Q&A: Getting the Most from Disaster Recovery

The disaster recovery landscape continues to shift. Here’s what you need to know to leverage the full benefits of disaster recovery and data protection.

Are you doing the best job possible in protecting your data? Is your disaster recovery plan up to date? Are you able to meet backup windows, and if not, what technologies can help you? To learn more about the latest trends in data backup and disaster recovery, we turned to Fadi Albatal, vice president of marketing at FalconStor.

Enterprise Systems: How have data protection and disaster recovery recently shifted?

Fadi Albatal: Traditionally, data protection has been viewed as application- or task-specific. There are back up applications that were designed about 20 years ago trying to solve the data availability issues of today. What was good 20 years ago fails to service customer needs today. In the past few years, new technologies have emerged to address the challenges brought in by the fast proliferation of data in the data center.

What is the ultimate goal of disaster recovery and what technologies are available to meet this outcome?

The goal of data protection is to provide a data recovery path. Emerging technologies, such as continuous data protection (CDP), are allowing for faster data recovery, less down time, and fewer business interruptions.

Data deduplication is another technology that addresses the pain related to traditional backup methods. By optimizing storage capacity through saving only one version of the data, companies are able to save larger amounts of data for longer periods of time. Dedupe addresses the challenges of backup but does not address the issues related to restore challenges of large data sets or full systems from recovery-time and recovery-point perspective. Nor does it address the lack of system availability during the backup process, i.e., the huge problem of the backup window that is almost disappearing these days.

If deduplication is the cure for data proliferation, then prevention consists of eliminating data duplication in the first place with a comprehensive CDP process. This is an entirely new approach that changes the paradigm of conventional data protection processes based on traditional backup with significant benefits.

How does this differ from traditional backup plans?

Traditional backup plans focus on the storage and archiving of data rather than the protection or recovery of the whole system or site. If a system disk is damaged or corrupted, administrators are faced with the time-consuming task of re-installing the operating system and application and then restoring information from previously performed backups to fully recover the entire system. This can cause many hours of costly downtime and significant data loss of any new data or changes that happened between the last backup and the failure time.

In contrast, a fully deployed CDP solution provides high-speed disk-based data protection with instant, granular recovery. By keeping a complete mirrored copy of data in its native format, as well as a series of application and system-aware, point-in-time snapshots -- copies of only the changes to a dataset taken at specific points in time based on a pre-set schedule -- CDP offers the most rapid and granular recovery possible in all disaster scenarios, including accidental data loss, system corruption, server or storage failure, and site-level disaster.

CDP can also employ data journaling, which protects information at a per-write level of granularity, allowing recovery up to the last bit of information written before a service outage. Periodic protection, based on snapshots, gives IT administrators numerous bootable recovery images, delivering far more recovery points than a typical nightly tape backup. In addition, if an organization requires tape backups, CDP can accelerate tape backup speeds using a zero-impact, serverless backup model.

Has the current economic climate shifted how SMBs and enterprises view data protection and disaster recovery?

The state of the economy is imposing new ways of thinking and new approaches to data protection processes and the overall management of IT operations. If you look at the allocated budget for data protection and its distribution, the ratio between capital expenditure and operating costs is almost four to one -- we spend four times more on maintaining data protection operations than on acquiring hardware and software for this purpose. Although it is still important, of course, to reduce capital expenses, the area that can actually dramatically affect IT budgets is operating expenditure.

How can SMBs and enterprises reduce operational expenditure with disaster recovery?

The best way to reduce operational expenditure is operation consolidation. We are all familiar with server consolidation and its benefits; and we also know, to some extent, what storage consolidation can bring to the table. In the same way, consolidation of data protection processes delivers new ways of approaching data recovery. It is not backup on one side and disaster recovery on the other anymore. It is a holistic approach to data protection that is based on service-level agreements (SLAs) and a consolidation of local and remote protection that integrates the two into one continuous process where needed.

Through consolidation, you now can have guarantees on your recovery time objective -- the length of time it takes for you to recover both server and application availability -- and recovery point objective -- the maximum amount of downtime your business can tolerate (in other words, how much data you can lose). A consolidated data protection platform gives you the flexibility to apply the right protection method to the right set of data, application, system, or data center according to your business requirements.

What are the overall benefits of implementing these integrated solutions?

Applying a holistic approach and having one, integrated solution for backup and disaster recovery processes will impact overall IT management costs and the ongoing operating cost of backup operations, including tape production and shipment, computing cycles, and network resources. This new approach to data protection enhances IT operations, dramatically improves SLAs and increases business operation efficiencies. Reducing downtime and providing constant access to business data and applications has a direct impact on an organization’s top and bottom lines.

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