February 02, 2009, 2:06 PM — Backup and recovery have come a long way. For years, organizations were relegated to using tape-based solutions, which were cumbersome, inefficient, and fell uncomfortably short of most recovery goals. Today, disk-based backup together with next-generation technologies for data protection help ease the challenges of meeting recovery point objectives (RPOs) and recovery time objectives (RTOs).
That said, organizations still face a number of pressing needs. For example, many businesses need data protection methods that will allow them to recover their data more than just once a day; they need options that will continuously protect their applications throughout the day and allow them to quickly recover their data. In addition, organizations need comprehensive backup management software rather than a proliferation of point tools to meet their data protection requirements.
Of course, there are also some things organizations simply do not need. For example, they do not need data protection solutions that impact the performance of their critical applications. Nor do they need to struggle with backup windows as they perform off-host backups or backups to tape.
Fortunately, next-generation technologies have emerged aimed at combining the most advanced continuous data protection technologies with broader backup and recovery platforms to provide a more complete solution for complex data center environments.
A Step at a Time
To improve RPOs and RTOs, many organizations have turned to technologies such as array-based snapshots, database transaction logs, and the like. Snapshots improved recovery times, although taking multiple scheduled snapshots every day was often acutely taxing both on storage budgets and on systems.
Other organizations, intent on protecting their databases, have opted to leverage their database’s own transaction log capabilities in order to rebuild the database to a specified point in time in the event of certain events. However, if the database system went down, the logs were unavailable—thereby rendering this recovery approach inadequate and ineffective in many circumstances.
Enter continuous data protection (CDP) tools. Designed to constantly capture changes to an application and make it easier for administrators to roll back to any point in the protection timeframe, these point tools offer a welcome alternative to traditional protection methods. Yet, while recovering data to any point in time promises to reduce data loss, finding the appropriate point in time from which to restore has been difficult with these point tools.
While such technologies improved the speed and throughput of backup and recovery operations, they offer varying levels of protection and recovery and many are challenging to administer, making them insufficient for today’s information-driven businesses.
Consequently, a growing number of organizations are turning to emerging solutions that provide CDP as an integrated part of a comprehensive backup and recovery strategy. By providing organizations a single interface from which to manage all relevant backup technologies throughout their data centers, the integration of CDP with backup management and recovery enables IT to meet service levels, avoid data loss, and eliminate backup windows.
Viewed separately, CDP and backup management systems offer compelling benefits. For example, true CDP protects applications at all times by capturing changes as they occur, enabling recovery to any point in time during a given protection period. This eliminates potential data loss for critical applications, and improves data protection service levels with better RPOs.
A next-generation backup management and recovery system enables organizations to leverage existing infrastructure investments while taking advantage of new and emerging disk-based data protection technologies such as CDP. It can also simplify and centralize the management of a diverse backup environment from a single console, and unlock the power of disk-based backup to reduce RPOs and RTOs, leveraging any type of disk infrastructure—whether direct-attached storage, network attached storage, and storage area networks as well as snapshots, virtual tape libraries, data deduplication, and more.
Better yet, when integrated with a robust backup management and recovery system, CDP can help improve the recovery experience for fast, consistent recovery of application data while allowing users to continue to leverage their current, familiar operational procedures for application recovery. In some integrations, off-host backups can also be automatically initiated from CDP storage to longer-term storage media.
In other words, solutions that integrate CDP with backup management give organizations real-time protection while reducing the strain on backup infrastructure and IT administrators.
How does it work? In perhaps one of the most interesting implementations of these technologies, IT administrators have two options for recovering applications: the backup management system and the CDP server. While the backup management system is designed to handle discrete recovery points, the CDP server is designed to handle a continuum of recovery points. This allows it to deliver recovery images not available for recovery through the backup management system. So, while the backup management system can regularly mark and catalog discrete points in time that represent known recovery points, recovery operations that fall between those points are provided for through the CDP server.
This integrated system includes additional capabilities to improve protection, streamline administration, and ease storage concerns. Application intelligence ensures that application transactions are consistent upon recovery, which is both a challenge and an imperative for Oracle and Microsoft Exchange environments. Administrators can follow standard recovery workflows for their backup and recovery tasks, which greatly reduces the learning curve for administering CDP. The ability to use the CDP server as a source for backups eliminates the need to burden production application servers with the impact of nightly full or incremental backups.
As businesses struggle to find better ways to protect against data loss and improve recovery times for critical applications, robust new systems that meet recovery requirements while easing management complexity will continue to evolve. Recovery management solutions will increasingly introduce new approaches that obviate the need for deploying disparate point products and instead provide for real-time, continuous data protection as part of a comprehensive, integrated backup and recovery system.
With these enterprise solutions in place, organizations will have the toolset needed to not only meet more demanding recovery time objectives and recovery point objectives but also to address the challenges and maximize the opportunities of a competitive, information-driven, global business marketplace.