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Data Protection: Survey Reveals Cracks in Readiness

What data protection issues and trends are the most important to enterprise IT pros? According to a new survey from Sepaton, a data protection provider, disaster recovery and regulatory compliance topped the list, a shift from “improve disaster recovery,” 2010’s top issue. “Data will be unrecoverable in the event of a disaster” and “Regulatory compliance issues (retention, restore, etc.)” were the top backup/data protection fears.

Given that a quarter of respondents are protecting 200 terabytes or more, and another 10 percent manage between 100 and 200 terabytes, it’s easy to understand why recovery is key. What’s more interesting to me is that though many releases I see these days give vague descriptions of the rate of data growth, the Sepaton survey actually quantifies that growth. Nine percent of respondents say data is growing more than 50 percent annually, and eight percent say growth is between 41 and 50 percent. Another third (36 percent) peg the figure at between 21 and 30 percent. That’s a lot of growth.

How are organizations protecting their data? Sixty percent use a mix of tape and disk-based backup technologies; 57 percent are using tape libraries at their main data centers; about 48 percent use disk-based backup with deduplication; onsite snapshots on NAS filers is popular at 44 percent of these enterprises. For remote/branch offices, physical tape is used at over half of surveyed enterprises; disk-based backup came in second, followed by replication, onsite snapshots, and cloud backup applications. When asked what technology they’d be using in a year, the trend was toward disk-based backup and using less physical tape.

I asked Joe Forgione, senior vice president product operations and business development at Sepaton about his reaction to these numbers -- for his take on tape and disk media in the enterprise and what trends he sees.

“Large enterprises are tiering their data protection based on the value of the data. The most valuable data in the data center is retained on disk and replicated to a remote site for a retention period of weeks to months for fast recovery from disk. At that point, the data may be expired or vaulted to tape utilizing existing consolidated tape infrastructure in one data center for deep archive (based on long-term retention requirements).

“The trend is to leverage/consolidate existing tape infrastructure in data centers for deep archive purposes but utilize disk for day to day data protection operations which ultimately reduces the need for more physical tape infrastructure. With the ability to dramatically reduce WAN bandwidth with deduplication technology, branch offices are now deploying automated disk based data protection locally for fast recovery of data onsite while replicating to the data center for DR and deep archive on tape.”

Larger data volumes take their toll on backup windows. Although just one in ten enterprises (11 percent) say they need no more than five hours, over a quarter (26 percent) say they need more than 24 hours to complete a full backup. It takes more than just time to complete a full backup -- it takes more hardware. Fifty percent of respondents said they added 1 to 3 new disk-based data protection systems in the last two years; 12 percent added 3 to 5 new systems.

Following “unrecoverable data” and “regulatory compliance” as top concerns comes “adopting/migrating to new technology will cause disruption” as a key concern, which should have vendors concerned. After all, providing higher service levels with any new product -- let along new technology -- can be cause for worry.

Nearly seven in 10 respondents concede that their enterprise “fell short on data protection.” Part of this is likely due to the “do more with less” mantra, which could explain why “insufficient budget” was reported by 32 percent of respondents as the primary reason for inadequate data protection; 21 percent say their team is understaffed. Nearly a third (32 percent) say their data protection doesn’t fall short. Lucky them.

There are clearly key issues that need IT’s attention. For example, only 43 percent of respondents said their disaster recovery testing “is frequent enough and reflects a realistic DR scenario.” That leaves 57 percent not fully prepared. Worse, 35 percent of remote or branch offices are unprotected.

The survey, conducted in April, focused on the 168 enterprise IT professionals in companies with a minimum of 1000 employees and 50 terabytes or more of data to protect in North America and Europe out of an original survey size of nearly 600 people.

You can read the full survey results here (short registration required).

-- James E. Powell
Editorial Director, ESJ

Posted on 06/29/2011 at 11:53 AM