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
The 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.
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
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
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
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.
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
The Historical Challenges of Creating the Ideal Backup
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
- 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
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
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
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
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.
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
The Importance of Tight File System
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.
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
- 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
Real-Time Backup's Proving Ground
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
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.
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.
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
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.