DR Ready Storage should Complement Backup

A popular trend is to have data protection begin where the data begins – in primary storage. But the questions are: Should protecting your data be the responsibility of your primary storage product, or should there be a separation between primary storage and secondary storage and data protection? Is that where it should happen? The answer is both yes and no.

Data protection has come a long way in the last 30 years. There was a time when we expected absolutely no data protection capabilities from our primary storage. Thirty years ago, primary storage meant a single spinning disk drive that could fail immediately and take all data with it. The backup system was a completely separate entity. The advent of RAID and redirect-on-write snapshots changed everything. We began to expect that our primary storage would at least assist in helping keep our data safe. RAID protected against device failure and snapshots protected against logical corruption and accidental deletion. Replication of those snapshots to another location provided another level of safety, and we began to have our first DR Ready primary storage.

A primary storage system could – with enough management and reporting system – take over the tasks traditionally performed by the backup and recovery system. Replicating those snapshots off-site can allow the same system to satisfy disaster recovery needs. The ability for a primary storage system to be able to complement the backup and DR systems is good. But it’s important to realize that data protection is a spectrum of things that include protections beyond that provided by snapshots and replication. For example, what about long-term storage (i.e. archives) and electronic discovery (i.e. e-discovery)?

The data protection features of primary storage systems should also be integrated into the backup system, so an environment can use these features without abandoning their backup system. Many modern backup systems can schedule the creation and replication of snapshots, as well as catalog the contents of those snapshots. That way you can continue using the backup system that you know and are familiar with, while augmenting its functionality with more modern data protection features from your primary storage system.

Depending on the type of company and its needs, there may be the need to store many years of data. Depending on how that data is to be used, it should be searchable by more than what a traditional backup system or snapshot system is designed to do. There is archive software and e-discovery software that is specifically designed for this purpose, and until primary storage systems start adding in those types of features, long-term storage needs are probably best served by system specifically designed for those needs.

In addition to being more suited to long-term storage due to searchability and accessibility requirements, there is also the question of cost. Primary storage systems are definitely more expensive than secondary storage systems. When you are considering storing data for many years, cost becomes paramount. While a primary storage system could be used to store data for many years, the cost of doing so on such a system doesn’t seem warranted. If a secondary storage system, such as object storage or tape, can meet the requirements of the inactive data access associated with an application, the cost of these systems is more in line with storing data that is not directly contributing to the bottom line.

StorageSwiss Take

Many people now take for granted that their primary storage will assist them in protecting the data stored upon it. It’s a good thing that data protection is now thought of as an integral design component of primary storage. From media protection techniques such as RAID or erasure coding to data protection techniques such as snapshots and replication, data protection is finally getting the attention it deserves. But some functionality, such as long-term storage and archiving, are probably still best left to systems specifically designed for that, both from a functionality and cost perspective.

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W. Curtis Preston (aka Mr. Backup) is an expert in backup & recovery systems; a space he has been working in since 1993. He has written three books on the subject, Backup & Recovery, Using SANs and NAS, and Unix Backup & Recovery. Mr. Preston is a writer and has spoken at hundreds of seminars and conferences around the world. Preston’s mission is to arm today’s IT managers with truly unbiased information about today’s storage industry and its products.

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One comment on “DR Ready Storage should Complement Backup
  1. […] Don’t believe the rumor! The undeniable strength and value of these products is their ability to provide data availability and business continuity. Across the board their data protection methods use snapshot and replication technology. But is snapshot and replication the same as backup? Not really—read more here. […]

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