What Is The Data Protection Continuum?

In an era where business end-users have increasingly more options and autonomy for deciding how they will protect their application data, it is critically important for today’s IT organizations to provide more choices. By building a data protection infrastructure that provides a “continuum” of data protection services, IT organizations can more readily meet the needs of their internal and/or external clients and remain more relevant to the business at large.

Tiered Data Protection

As data center environments continue to evolve, IT organizations need to ensure that business data assets are reliably protected regardless of where data lives – in private or public clouds, or out on the edge on remote user devices like laptops, tablets and smartphones. But obviously all data does not carry equal value and as such, businesses need a way to stratify or tier data protection to drive efficiencies, while ensuring that data availability and recoverability objectives are met.

One challenge, however, is that stratified data protection infrastructure can often result in multiple, discrete silos of data protection proliferating throughout the enterprise. This often conflicts with data center consolidation efforts and results in higher costs – both from an operational and capital expenditure standpoint. Therefore it is important for organizations to deploy data protection infrastructure that operates seamlessly with software-defined virtualized environments, is agnostic of application data sources and has multi-tenant capabilities; allowing it all to be securely shared amongst multiple data owners.

Shared Protection Storage

But before organizations can realize the financial and operational efficiencies of shared backup infrastructure, IT’s internal and/or external clients must adopt these solutions en masse. One key towards increasing adoption is deploying technologies that don’t require end-users to change how they manage and protect their information. For example, database owners should have the ability to use their native database backup tools to protect their information. Likewise, virtual server administrators need the flexibility to use their existing management tools to safeguard and protect virtual machine images. And of course, backup administrators will want to continue using their backup applications to protect information in the data center or out in remote offices. All of these users can be accommodated when there is a common pool of protection storage resources deployed that has multi-tenant capabilities and can accept multiple disparate backup workloads. These features will become increasingly important as organizations continue their journey towards adopting cloud infrastructure.

Multiple Data Protection Service-Levels

Aside from shared backup infrastructure capabilities, however, organizations also need to provide data protection services with multiple service levels to meet the various recovery point (how much data can be lost) and recovery time (how long it takes to recover a failed business application) objectives of business applications throughout the enterprise. For example, a Gold level data protection service might include continuous data protection (CDP) and clustering solutions that provide zero downtime and zero data loss capabilities for the most mission critical business applications. On the other hand, a Silver level policy may leverage online data snapshots and asynchronous replication on SAN and NAS systems to restore data with only a minimal amount of data loss; while providing rapid data restore capabilities. And a Bronze service level policy would incorporate enterprise backup that can efficiently store, protect, archive and offsite data for DR purposes. Naturally this last service would be applied to all data sets, regardless of their criticality, however, the point is that organizations need to implement a data protection continuum to meet the various data protection requirements of the business.

Bridging The Data Protection Continuum

Importantly, technologies deployed in today’s data centers also need to integrate well into next generation, hybrid cloud data center environments. Businesses have witnessed two fundamental shifts in computing over the last several decades – from 1st generation centralized mainframe computing to 2nd generation client-server computing which now incorporates a heavy compliment of software-defined technologies like server virtualization. As businesses move towards 3rd platform cloud computing environments, data protection will become more challenging as there will be increasingly more users and more devices to support and of course, a lot more data to protect. But investments made today to protect today’s 2nd generation data centers shouldn’t have to be discarded as businesses start adopting 3rd generation computing environments. Instead, businesses should be able to continue leveraging their data protection assets and have the flexibility to integrate complementary data protection solutions as needed.


As the data center landscape continues to evolve, organizations need to ensure that business data assets are reliably protected regardless of where data lives – in private clouds, out in public cloud environments or a hybrid of both. Likewise, data protection needs to be an efficient process that matches the right data protection scheme with the actual business value of the data.

In much the same way that a financial portfolio will change as an individual begins to approach retirement (moving from more aggressive investments to more conservative financial instruments), data protection policies ideally should change to meet the changing business priorities and value of the information under management. By doing so, the right data protection policy with the appropriate recovery point and recovery time objectives can be applied. This can best be achieved when there are a portfolio of integrated data protection technology solutions available that are designed to meet these specific needs.

Building an end-to-end data protection continuum is an excellent strategy for meeting the various data protection service level requirements for todays business applications. From ultra-high availability solutions which provide for continuous data protection in real-time, to the efficient backup and archiving of data for long-term compliancy requirements. Businesses need multiple data protection technologies that can protect data in today’s ever changing data center landscape and as importantly, continue to do so well into the future.

EMC is a client of Storage Switzerland

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As a 22 year IT veteran, Colm has worked in a variety of capacities ranging from technical support of critical OLTP environments to consultative sales and marketing for system integrators and manufacturers. His focus in the enterprise storage, backup and disaster recovery solutions space extends from mainframe and distributed computing environments across a wide range of industries.

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3 comments on “What Is The Data Protection Continuum?
  1. Mike says:

    Colm, Well said! We, at Sepaton, are in complete agreement with your points and directional statements. Our large enterprise customers continue to tell us their sole data protection objection is to “protect data with certainty (meeting RTO and RPO objectives every time) at the lowest possible cost”. Your tiered approach is spot on to help in this regard. The only challenge, as pointed out, is controlling cost with silos of protection storage devices and the exponential operation expense this creates. With unabated customer data growth, I would add that a scale-out architecture with all the flexibility you stress is critical to achieve data protection certainty at the lowest possible cost. Mike

  2. […] is an example of what EMC is calling the “Data Protection Continuum”. By leveraging different tiers of data protection across an integrated portfolio of data […]

  3. […] the major version release of NetWorker, etc. And now, organizations can build a true end-to-end data protection continuum by implementing products like RecoverPoint and […]

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