Microsoft, Iron Mountain Back Up to the Cloud

The vendors offer a good solution for those without DR sites and those using backup tapes in a warehouse as their retention mechanism

Howard Marks

February 4, 2009

3 Min Read
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12:40 PM -- The transition from direct tape backup to D2D and D2D2T has greatly reduced the tape-handling failures that left a typical small or mid-sized enterprise (SME) happy if they managed to back up their data four days a week. But getting the data safely off-site has been a problem for organizations without pockets deep enough to have multiple data centers and/or dedicated DR sites.

Truly small businesses can use online backup services from Carbonite to LiveVault, but restoring a 20-Gbyte Exchange information store over a T-1 line just takes too long to be a viable solution. So SMEs rely on tapes in the trunk of the IT guy's car or weekly courier visits from Recall or Iron Mountain to take backup tapes to a safe location, leaving them vulnerable to substantial data loss.

Service pack 1 for System Center Data Protection Manager 2007 from Microsoft addresses this problem by adding the ability to archive datasets to Iron Mountian's CloudRecovery service, in addition to tape and disk. System Center Data Protection Manager -- which I'll just call DPM from now on, as Byte and Switch pays me by the word and I could bankrupt the poor site by using the whole System Center Data Protection Manager 2007 every time I want to refer to the product -- is a pseudo-CDP (every 15 minutes) solution, exclusively for Windows servers and Microsoft server apps like SQL Server and Exchange, that's gained some traction in the SME space.

With DPM and CloudRecovery, the DPM server will send changes to the protected data once a day to Iron Mountain. Customers can choose 30-day, one-year, or seven-year data retention. In each case, Iron Mountain will keep the daily restore points for two weeks and reduce the granularity over time, so users choosing seven-year retention can see only annual restore points for the data over three years old.

While my compatriot David Hill wonders why someone with a DR site would want local plus online backup, I see it as a good solution for those without DR sites and for many organizations now using backup tapes in a warehouse as their retention mechanism. A typical backup app will retain catalog information for six months to a year, so when your poor backup monkey has to restore data from the four-year-old tapes he has to re-catalog all the tapes to find the data he needs. Not only does this eat up hours of his time, it also ties up the tape library --- possibly interfering with more important tasks like backups. With a long-retention online solution, the catalog is available from the online backup vendor's Website even if it has to be restored through the DPM server. Larger enterprises should have real archiving solutions and not rely on backup tapes for retention, so they won't be interested.Microsoft and Iron Mountain join Symantec's Backup Exec/SPN combination and Amanda's ability to use Amazon's S3 for backup storage, making this a trend for SMB/SME backup. Should the trend continue? Inquiring minds want to know.

Howard Marks is chief scientist at Networks Are Our Lives Inc., a Hoboken, N.J.-based consultancy where he's been beating storage network systems into submission and writing about it in computer magazines since 1987. He currently writes for InformationWeek, which is published by the same company as Byte and Switch.

About the Author(s)

Howard Marks

Network Computing Blogger

Howard Marks</strong>&nbsp;is founder and chief scientist at Deepstorage LLC, a storage consultancy and independent test lab based in Santa Fe, N.M. and concentrating on storage and data center networking. In more than 25 years of consulting, Marks has designed and implemented storage systems, networks, management systems and Internet strategies at organizations including American Express, J.P. Morgan, Borden Foods, U.S. Tobacco, BBDO Worldwide, Foxwoods Resort Casino and the State University of New York at Purchase. The testing at DeepStorage Labs is informed by that real world experience.</p><p>He has been a frequent contributor to <em>Network Computing</em>&nbsp;and&nbsp;<em>InformationWeek</em>&nbsp;since 1999 and a speaker at industry conferences including Comnet, PC Expo, Interop and Microsoft's TechEd since 1990. He is the author of&nbsp;<em>Networking Windows</em>&nbsp;and co-author of&nbsp;<em>Windows NT Unleashed</em>&nbsp;(Sams).</p><p>He is co-host, with Ray Lucchesi of the monthly Greybeards on Storage podcast where the voices of experience discuss the latest issues in the storage world with industry leaders.&nbsp; You can find the podcast at: http://www.deepstorage.net/NEW/GBoS

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