Uninformed Buying Decisions and Disk-based Backup for ROBOs Rarely Mix

Backup to disk is now seen as “The” solution for any company looking to solve its backup problems. Factor in deduplication as part of the disk-based backup solution and it is easy for companies to believe that they are well on their way to solving their backup problems. To a certain degree, that’s true. Introducing disk almost always solves the immediate corporate pain of failed backups while shortening their backup windows. In fact, I am only aware of a few, isolated instances where that is not the case.

The problem that enterprise companies face is how do they best manage data once it is backed up to disk? This may seem like an intuitive question for enterprise companies to ask at the outset before purchasing a disk-based solution but this happens less frequently than one may think.

Look at this from the perspective in which most enterprise companies find themselves. The pain that backup has caused has been so acute for so long that just the mere prospect of quickly solving it can lead to an uninformed buying decision.

Unfortunately, buying a disk-based backup solution is just like buying anything else: If you purchase it without fully examining what your backup environment looks like and how the disk-based backup solution will fit into it, it may not end up being the best decision for your environment. This is relevant because the problems that can surface when using disk-based backup can become just as acute as using tape is now.

One specific area of concern that enterprise companies especially need to consider prior to implementing is the management of data backed up in remote and branch offices (ROBOs). Issues that can arise in these circumstances include:

  • Do different ROBOs use different backup software products?
  • Do all of the backup software products in use support backup to disk?
  • If so, what kind of disk interface do you need? File server? Virtual tape library (VTL)? Or do you need both?
  • Will the vendor work with you to appropriately size a solution and project future utilization?
  • Are there different configuration options such as partitioning?
  • Is there a need to replicate backup data from ROBOs to a home office?
  • Will the vendor holistically support replication across its disk backup products?
  • Do you need to replicate all or just some of this backup data to the home office?
  • Is there a need to move this data off to tape either at ROBOs or a home office?
  • Is data deduplicated at all stages of the process?

It’s when one starts to put all of these pieces together (disk-based backup, deduplication, replication, ROBOs and tape) and view them from an enterprise perspective that the backup picture once again gets much more convoluted. In these cases, enterprise companies need to think more strategically about what disk-based backup solution they introduce. While they may correctly assume that any disk-based backup solution will improve backup times, the list of solutions that can address the new problems that disk-based backup creates becomes very short, very fast.

Enterprise companies with ROBOs that are starting to ask thesequestions should consider Quantum‘s DXi series of disk-based backup solutions: the DXi3500, DXi5500 and DXi7500. While I will more directly address the aforementioned issues in forthcoming blog entries, here are three of the DXi’s key value propositions to consider now:

  • The DXi series solutions gives companies the option to configure them as a file server (NAS), a VTL, or both – assuming companies take advantage of its partitioning feature which is available on all three of its models.
  • Though a DXi may present either a NAS or a VTL interface to the backup server via these partitions, backup data stored on it is deduplicated across the entire appliance regardless of which partition to which the data is stored.
  • Data may be replicated on a partition by partition basis from ROBO back to a home office. In this way, companies can more granularly control what data stays at the remote site as well as how much and what data is replicated back to the home office.

Disk-based backup is “the” right solution for companies to bring in to address their current backup problems but not every disk-based backup solution is right for every company. No where does this statement hold truer than in enterprise companies that have ROBOs, multiple backup software products and different application recovery requirements.

Enterprise companies may be in a rush to bring resolution to their age-old problem of backup pain by using disk-based backup. However the complexities and questions that they need to answer prior to implementing disk-based backup go well beyond just faster, successful backups. Rather, companies need to think about how they will manage data after it is successfully backed up and, in this respect, Quantum’s DXi series brings a compelling solution to the table. 

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