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IT Challenges: It's Ugly Out There

Written by : Frank Smith (Technical Director, micronDR)
17th Mar 2007

Businesses today face unrelenting data growth. IT staffs are struggling to ensure data availability under tight fiscal constraints. The unreliability and intensive management of traditional tape-based backup has forced system administrators to create manual, error-prone processes in order to protect their data. Consequently, other critical objectives, such as supporting distributed environments and complying with regulatory requirements, are not being adequately met. External forces are adding to the backup-related challenges that organizations face today. Heightened awareness around business continuity and regulatory compliance has caused businesses to increase spending on their data protection activities. In fact, companies spent an estimated $5.5 billion to comply with Sarbanes-Oxley alone in 2004,while compliance and headline-grabbing disasters are often credited for increased focus on business continuity, the truth remains that while IT staffs must solve difficult, everyday issues, they are also responsible to maintain optimum data availability.

Issue 1: Today’s Backup Problems

Problem Cause:

Shrinking backup windows
Proliferation of data-intensive, high-availability applications
such as Web-based services (email, order processing) and
other applications now required for around-the-clock
availability.

Rapid data growth
Data growth continues to rapidly climb. It is reality, not a
trend. These data-intensive applications are generally the
culprits.

Lack of central control over distributed systems
IT staff managing off-site backups frequently must trust
untrained co-workers to conduct backup activities such as
swapping out and replacing tape media. Managing redundant
hardware and software components in multiple offi ces also
adds to the complexity.

Increasing rate of recovery failure
Business continuity is jeopardized by viruses, accidental
data deletion, and data corruption. As systems grow more
complex, the inability to adequately recover an organization’s
business-critical data increases.

Human error
Accidentally deleting an email or crashing a server from
overfi lling a disk drive is among the human errors that
represent some 32 percent of application downtime and data
loss.

The problem with tape

For more than 50 years, businesses have utilized tape-based backup schemes. While proponents tout low media costs and portability, tape backup increases the amount of time and effort needed to administer backup and recovery tasks. With a tape backup solution, how frequently are the tapes sent off-site as part of a disaster recovery strategy? Even if tapes are sent off-site on a daily basis, the tapes are usually sitting in the tape drive or a shipping container for 6-12 hours after the backup completes before they are transported to another location. This leaves an organization exposed during that
time.

Has your business ever migrated from one OS to another, or from one major release of an OS to another and lost data that was not transferred during the project? Typical tape solutions are tied to the OS and backup software version. Traditional tape solutions create an “upgrade treadmill” that forces a technology change every three to four years. The challenge becomes whether to migrate older backup data. That would be very costly. Equally costly is keeping older drives around with all the associated overhead and maintenance issues.
As tape density increases, more data is stored on each and every cartridge. While this reduces the quantity of media to manage, it increases the risk and exposure of losing much more data if there is a problem. Damaged, misplaced, lost, or stolen cartridges can present a big problem if data recovery is required. Tape portability is always a problem. With drive and media compatibility and head alignment to contend with, there are more potential points of failure. If your organization has multiple offices with little or no IT staff in each remote office, then how do you ensure that backups are properly managed and guarantee consistent and reliable data protection across all offices

Issue 2: Tape limitations

Problem Cause:

Slower backup and recovery speeds
Tape’s linear recording format takes more time to write and
restore backup data when compared to the random-access
capability of disk. Tape restore times are further slowed by
having to locate and mount the media to fi nd the needed
information.

Manual intervention required to get data off-site
Without manual intervention, backup tapes remain in the tape
drive, leaving the data vulnerable to physical events. While diskto-
disk backup (external drives, appliances) is attempting to
solve this problem, it is only adequate for short periods of time.
Ultimately, data must be moved off-site.

Inability to verify backup data
Most people do not turn on the option to “verify after write” on their tape drives because this adds 30-50 percent to the time required to complete the backup.

No quick 24x7 access to data for recovery If tapes are removed from the drives to be sent off-site, there is a significant delay in those tapes returning for recovery purposes.

Human error
Accidentally deleting an email or crashing a server from
overfi lling a disk drive is among the human errors that
represent some 32 percent of application downtime and data
loss.