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Protecting Enterprise Data using Disk to disk backup

Editor's intro:- Most of the backup software in use today was originally conceived for a much simpler world. Endless rewrites and extensions have made these legacy products usable, to be sure, but the risk of data loss still remains. What if you could start with a clean sheet for a backup storage architecture? This article discusses the problems with legacy backup, and describes an alternative solution.


Protecting Enterprise Data using Disk to disk backup
Storactive
Article by Storactive

Executive Summary

T
he proliferation of mission-critical, server-based applications has driven the need to reevaluate traditional backup software architectures. With the geographic distribution of users across wide-ranging time zones it is now required that applications and data be available 24x7x365, making backup windows of any significant duration simply unacceptable. Today's enterprise environments need up-to-the-minute data protection without sacrificing high-availability.

It is likely that if backup software were as conceived today it would deliver these ideals. But , when backup was initially designed, technology and cost limitations hindered the achievement of a zero data loss solution. Now, new technology developments have enabled software developers to rediscover backup software's original promise. Remove all limitations and we are likely to agree that the ideal backup software solution should provide fast, transparent data protection that eliminates the need for any additional network load requirements and enables the immediate restoration of data at any grain size (from a single file to a complete bare metal disaster recovery). The ideal backup solution should also snap easily and seamlessly into existing backup infrastructures without additional hardware or storage costs.

Storactive®, Inc. has developed an innovative new approach to server backup that meets the demand for zero data loss: with its Storactive LiveServ software solution. This real-time, versioned backup product provides secure, up-to-the-moment protection for mission-critical data in small to medium-sized enterprises. . Complementing traditional schedule-based backup solutions, LiveServ compresses data and eliminates duplicate files. . This reduces the total volume of server data to back up, shrinking or eliminating backup times and extending the life of current hardware and software storage resources. Snapping easily into existing enterprise backup infrastructures, the value-priced LiveServ provides reliable, real-time protection that will recover any version of any file at any time. This means that the corporate enterprise no longer needs to worry about data vulnerability or loss due to virus or hacking damage.

This paper discusses:

  • The ideal backup software solution
  • Where traditional, schedule-based backup systems fall short
  • The historical obstacles of creating the ideal backup software solution
  • Where traditional, schedule-based backup systems fall short
  • The four key technologies of true real-time data protection
  • How LiveServ will seamlessly introduce real-time backup technology into the enterprise while leveraging existing storage investments and resources

The Ideal Backup Software Solution

For years, backup software developers have envisioned a data protection solution that would ultimately eliminate data vulnerability and data loss. If technology and cost limitations were removed, everyone is likely to agree that the ideal backup software solution would:

  • Provide fast, transparent data protection
  • Capture data changes in real-time, rather than on a scheduled basis
  • Create minimal network load
  • Enable immediate restoration of data at any grain size (from a single file to complete bare-metal disaster recovery)
  • Allow restoration of multiple versions of data
  • Integrate easily and seamlessly into existing backup infrastructures
  • Require minimal hardware and storage

Where Schedule-Based Backup Systems Fall Short

Today's schedule-based backup practices still fall short of this ideal. In fact, they place critical data at risk every day. The most common strategy for enterprise data protection is to perform backups on a daily basis. This creates several problems. First, data is vulnerable between backups. Any data lost between scheduled backups is unprotected and effectively lost. This is inadequate for server-based applications in which data is highly dynamic and often mission critical.

Next, because of the growing amount of data in a typical organization, the practice of confining backup times to "off hours" has become increasingly difficult. Additionally, servers that support 24x7 operations effectively have no "off hours." This means that backups must be performed while the system is in use, causing costly downtime.

Finally, each server throughout the enterprise must be backed up individually – a costly and inefficient use of both hardware and backup systems. This is an especially crucial issue because schedule-based systems backup to and recover from tape, which, simply put, is slower than moving data to and from a disk-based system.

The Historical Challenges of Creating the Ideal Backup Software

Many will agree that a zero data-loss solution is the ultimate backup goal, however, creating this ideal backup software solution has been a challenged for developers for decades. While it is easy to agree that data protection should be fast and transparent with restore capabilities that totally eliminate the risk of data loss, the reasons why this backup ideal is only now being reached are not as obvious. There are three major reasons why the backup ideal hasn't become a reality sooner:

  • Weak demand – Only recently has the demand for 24x7 data availability been strong. As such, backups could be done overnight, thus historical demand for high availability has not been enough to drive new technology development.
  • Technically infeasible – Backup software technology is rooted in a schedule-based architecture. To achieve true transparent data protection, schedule-based backup software technology needed to be re-architected to handle difficult situations (such as open files) and to make better use of hardware performance. This, coupled with historical storage system performance limitations, has technically hindered the ability to back up in real time.
  • Unreasonable ROI – Even if true transparent data protection wereas technically possible, it requires the use of a disk-to-disk-based system. . Until just recently, the historically high price of disk storage has rendered such a solution very cost prohibitive.

