Last week’s announcement that yet another vendor has made adaptations to its deduplicating system to support archive retention as a new system feature can mislead companies into drawing the conclusion that if this appliance works for backup that it is suitable for archiving as well. Many companies are frugal when it comes to storage purchases so if they can buy a disk-based appliance that addresses both their archiving and backup needs, they may be tempted to do so.
However, it is easy to forget that the data management requirements for archived and backup data are very different. Archived and backup data sets may share some common traits, such as retaining data for long periods of time, storing data that is very similar and storing lots of it. However this can overshadow substantial differences that exist between disk-based products and their intended purposes. The differences that exist are not always immediately apparent, especially in circumstances where the integrity of the data is concerned. Here are some key features that appliances specifically designed for archiving need to provide:
- Preserve Data Immutability. Immutability is a feature that is easy to overlook when evaluating appliances that do both archiving and backup. Data is only stored in an immutable state when the state of the data cannot be modified after it is created. Data immutability comes into play if and when companies need to provide guarantees to outside regulatory agencies that its archived data meets their specific regulatory and compliance requirements. SEC Rule 17a-4 is a good example. If the data is not archived in an immutable state, guess what? You are not in compliance. If you carefully read through press releases and information publicly available from disk-based deduplicating appliances intended for both archiving and backup, you find little or no mention of their ability to deliver on SEC Rule 17a-4 functionality.
- Flexibility. Part of the challenge with implementing a disk-based archive solution today is trying to fully understand what a company’s corporate policy may be or what regulatory requirements it may need to adhere today or in the future. This makes deciding what feature set is critical in an archive a difficult task. With built-in WORM capability that comes standard in the Permabit Enterprise Archive, that decision does not need to be made up front. Volumes can be created as read/write and converted to WORM at any point in the future without requiring any separate or different software or hardware. This allows you to deploy archiving sooner rather than later to begin protecting your assets immediately.
- No Administrative Privileges to Make Changes. Disk-based deduplicating appliances intended for backup give administrators more authority to make changes and modify the data that is stored on these systems, as companies need that flexibility when storing backup data sets. But that same administrative flexibility that is needed to manage backup data becomes a risk when managing archived data that may need to remain immutable. Archiving systems include options such that once data is retained to meet certain corporate compliance requirements even administrators cannot make changes to the data.
- Scalability. Once a commitment is made to archive data to a disk-based repository, plans need to be made about how that repository can dynamically grow to handle any future data growth. Many backup appliances simply fill up and then you have start over with a new device. The Permabit Enterprise Archive can scale to 3 petabytes of raw storage due to its flexible grid storage architecture and can continue to grow without requiring data migrations or forklift upgrades.
Although the temptation to put all of your archiving and backup data into one data bucket is strong, especially when budgets are tight, don’t assume this is the right answer for you. Systems designed to retain archived data address very different internal corporate processes and company requirements. These systems are concerned about satisfying regulatory requirements – internal or external – and provide guarantees to concerned parties that archived organizational data is stored in an immutable state. In these circumstances, creating separate archived and backup data stores is both a technical and business necessity.