Nathan Collins, CommVault : Disaster 101 – better business continuity with unified data management
September 2009 by Nathan Collins, Technical Director, CommVault
There are a number of obvious business benefits for business to ensure regular data protection is completed and recovery assured, not least issues of business continuity, corporate governance and costs. As companies demand new approaches to meet more stringent recovery time objectives (RTOs) and recovery point objectives (RPOs), Nathan Collins, Technical Director, CommVault, explains the value of adopting a unified approach to data protection and management...
Business continuity, which is core to disaster recovery, demands a need to access and recall data or information to support the restore or recovery of various corporate assets (individuals’ data, client records, readings, applications, complex systems and remote sites). Higher still on most business’ agendas is corporate governance (more typically and commonly miss-referred to as compliance), that is ensuring information is retained for a period of time relative to an organisations retention criteria. In both cases the key to either governance and or recovery is the preservation and the access to information that resides within the data set and anywhere within the company. Backup & Recovery is about delivering what a company really needs: browse and find data, select as little or as much as is needed, and then recover it quickly and efficiently to where it is needed, in other words, reliable data recovery with maximum cost-efficiency and minimal specialised training to facilitate the recovery.
Many businesses are only just starting to understand the advanced data management capabilities that they will need to exploit the benefits of distributed file systems and other aspects of application-like operating systems. Support for many of the advanced functions needed to automate and manage the scale and complexity of today’s data infrastructures could previously only be achieved through clunky bolt-ons.
Traditionally when management capabilities have been grafted onto backup tools they are usually expensive extras forcing users to manage and monitor functions from separate screens or interfaces. Furthermore, the nature of older tools often limits the range of functions that can be controlled (via their primary interface). So it would not be unusual to see administrators having to access a range of GUI’s and CLI to completely manage their data protection processes.
Without the ability to seamlessly integrate new concepts into useful data management frameworks, IT users will be forced to accept lower levels of data availability and IT departments will need to adopt more complex solutions that are inherently more difficult and time consuming to recover in a disaster. The latest unified data management software with singular catalogue, simple ‘point-and-click’ reporting, which are application-aware, self-managing and can heal when issues do occur result in more productive use and an overall reduction in the time spent by companies on data management activities, and time is an acutely important resource when a company is faced with a disaster recovery scenario.
The primary differentiator between a replication product and a backup product is the catalogue and support for a robust set of recovery options, including support for common tape drives and libraries. Backup products tend to offer protection for a broad range of data, from files, applications, server images and multiple systems. Replication products have only one recovery point — the most recent point in time. When snapshots are used, there can be several recovery points (as many as there are snapshots), but unlike a backup product, there is usually no unified catalogue to choose the different versions of the data; however, this is changing due to the blending of backup with consistent point in time snapshots.
The latest data management solutions distinguish themselves by providing a robust and scalable catalogue for tracking recovery options for hundreds to thousands of systems and can even be extended to include the indexing of data within backup sets and primary storage devices for fast end user based search and retrieve. The catalogue supports recovery from hardware vendor snapshots, tape and disk backups and, increasingly, leading third-party replication products and backup appliances, such as virtual tape library (VTL) and deduplication systems.
Backup/recovery has also shown considerable evolution in delivering disk-based recovery tools to reduce recovery times and in the integration of new continuous data protection technologies into backup architectures reducing data loss. The management of all these capabilities has become more unified in order to meet the rising demand from organisations for a single recovery management platform rather than having the user become the integrator for multiple point solutions, which is both costly, requires more training and is also less efficient with respect to recovery times.
The value of a single recovery management platform is in its ability to deliver data protection, archiving, content based search, replication, resource management and reporting. These solutions are now designed for fast, easy deployment within the existing infrastructure and this means ‘time taken to achieve a better backup’ can be days and not months, with all the inherent cost savings that this provides.
As new networked storage architectures gain broad acceptance, administrators can leverage the innate advantages of the infrastructure to gain operational and performance efficiencies, and still be assured of data integrity while handling the exponential data growth in their environments. All this comes together to help meet those stringent recovery time objectives (RTOs) and recovery point objectives (RPOs).
There is tremendous advantage to be had by embracing a single, unified approach to backing up and managing data in all of its flavours, seamlessly integrating across distributed databases, SAN, NAS, and a mix of OS environments. Users only need to learn one approach, one operational methodology, through a browser running on any machine, the unified interface providing a complete media management system and total remote control capability.
For companies to fully realise and protect the inherent value of the data within their organisation, they have to recognise the need to eliminate deployment of multiple point solutions and embrace a unified approach to data management. If they do this they are in a position not only to reap the benefits in terms of business continuity and disaster recovery, they will also gain adherence to corporate governance and most importantly make substantial operational savings.