These obstacles are now obsolete, and it is finally time to take a fresh new look at how we can deliver the original promise of backup software. For enterprises with large and growing volumes of data, high availability is no longer just a request or luxury. It's a requirement. It is now possible to develop products, like LiveServ that can now reliably handle open files and complex application data. What's more, new data compression and collapsing techniques extend the life of existing tape subsystems. Finally, disk-based storage hardware prices have hit an all-time value mark, which gives real-time backup solutions an impressive return on investment (see figure 1).

figure 1

This shifting paradigm in backup technology will protect data as changes occur and eliminate the vulnerability of lost data between backup windows. Ultimately, this will allow enterprises to eliminate the backup window required to protect volumes of data with a new process for up-to-the-moment backups. This will enable administrators to easily restore any version of any file, for any user, at any time. And, while real-time backup increases data security throughout the enterprise, it can also be easily integrated into existing backup infrastructures so that organizations can continue to leverage their existing schedule-based backup investments.

Where Schedule-Based Backup Systems Fall Short

Today's schedule-based backup practices place critical data at risk every day. The most common strategy for enterprise data protection is to perform backups on a daily basis. This creates several problems. First, data is vulnerable between backups. Any data lost between scheduled backups is unprotected and effectively lost. This is inadequate for server-based applications in which data is highly dynamic and often mission critical.

Next, because of the growing amount of data in a typical organization, the practice of confining backup times to "off hours" has become increasingly difficult. Additionally, servers that support 24x7 operations effectively have no "off hours." This means that backups must be performed while the system is in use, causing costly downtime.

Finally, each server throughout the enterprise must be backed up individually – a costly and inefficient use of both hardware and backup systems. This is an especially crucial issue because schedule-based systems backup to and recover from tape, which, simply put, is slower than moving data to and from a disk-based system. And while tape has historically been substantially less expensive than equivalent disk storage, disk prices have fallen (and capacities grown) to the point where disk-based systems have become a financially feasible alternative to tape-based systems while delivering significantly superior performance.

The Components of Real-Time, Versioned Protection

As organizations' requirements for reliable high-availability systems increase, their tolerance for downtime decreases. These factors, coupled with the falling cost of disk subsystems, are the catalyst for an emerging new strategy for data protection based on a synergistic combination of four technology concepts:

  • "Versioned" protection – This technique allows for the storage of multiple versions of data so that fine-grain, point-in-time recovery can be achieved back to a known good state prior to data loss.

  • "Real-time" protection – This technology architecture enables data to be backed up as changes are madeoccur (in very short time intervals), rather than on a daily schedule.
  • Compression – Minimizing both network traffic and storage capacity requirements, compression and collapsing techniques make efficient use of hardware and eliminate duplicate copies of files and blocks.
  • Disk-to-disk storage – Leveraging the speed and lower costs of disk-based storage, disk-to-disk backup technology enables fast, transparent protection and dramatically speeds time to recovery.

By uniting these four techniques, this new generation of real-time, versioned backup technology will provide up-to-the minute data protection and the fastest, easiest restoration of the most recent data after corruption or loss. Unlike legacy scheduled-backup systems, real-time solutions will track changes as they occur while providing a configurable versioning scheme that enables administrators to balance quality/granularity of protection with storage and cost requirements.

Combining Mirroring and Versioning Technology

One of the key factors that enables true real-time backup is the combination of mirroring technology with versioning technology. Using this combined approach, files are first continuously monitored for changes, then automatically and immediately mirrored to a server. Mirroring technology is then augmented with versioning capabilities that maintain an audit trail of all changes to protected files, so users can easily roll back to previous file versions if the current versions are damaged. This continuous mirroring and versioning protects data more completely than simple mirroring alone, or creating only one version every 24 hours with a schedule-based system.

