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Three Tips for Breaking through the Backup Complexity of Today’s Enterprises

Perhaps nowhere does the complexity of the IT infrastructure within today’s organizations come more clearly into focus than when viewed from the perspective of data protection. Backup and recovery software sees first hand all of the applications and operating systems in an enterprise’s environment . Yet, at the same time, it is expected to account for this complexity by centralizing management, holding the line on costs, and simplifying these tasks even as it meets heightened end-user demands for faster backups and recoveries. To break through this complexity, there are three tips that any organization can follow to help both accelerate and simplify the protection and recovery of data in their environment.

A First Hand View of Backup Complexity in Today’s IT Infrastructure

Backup software literally touches and interacts with nearly every application, file system and/or operating system that an organization possesses. Though the exact applications, file systems and operating systems that an organization has in-house may vary, it can safely be said that the larger the organization, the more likely it is they have applications other than those from Microsoft, operating systems other than Linux and Microsoft Windows and at least two hypervisors. Despite this level of complexity, organizations expect the backup software to unobtrusively protect them, running in the background.

To do so, application performance must remain unaffected and backups must occur successfully and complete within designated backup windows (if a window even exists.) Further, organizations want backup software to scale to meet the data protection needs of their increasingly virtualized environment, handle the protection of their legacy physical environment and provide near instantaneous recoveries. Lastly, they want backup software to deliver all of these features while remaining simple to deploy and manage.

Backup software sits in the crosshairs of these growing organizational expectations with decreasing margins for error. As such, organizations need to choose the right backup solution that meets their heightened expectations for non-disruptive backup, fast recoveries and comprehensive data protection. Here are three tips that organizations can follow to pick the right solution to more quickly and easily backup and recover their increasingly complex IT infrastructures.

Tip #1 – Eliminate Backup Windows and Shorten Recovery Times

Backup software has become, if nothing else, all about speed in both backup and recovery. Organizations are less inclined than ever to tolerate a prolonged interruption in application performance while a backup occurs nor are they prone to twiddle their thumbs for hours on end while a restore occurs.

Data protection software now delivers on these heightened expectations for faster backups and recoveries. For example, the recent Symantec NetBackup 7.6 release includes its Accelerator for VMware feature. This feature capitalizes on VMware vSphere’s Changed Block Tracking (CBT) feature which NetBackup has supported for years to accelerate and provide near real-time backup of virtualized machines (VMs).

NetBackup AcceleratorSource: Symantec

Leveraging Accelerator for VMware, NetBackup 7.6 nearly eliminates backup windows. By identifying the appropriate deduplicated blocks associated with each VM stored on the NetBackup media server and then synthesizing them, NetBackup 7.6 creates a recoverable full backup image of the VM.

To then restore the VM, an administrator only needs to present this full backup image of the VM to the VMware vSphere ESXi server on which it is to be recovered. vSphere may then boot the VM and make it live even while the VM yet resides on backup storage. Once up and running, vSphere may then vMotion the VM from backup storage to the production VMware vSphere ESXi server. The result is that data can be made available to users within the time it takes to boot a VM, typically within a few minutes.

Tip #2 – Store Archive Data in the Cloud

The tipping point for storing more backup data with public storage cloud providers has arrived for at least two reasons. First, the economics of storing data online make more sense than ever. While the price per GB for online storage is still more than disk or tape, enterprises can minimize or eliminate their capital and operational costs associated with acquiring the infrastructure needed to store and maintain their backup data long term.

Minimally enterprises should look to store most if not all of their archive copies (backup data that is to be retained 90 – 180 days or longer) with public storage cloud providers. Aside from the flexibility of having these copies immediately available and accessible online should they ever need them, standard storage rates for Amazon Web Services (AWS) start at 3 cents per GB per month. Further, if one opts to use Amazon’s Glacier Storage, rates drop to as low as a penny per GB per month, though there are performance trade-offs associated with using this tier of storage mostly because of network bandwidth limitations.

Symantec Backup Exec 2014 and NetBackup 7.6 already give enterprises this flexibility to connect to AWS. Symantec Backup Exec 2014 provides Amazon Cloud Gateway VTL support so organizations may store archived backups in the Amazon cloud while the NetBackup 7.6 offers its Connector feature to store and retrieve backup data directly from AWS.

Second, public cloud storage and backup providers are partnering to provide new options to recover applications in their cloud once the data is stored there. Symantec recently announced its Disaster Recovery Orchestrator (DRO) to complement its backup and recovery solutions. DRO provides automated takeover and failback of Microsoft Windows applications residing on either physical or virtual machines to the Microsoft Azure cloud.

Tip #3 – Verify the Provider Offers an Integrated Backup Appliance

A story that was recently shared with me aptly illustrates why backup software also needs to be available as an integrated appliance. An organization had acquired two new NetBackup media server licenses but after two months the software was still “shelfware.” The problem? The server and security teams were stretched thin and did not have the time to approve the installation of the software on the new servers much less get the backup software itself up and operational.

To expedite the deployment of the NetBackup media servers, the organization instead opted to acquire two NetBackup 5230 integrated backup appliances. This solved the problem. The NetBackup backup appliances were ordered, shipped, installed, configured and running within three weeks as it reduced the internal approval processes that the backup team needed to go through while reducing the workload for both the security and server teams.

Clearly other organizations are seeing the same benefits of acquiring Symantec’s Backup Exec 3600 and NetBackup 5230 appliances in lieu of just buying the software and then doing the installation and configuration themselves. The IDC Integrated PBBA Revenue and Market Share report reveals that Symantec integrated backup appliances have captured 36 percent market share as of 2013.

2013 Integrated PBBA Market ShareSource: IDC 2014Q1 Worldwide Purpose Built Backup Appliance Quarterly Tracker.

Aside from speeding the configuration and deployment of backup software, backup appliances also simplify its ongoing maintenance and upkeep. Since the hardware is delivered as a known quantity to an organizations, Symantec can more effectively pre-test all patches, updates and upgrades before they ship. In turn, this gives organizations more confidence to apply patches as they come out and/or upgrade/update their backup software to the most current version to use their newest features.

The Bottom Line

IT infrastructure complexity has become almost synonymous with today’s organizations. However that does not mean that backup and recovery software has to be as complex as the environment that it protects. By using solutions such as Symantec Backup Exec 2014 and NetBackup 7.6, organizations can take significant strides toward eliminating their backup and recovery windows, centralizing the management of their physical and virtual backups and simplifying the deployment, configuration and ongoing maintenance of their backup software using integrated backup appliances all while laying the foundation to more effectively protect and recover their enterprise applications going forward, locally or in the cloud.

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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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