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Just What Do You Mean – Backup Appliance?

Over the last few years backup appliances have emerged as one of the hottest trends in data protection. Yet with these appliances coming to prominence so quickly and so many of them now available from which organizations may choose, it is easy for us who have been in the storage industry to forget that many are learning about backup appliances for the first time. So today I’d thought I would dedicate a blog entry to explaining just exactly what problems backup appliances solve and then some factors to consider when selecting one.

Backup appliances are finding a home in organizations of all sizes for a number of reasons. However the four (4) reasons the organizations most often cite for deploying backup appliances include:

  • Simplify backup. An all-inclusive, ready-to-use backup appliance takes a great deal of complexity out of backup setup and management. Despite the sophisticated, enterprise caliber backup software found on most appliances, many providers have simplified the initial deployment of their appliances down to entering a few site-specific settings into them. Ongoing management of the appliance is then typically done with a web-based GUI which is offered by ~80% of backup appliances though over 90% offer CLIs.
Backup Appliance Mgt Interfaces.JPGSource: DCIG 2012 Backup Appliance Buyer’s Guide

  • Accelerate backup. Using a preconfigured backup appliance, organizations leave the task of configuring backup software and hardware to the vendor who understands its software and can configure the hardware to work in the most optimal way. In so doing, the backup appliance is ready for quick deployment and optimized for performing faster backups over the long haul.
  • Quickly and efficiently store backup data. Every backup appliance uses hard disk drives (HDDs) which contribute heavily to the fast backup and recovery times that backup appliance deliver. However the vast majority (over 90 percent) of backup appliances also use deduplication so their available storage capacity is used efficiently.
Deduplication Backup Appliance.JPGSource: DCIG 2012 Backup Appliance Buyer’s Guide

  • Replicate data. Completing backups quickly and easily and then efficiently storing the data with deduplication is great. However if data is not moved offsite, organizations are still at risk. 70 percent of backup appliances offer replication software that affords organizations a turnkey method to get their data offsite. Further, 65 percent of backup appliances provide some form of cloud connectivity (see options below) so they may store backup data in the cloud. These options give companies built-in options for moving data offsite and a great foundation upon which to establish their business continuity and disaster recovery initiatives.

Replication Backup Appliance.JPG

Source: DCIG 2012 Backup Appliance Buyer’s Guide

Cloud Storage Backup Appliance.JPGSource: DCIG 2012 Backup Appliance Buyer’s Guide

The good news from an organizational perspective when looking for backup appliances is that there is a wide range of them from which to choose.  That is also the bad news. Having so many choices behooves organizations to first understand their particular needs before selecting a backup appliance.

To do so, they need to look beyond just the size of their company (how many employees they have or what their annual revenue is) and instead examine the amount of data they have and how fast it is growing. Other factors they need to examine include:

  • How much data they need to protect
  • What percentages of their environment are physical and virtual
  • How quickly they need to backup and recover their data
  • What their availability requirements are for the backup appliance
  • Do they need to replicate data to another site or to the cloud

Once they have established their requirements, they are then better positioned to identify a backup appliance that aligns with their specific needs. 

Backup appliances are becoming an important part of every organization’s data protection equation. These appliances now give them a turnkey method to quickly deploy a solution that simplifies backup, accelerates backups, gives them ample capacity with advanced algorithms to store data efficiently and lays the foundation for them to build a disaster recovery plan with their built-in cloud connectivity and replication options.

It is for these same reasons that a multitude of backup appliances from many vendors have emerged which has made choosing the right backup appliance arguably the most difficult part of the decision making process. For those of you either already looking to buy a backup appliance or who are just starting the process, feel free to download for no charge the recent 165 page DCIG 2012 Backup Appliance Buyer’s Guide. Enterprise organizations may be particularly interested in downloading the subsequent DCIG Special Report that discusses what characteristics led to DCIG to award one backup appliance an “Enterprise” ranking.

Jerome M. Wendt

About Jerome M. Wendt

President & Lead Analyst of DCIG, Inc. Jerome Wendt is the President and Lead Analyst of DCIG Inc., an independent storage analyst and consulting firm. Mr. Wendt founded the company in September 2006.

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