirements? What information has to be available to you at all times for you to be successful?

Can you talk more about security requirements? How does backup and recovery help businesses comply with regulations?

Companies are taking more notice to privacy due to regulatory and security requirements on their data and information. They are stepping back and asking how they can recover quicker with no data loss. Companies are moving toward data encryption for data at rest as well as data in transit. For example, hospitals must meet HIPAA requirements. When backing up medical files, this information must be secure regardless of where it is stored. Financial companies must also consider privacy issues in lieu of Sarbanes-Oxley requirements associated with data protection. So, it is important to architect privacy of content while implementing infrastructure for backup and recovery.

GEOFF HANSON is practice director at Pomeroy IT Solutions in Hebron, Ky. Reach him at ghanson@pomeroy.com or (623) 551-5771.