it comes to data security, the goal is to provide the
highest level of protection without sacrificing the
usefulness of critical data. Here's how Enhanced backup
products address this requirement. by Sunny John
protection decisions are driven by three main challenges.
These include the need to backup ever-increasing amounts
of data in a fixed period of time; the demand for quick
restoration; accessibility of stored data on which business-critical
decisions are often made; and the constant need to derive
more value from existing infrastructure.
Traditionally, organizations relied on tape automation
products to provide low cost-per-gigabyte storage solutions
for backup/ restore applications. Tape libraries proved
reliable, with the added benefit of utilizing removable
media that could be used for archiving or off-site disaster
recovery. Today, growing data sets, shrinking backup
windows and the ever-increasing demand for accessibility
and rapid restorespaired with the dropping price
of disk space have fuelled the development of
enhanced backup products.
Enhanced backup is the use of disk-based storage subsystems
instead of tape to perform backup and restore operations.
Simply put, inserting disk or other faster-access/higher-reliability
technologies within the existing storage architecture
will add speed, reliability, and flexibility to a company's
data protection capabilities. With an enhanced backup
solution in place, organizations are also free to re-purpose
tape libraries to perform off-line archival and disaster
recovery (DR) operations, tasks that rely less on blazing
performance. By separating backup/ restore operations
from archival and DR functions, existing investments
in storage infrastructure are preserved and data protection
is greatly enhanced.
Since most organizations currently rely on a single
tape-based backup/restore system, the market for enhanced
backup is very broad. Specific industries may find enhanced
backup solutions to be the perfect antidote to looming
data protection issues.
Financial institutions, driven by the proliferation
of online transactions, are typical of organizations
requiring the quick and confident backup of databases.
In an environment driven by globalization, 365x24x7
operations and speedy decision-making, such institutions
cannot tolerate network downtime to perform backups.
A dedicated device must perform these operations without
impact to bandwidth. Thanks to a disk's faster performance,
backups can be accomplished much quicker. Further-more,
the higher reliability of disk-based systems allows
backups to be conducted without manual intervention.
Once the data is backed up to disk, it can be archived
to tape whenever the IT organization requires that.
Intense production environments, such as engineering
departments or software development teams, create a
need for the timely restoration of backed up data. Usually,
incremental backups of the day's fresh data, such as
code, test results or technical drawings, are backed
up from application and file servers. Restore requests
are common in these situations, accelerating the need
for a system that can deliver the data quickly. Unlike
tape products, enhanced backup systems experience little
latency in processing these requests. There is no need
for a robot to locate a specific tape, load it into
a drive and begin the read process. Enhanced backup
products speed time to restore data, increasing its
Although various industries may have very specific requirements
concerning backup and restore operations, the challenges
are common: the need for a high performance, highly
reliable system that augments both data protection and
availability. This commonality of challenges suggests
that diverse industries can benefit from an enhanced
backup solution. However, the matter is complicated
by the significant differences each enhanced backup
vendor brings to their products.
Since the market for enhanced backup is quite broad,
storage vendors have been quick to bring their own enhanced
backup products to market, resulting in a wide variety
of approaches to design and functionality.
the concept of enhanced backup is simpleaugmenting
existing systems with disk to accelerate and secure
backup/restore operationspotential customers must
carefully weigh the benefits and potential drawbacks
of each type of enhanced backup product. There are currently
four significant types of enhanced backup products,
each with its own set of relative advantages and disadvantages.
Easily the most ambitious take on enhanced backup is
being played out by several vendors, which will henceforth
be referred to as "Disruptive Innovators"
in this article. Their goal is to bring an entirely
new approach to backup/restore systems. In addition
to highly sophisticated hardware systems, these vendors
also bundle proprietary software for an inclusive solution.
The claimed benefits of these systems include fast,
online access to information, efficient use of hard
disk storage, local and remote fault tolerance, and
However, the initial capital investment required for
such inclusive solutions, is steep. Storage administrators
must be trained to use the new system, and previous
investments in storage management software and hardware
be discarded. While advanced, it is yet to be proven
that the high cost of ownership for these systems is
When vendors cannot justify developing a system from
the ground up, they often re-purpose an existing device.
In the case of vendors offering the "Swiss Army
Knife" approach, this is achieved by modifying
highly-evolved primary storage units. These re-purposed
primary storage devices are then sold as secondary storage
(disk-based enhanced backup). While these units retain
their ability to operate effectively with storage and
backup management software from popular Independent
Software Vendors (ISVs), in many ways the hardware and
embedded software is simply overkill for the task at
hand. The disadvantage of this approach is that customers
are asked to buy sophisticated hardware with more features
than are required for specific backup and restore applications.
Other, more cost-effective designs can perform these
operations as easily, and more elegantly.
Unfortunately for consumers, many manufacturers are
simply filling the market void for enhanced backup with
generic disk devices that are neither optimized for
backup/restore, nor are they recognized by popular storage
management software as secondary storage. The principle
these devices employ is simple disk-to-disk data copieslike
having two hard drives in a PC with the same data on
both. While initial cost is low, so too is the performance
of these devices, negating the very purpose of enhanced
Lastly, customers can choose optimized backup appliances.
These enhanced backup products have been designed specifically
to perform secondary storage functions as a direct complement
for tape. In fact, they appear as tape libraries to
storage softwaremimicking drive, cartridge and
robotic operations. Because of this advanced functionality,
these devices are easy to deploy and operate. No special
training is needed. In fact, optimized backup appliances
offer the best mix of simplicity and power available
in the enhanced backup market. Customers realize the
performance, availability and reliability benefits of
disk, while operators continue following procedures
previously established and proven with tape devices.
Ultimately, the goal is to provide the highest level
of data protection without sacrificing the usefulness
of critical data. Enhanced backup products, when fully
optimized to perform their specific duties, do exactly
that. With the speed, reliability and accessibility
afforded by disk, enhanced backup products are poised
to make a significant and positive impact on storage
operations, IT budgets and overall productivity.
The writer is Country Manager, Quantum Corporation,