Does Object Storage Make Sense for Backups?

Object storage is not only perfect for backups – it seems designed for it. It’s safe, economical, and scalable – everything backup storage needs to be. Specific features in object storage make it perfectly suitable for the task of holding backup data.

Keeping Backups Safe

The most important reason object storage is appropriate to hold backup data is the need to keep backup data safe from those that would do it harm, from natural and other disasters that might damage it, and from corruption over time.

The need to move data off-site is one point of exposure. Most off-site backups are still stored on tape, and thanks to many countries now requiring companies to divulge when they lose customer data, there are many publicized incidents that illustrate the difficulties with the physical transport of data this requires. Object storage eliminates this risk. Customers using object storage to store their on-site backups, can easily replicate that data to an alternate location without using a human. Taking the human out of the equation significantly increases the safety of your data.

Protection Against Failure

Data backup protects information from myriad possible failure modes. Object storage was designed for data protection from the start, which is why object vendors can justify claims of fourteen-nines of data durability. As a shared-nothing cluster, object storage systems distribute both user data and metadata across nodes and even across sites. These systems typically have multiple levels of protection to protect against media failure, node failure, or even the destruction of an entire site. Furthermore, object storage systems also have features built into them that look for and automatically repair corruption of data over time due to magnetic degradation, something not usually found on traditional storage. Specifically, each object has a cryptographic hash that allows the object storage system to check the integrity of each object on a regular basis. If it detects corruption for any reason, it can easily replace a corrupted copy of an object with an uncorrupted version – all done automatically with no customer intervention.

Deduplication is no Longer a Must-Have

Up to this point, most customers who chose disk storage for their backups tended toward deduplication systems. They did this primarily because the backup software products created a lot of duplicate data. But a customer using a more modern backup software product, with deduplication built in, can easily leverage object storage for backups without seeing a significant difference in cost. In fact, some customers find that not having to pay the “dedupe tax” makes object storage cheap enough that they can afford to move both their on-site and off-site copies onto object storage.

The dedupe tax is how much appliance vendors charge you for the dedupe feature. Some have put it like this: The vendor gives you 1 TB of disk, it makes it look like 20 TB with dedupe, but the vendor only charges your for 10 TB. In other words, the vendor is charging you for 10 TB, but only giving you 1TB of disk (even if that 1 TB is behaving like 10 TB). That’s the dedupe tax.

Better Scaling?

Another difference between object storage systems and most deduplication systems is how they scale. Almost all object storage systems are built with a scale-out architecture that makes them more scalable than most deduplication systems. This means that the cost of a growing object storage system can ultimately be less than the cost of outgrowing and replacing a scale up deduplication system. Furthermore, most object systems are built on industry-standard hardware, again holding down the cost.

StorageSwiss Take

There is no question object storage is a safe place to store both the on-site and off-site copies of your backups. It protects on multiple levels against media and node failure, and can easily be replicated to protect against site failure. Advances in backup technology also make object storage a more suitable task than traditional disk was before the advent of deduplication. Add to this the data integrity checks that object storage brings to the table and it starts to appear quite perfect for backups.

Sponsored by Cloudian

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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