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Tech Tip: Overcoming Hybrid Backup Woes

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Once upon a time, implementing backup and recovery was a simple and straightforward process relegated to data on physical servers in the company basement.

This is hardly the case today. It’s rare to find an IT environment that doesn’t have layered complexity with cloud, virtual, mobile and physical platforms. Why the change? Organizations adopt tech such as virtualization to create workload efficiencies, cut costs and increase ROI.

Rapid technology adoption, though, comes with a price — and organizations are bumping up against myriad challenges of protecting data on evolving IT infrastructure.

In the past, the challenge was product fatigue. To protect data on physical and virtual platforms, organizations with legacy backup products had to invest in VM-specific backup. Now, the hybrid environment is becoming the status quo, and organizations can access more products that satisfy both environments.

The hybrid physical-virtual environment makes the backup and disaster recovery process infinitely more complicated. Data protection with hybrid infrastructure is never going to be as streamlined and efficient as it would be in a physical environment. While the environments are linked, each one requires different data protection tools. Disparate environments will almost certainly create a slew of management headaches for system administrators governing data protection, while creating and exposing gaping security holes that could result in breaches, attacks and regulatory compliance violations.

Subsequently, in hybrid environments, some of the biggest backup challenges will be selecting appropriate levels of protection, providing granular recoveries, managing large volumes of data and automating backup and protection systems. In recovery situations, the technology has to recover data on physical and virtual systems.

Users need to accept a certain level of unavoidable complexity in their IT environments, but there are ways that some of these challenges can be mitigated. Dedicated backup and recovery solutions can cater to physical and virtual environments. Single-pass backup tools can provide host, guest and application protection without requiring software installation on every virtual machine. Ideally, the host-level backup solution should have the same granular capabilities of traditional backup tools. The solution needs a recovery time of minutes, not hours or days, while backup windows should be eliminated. Also non-negotiable are reliability and recovery assurance – concerns easily assuaged with automation. Automation creates peace of mind by eliminating manual verifications and ensuring data is adequately captured and restored.

Universal recovery across virtual and physical systems is also a must. This includes the ability for granular recovery for critical files and folders, e-mail messages and bare-metal server recovery. The solution should also allow system restoration to differing types of hardware — recovering data on any physical machine to a virtual one, and vice versa.

In light of growing complexity, the backup solution should streamline management wherever possible — specifically, administrators should be able to gain visibility and insight into both platforms through a single user interface.

Complexity isn’t going away. In fact, for organizations ranging from enterprise to SMB, complexity problems are getting worse with the adoption of new technologies, platforms and infrastructure. Ensuring backup solutions meet certain standards on both physical and virtual systems won’t always be a “happily ever after” solution, but it does eliminate data protection woes from the equation.

 

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3 Responses to “Tech Tip: Overcoming Hybrid Backup Woes”

  • craig kensek:

    The heavy use of bandwidth is in those initial back-ups. After that, everything should be incremental. Much less bandwidth required. Also and issue is where the data ultimately resides. As in, what country?

  • Peter E:

    @Nick – Stefanie mentions ” hybrid physical-virtual environment”, but says nothing about appliances. Her article points to the need for a single platform that handles the unique needs of physical and virtual systems (e.g., granular file recovery, bare-metal recovery, consistent application recovery).

    Your post seems to an advertisement for something called “cloud-centric hybrids” which you do not define. The elimination of an appliance at the site of backup does nothing to improve speed or security. In fact, it most likely does the opposite as most shops will not have the bandwidth to move data directly to the cloud. An appliance on site can act as either a vault for the first copy of data, with the 2nd going to another appliance or the cloud.

    The purchase of hardware/appliance is a capex and business decision. If you don’t have the capital or prefer an opex model to pay for IT, maybe cloud works (just remember that bandwidht isn’t so cheap). Without local storage expect much slower recovery (hours/days vs. minutes).

  • Nick:

    Stefanie has correctly assessed the complexity of using appliance-based hybrid backup solutions in the mixed physical/virtual environments that predominate in 2013.

    On the other hand, cloud-centric hybrids help to simplify things. Eliminating an appliance from the backup equation, gives backup admins enterprise-grade speed and security in addition to having a single solution for physical & virtual servers, multiple OS, and included plugins for applications SQL, Exchange, and VMWare. All this without having to buy or maintain any hardware.

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