The Importance of Tight File System Integration

It is also important that a real-time solution feature tight integration with the protected server's file system. With strong file system awareness, real-time backup solutions will protect a file each time a file I/O operation (such as a save or database commit) occurs that changes the a file contents. This means that difficult-to-protect applications, such as databases or email files (like Microsoft OutlookExchange), can be protected in real-time, even if they remain open for prolonged periods of time.

Architecting High Performance

High performance is essential to achieve effective real-time protection. The following three functions ensure that real-time backups provide a high level of protection while minimizing the impact on network performance and server storage requirements:

  • Incremental, block-level backup. To protect large files with minimum impact on network load, effective real-time solutions require a technology architecture that will incrementally back up only those blocks (or "zones") that have changed.
  • Continuous rather than scheduled protection. By mirroring and versioning data on a continuous basis, real-time backup solutions will level network loading due to the random nature of user file operations. This allows for a high level of protection without significantly impacting network performance.
  • Client-side caching. All data flow from client (even when a server is a client) to server needs to be buffered on the client. This architecture guarantees that operation of the client is never adversely impacted by load on the server or the network. If the server or network is momentarily congested as a result of heavy load, the client software will hold data in the local cache until server and network capacity are available. The client machine is not impacted and thus the caching is virtually transparent to users. This means that system protection continues, even if a machine is disconnected from the network.

Real-Time Backup's Proving Ground

Real-time backup technology is not necessarily new. The concept of real-time protection has been effectively implemented and perfected in client data protection solutions for over two years. Unique demands of the enterprise PC and laptop end user drove the development of technology that would ensure continuous data protection without changing a users' computing habits. The result was real-time data protection software that provided transparency to users, IT administrators, help desks and the network.

When used to protect client PCs and mobile laptops, this unique real-time technology architecture is able to reliably back up client data, even if the system is roaming and disconnected from the network. It gives companies the ability to defend against user error, virus attacks, theft, malice and physical damage and empowers users to restore their own data, which reduces the burden on IT and help desks. And, because it provides continuous protection, a lost or damaged system can be rebuilt as it was moments ago, instead of days ago.

Introducing Real-Time Backup Technology to the Enterprise

With Storactive LiveServ, the benefits of real-time backup technology are now transitioning from the client protection category moving into large enterprise storage infrastructures as a complementary solution to traditional schedule-based backup systems. When deployed between the server farm and the archive server, a LiveServ server will enable enterprises to compress the data to be backed up and eliminate duplicate files before archiving to tappe . (see figure 2). This reduces the total volume of data to back up, shrinking backup times and extending the life of current storage resources.

figure 2

Typically, one LiveServ server can protect up to six other servers. This means that fewer servers (and less data) must be backed up to tape, helping to control growing enterprise data management requirements and providing tighter data security. Data consolidation onto fewer servers also reduces administrative overhead and allows centralized administration.

By capturing changes as they happen, LiveServ will also eliminate data vulnerability between scheduled backups. Using a real-time approach means that protected data is always current and can be recovered up to the minute a loss occurs. Unlike simple mirroring, LiveServ's real-time, versioned technology captures every version of every file, and stores just the changes, so that any version can be recovered.

Finally, LiveServ restores data from disk, not from tape. This means that it will quickly, safely and easily reverse the effects of viruses, hacking, hardware or software failure, or user errors and other malicious attacks.

LiveServ: Restores Servers Without System Disruption

The paradigm shift in backup software architectures from schedule-based backup to real-time data protection will deliver significant returns with minimum investment. An effective way to get servers back up and running with little to no impact from a system disruption is to deploy a LiveServ real-time backup system within existing storage infrastructures. Using a powerful combination of real-time data protection with file versioning, LiveServ is the first of a new generation of backup solutions that will eliminate data vulnerabilities with true, up-to-the-moment server protection that ensures data recency and availability. What's more, its rollback capabilities will enhance the security of enterprise data by allowing for the quick and safe reversal from the effects of malicious code, system failure, human error, or hardware or software failure.

Adding a LiveServ server to an existing data protection infrastructure will also allowallow IT organizations to to control their growing data management requirements by consolidating servers, compressing data and eliminating duplicate files. Built for dynamic scalability, this powerful real-time solution will enableallow enterprises to quickly and easily restore any amount of data, from an individual file or single email message up to full bare-metal disaster recovery. Finally, featuring LiveServ's comprehensive administration capabilities, LiveServ will increase efficiency and significantly reduce administration overhead, extending the life of existing enterprise data protection infrastructures.

...Storactive profile

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