Data Backup Strategy: 7 Considerations

Weigh these factors when building a backup plan for your data center.

Jim O'Reilly

July 25, 2016

8 Slides

Data backup is an essential part of data center operations, but it’s important to really understand what makes a backup strategy successful. Most people say that it’s necessary to have a second copy of data in case the original copy fails. That’s true, but it is only part of the story.

A good backup strategy is obviously going to create that second copy, but it is more crucial that, when file recovery is needed, the data can actually be found quickly. This was a problem with straight tape backup, which could have recovery times in the tens of minutes for a single file.

Retrieval problems can be avoided with the correct backup software and the proper storage medium. The two are somewhat intertwined. Backup needs disk/SSD storage in the data path, allowing indexing of files to speed retrieval. That storage also buffers transfers to slow media, such as the cloud or magnetic tape. In addition, disk storage allows compression and deduplication of data before sending it to the final backup medium, saving transmission times and reducing the cost of backed-up data by roughly a factor of five.

The storage in the backup path can serve as a cache (with the right software, of course). With most retrieval requests occurring within 30 days of backup, caching offers a substantial improvement in quality of service.

Good candidates for an enterprise backup solution are disk-to-tape and disk-to-cloud packages. Tape and cloud come with different security risks. Tape is essentially an offline process. Alerting data requires manual steps and offline access. That’s a good solution for protection against hackers and, more importantly, the internal rogue admin or programmer. Tapes can be stolen, but good inventory control by your storage site should warn you of that and, with encrypted data, you are just out the cost of some tape media.

But that offline status is a real impediment to recovering individual files that have been corrupted or accidentally erased. Getting to that data may take hours or days and then it takes a long time to find the file. Backing up data to the cloud is very safe if data is encrypted at the source, and recovery time can be in seconds. However, the fact that it is actively online means deliberate or accidental data corruption is possible.

Now let’s look at what we store. More than 50% of data in large companies resides on mobile gear. A solid backup strategy must handle that reality. That means backup software must include policy-controlled backup of mobile devices.

Moreover, many companies are moving to the cloud for mainstream computing. The best solution for this data is to save it in a cloud backup or archiving service. This reduces cost and time for backups.

(Image: MF3D/iStockphoto)

About the Author(s)

Jim O'Reilly


Jim O'Reilly was Vice President of Engineering at Germane Systems, where he created ruggedized servers and storage for the US submarine fleet. He has also held senior management positions at SGI/Rackable and Verari; was CEO at startups Scalant and CDS; headed operations at PC Brand and Metalithic; and led major divisions of Memorex-Telex and NCR, where his team developed the first SCSI ASIC, now in the Smithsonian. Jim is currently a consultant focused on storage and cloud computing.

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