Simplifying Data Storage Using a Backup Appliance

By John Pearring

The only option call centers used to have when it came to complete storage management (that is, backup, archive, and disaster recovery) was to purchase each component they needed separately. Unfortunately, purchasing these components separately can be expensive. In fact, the costs of managing data today have risen dramatically. According to a study by Strategic Research Corp., typical organizations spend over $350,000 annually on storage management. The same study found that the average cost for managing storage grew by 27% in one year alone, principally for four reasons:

  • Lost user productivity: time spent manually managing storage space, ‘out of disk space’ conditions, and locating lost files.
  • Lost administrator productivity: time spent dispatching user requests for restores and scheduling backups and recoveries.
  • Lost organizational productivity: storage failures that prevent access to crucial data.
  • Storage maintenance and repair expenses: repair of disabled storage devices.

What about managing the storage? Although it costs $1.00 per Megabyte (MB) to acquire hard disk storage for the client server network, it costs an organization an additional $8.00 per MB each year to manage the storage. In the study, the cost components to storage management include managing file structures and assuring adequate storage capacity, lost productivity due to storage unavailability and corruption, and administrative tasks such as capacity management, backup, restore, archiving, installation, fault handling, and reconfiguration.

Then, what if your storage solution doesn’t work? Unfortunately, data stored on disk drives can too easily be lost. The National Archives & Records Administration in Washingtonreports that93% of companies they surveyed that lost their data center for ten days or more due to a disaster filed for bankruptcy within one year of the disaster. Fifty percent of businesses that found themselves without data management for this same time period filed for bankruptcy immediately.

Even a single megabyte of lost data is costly. A 1998 Pepperdine University study, “The Cost of Lost Data,” estimated that the average incident of lost, stolen, or damaged data cost companies more than $2,500 per affected PC. The same report estimated that the cost of lost data to U.S. economy totaled more than $11.8 billon.

Simplify and Address Three Critical Storage Needs: How can you simplify, reduce costs, and still have superior data protection? By using a “backup appliance” that includes everything in one package – from disks and tape libraries, to software, to the case it’s all housed in. It should provide for three aspects of data protection: backup, archive, and disaster recovery.

A backup appliance can allow call centers to retrieve both their backup and archived information within minutes. Backup copies of data are stored on tape within the appliance and archived data can be stored on local shelves, near-line storage, or also in the appliance. Disaster recovery capabilities in a backup appliance keep an off-site copy of both the backups and archives, allowing the backups and archives to remain on-site. Traditional backup and recovery products typically don’t offer online data retrieval, making immediate access to saved information next to impossible.

In addition, a backup appliance must provide for long-term management flexibility in regard to media and platforms. Since media specifications are constantly changing for disk, tape and optical technologies, a backup appliance should provide for virtualization of data storage, allowing the media to be changed, migrated, updated, distributed and consolidated across locally attached, network attached, or SAN (Storage Area Network) managed locations. Over time, the data on media should not be limited by media decisions and should not require later restoration in order to be moved to a new media. Likewise with platforms, IT departments have to remain flexible in managing their data across multiple platforms and networks.

Next, a backup appliance must include all the hardware, software, and integration of a backup solution in one appliance. Optimally, the appliance should include a logical plug and play mix of the hardware components for scalability and support, offering a customer the flexibility to grow while providing single support maintenance capability. Also, the backup appliance’s ease of use at installation provides a shorter learning curve. Lastly, a backup appliance can provide a return on investment of only months by reducing storage expansion and network costs, eliminating productivity losses, and reducing downtime from lengthy restore or retrieve operations.

John Pearring is president of STORServer, Inc., an employee-owned manufacturer of the STORServer backup appliance.

[From Connection Magazine September 2005]

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