For most organizations, data growth, combined with profound shifts in how applications are run and how business processes are supported, ensures that if backup is not currently broken it will be soon. Increasingly, businesses operate around the clock, around the globe and through the weekend, so that the traditional method of taking applications off line at night and on weekends to perform incremental and full backups is nonviable.
With the migration of production applications to a virtual-server environment, gone are the days when a taking down a single server takes down a single application. Virtualization enables 10-1 or even 20-1 server consolidation and application mobility from one physical server to another. These combine to dramatically increase the chances of affecting critical applications when performing off-line server backups.
Applications no longer exist as standalone pillars. Composite applications pull information from a wide variety of individual applications to enable a business process. Disrupting the availability of any single application to perform a backup may impact the ability to deliver on the entire business process.
While cost is a factor, cost alone will be insufficient at many organizations to justify a redesign of data protection and application or business-process recovery. Few organizations can accurately report the cost of backup and recovery, nor will they allocate scarce resources to measure it. In addition, organizations have made substantial investments in equipment, media, people, training, and documentation, and many, if not most, will delay change by applying upgrades and short-term bolt-on fixes to areas of greatest pain while preserving well-understood, if increasingly inadequate approaches. A complete redesign of data protection requires substantial capital investment, which, though it may have a quick ROI, may be politically unpopular, particularly in a time of constrained IT budgets and limits on staff.
Two approaches, which are sometimes combined, provide the potential to actually measure the cost of data protection and application recovery going forward and ensure that the combined forces that are weakening current backup approaches can be overcome. The first is point-in-time snapshot, which enables an application-consistent view of the data, which can be created in a matter of seconds and used as a source file for remote replication or traditional backup. These snapshots provide roll-forward, roll-back capabilities at the application, and, if done correctly, business process level. The second approach is replication of de-duplicated data to the cloud. This offers organizations the ability to have near-infinite scalability in the off-site data repository, while controlling bandwidth costs for the replication. Combined, these approaches offer scalable data protection without significantly impacting application availability.
Action Item: Before developing a new architecture for data protection and business process recovery, the business unit, risk management, security, compliance, and information technology teams must all sit together at a table to ensure that their combined needs and concerns are addressed. Because business units ultimately pay for IT services, in most organizations IT alone can not push through a re-design, nor will potential cost savings always justify the investment. IT can, however, become the catalyst for the corporate-wide decision by providing accurate estimates of the cost of downtime for the organization and a date-certain by which current processes will no longer be able to ensure application or business-process recovery at all. For many organizations, that day is today.