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A Disk Backup Target Can be Much More than a Glorified Form of Tape

The introduction of disk and deduplication into the backup process over the last few years has certainly helped to minimize existing backup problems. Organizations using these technologies have found that their backup success rates now approach 100% and that they no longer have to continually troubleshoot backup problems. But while these technologies may fix existing backup problems, they relegate disk to a glorified form of tape and do not serve to fundamentally transform the recovery process.

The introduction of disk and deduplication into the backup process has been largely received with open arms by the end-user community. This is evidenced by a recent IDC survey which reveals that over 60% of respondents are either in the process of implementing deduplication or have plans to deduplicate their primary, backup or archive data in the coming year (2010).
The impetus behind organizations implementing these two technologies as part of their backup processes is largely driven by the following three factors:

  • Disk expedites backups and restores
  • Disk delivers near 100% backup success rates
  • Deduplication reduces the size of backup data stores by ratios of 15:1 or greater

Yet what organizations may not realize is that disk and deduplication just minimize existing backup problems – they do not actually “solve” them. Simply backing up data to disk and then deduplicating it does nothing to change the “point in time” approach to backups that is the real cause of most backup problems.
They will probably manage backups the same way they do now. Weekly and monthly they do full backups and on weekdays they do differential or incremental backups. In this sense, disk and deduplication address current symptoms, they do not really get to the heart of the problem.

This is the opportunity that organizations potentially overlook. Using disk as backup target opens entirely new doors for recovery that are simply not possible when tape is used as a backup target. But introducing disk with deduplication as it is commonly done now relegates disk to this role of a glorified form of tape.
Organizations may also fail to consider that they will still have some of the same struggles with recovery using disk with deduplication that they have now with tape. For instance, they will still have the overhead associated with needing people and processes to recover the application data back to the production host.
These are typically manual processes that require the backup administrator to be available and involved with the recovery in order for it to occur successfully. Further, the administrator’s ability to recover data is limited to the last good copy of data, which is probably from the previous night’s backup and may take a few hours or longer to restore.

These last few points are critical for organizations to understand. Will the business tolerate waiting for the administrator to become available and do the restore? Even if the individual is available, how long can the organization wait for the restore to complete before the business is negatively impacted? Minutes? Hours? Days?

Experience says that after 30 minutes has passed, tempers start to flare and operations are adversely affected. So depending on the scope of the recovery required, it is far from guaranteed that a recovery from disk using the current backup and recovery model can deliver on this new recovery expectations and it almost certain that the recovery cannot be automated now or in the future.

This is where continuous data protection (CDP) technology from InMage comes into play as it “fixes” current backup problems while simultaneously transforming the backup process.

  • InMage fixes backup in that it delivers the same high backup success rates that organizations realize when they implement disk as part of the current backup process.
  • InMage eliminates “point in time” backups and their associated impacts, reducing data protection operations overhead to negligible levels on both servers and networks.
  • InMage reduces backup data stores by only storing changed blocks of data so the amount of disk needed to support CDP is comparable to the storage capacity savings obtained when deduplication is implemented.
  • InMage improves recoveries by enabling near-zero recovery point objectives with zero or no data loss
  • InMage transforms the backup process by enabling push button like recoveries that occur in 30 minutes or less which can occur either locally or remotely.

2010 may shape up as “The Year of Deduplication” when the majority of organizations take the plunge and concurrently implement disk and deduplication. But 2010 may also become “The Year of Disillusionment” when they find out that they have addressed short term backup symptoms but have not really solved the problems. High data growth rates will bring those problems inevitably to the forefront again in the future.

Organizations looking to avoid this post-deduplication letdown can do so with InMage which fully takes advantage of disk’s characteristics. Like traditional backup software uses disk, InMage also uses disk to expedite backups, increase success rates and even eliminate backup windows. But more importantly, InMage treats disk like disk instead of just a glorified form of tape so organizations can do more than just address backup symptoms. They can actually lay the foundation for transforming their backup processes to actually solve the problem. 


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