Strand is a multidisciplinary engineering firm headquartered in Madison, Wisc., with 11 widely distributed offices in Wisconsin, Illinois, Kentucky, Alabama, Indiana, Ohio, and Arizona. It has 12TB of live data across its offices, with another 6TB in active archives. This data has grown steadily, and Strand needed to re-engineer its time-consuming and increasingly cumbersome approach of backing up each site using individual tape backups and on-site staff resources. Statistics showed Strand had an unacceptable 40% success rate for backups completed prior to implementing a new backup architecture. Ensuring adequate backup protection and access to all of the file level, Microsoft Exchange Server, and Microsoft SQL Server data in order to meet RTOs was a major challenge for Strand's IT staff.
Strand was able to successfully architect a highly automated solution that provides continuous data protection (CDP) for mission critical data and handle more than 600 restores annually and the solution works well for them. From a broader customer's perspective, there are several ways to view the ever-present backup problem, and it begs some further questions from any organization when architecting a backup solution. Strand’s 12 TB of live data and 6 TB of archive data is a relatively small amount of storage, especially considering that the latest disk drives having 2 TB of capacity and the latest tape cartridges exceed 2 TB with compression. Their entire 6 TB archive could be contained on 3-4 tape cartridges. One way to simplify a cumbersome backup process is to reduce the total number of physical entities needed to contain this amount of data.
In addition, in the not too distant future, businesses will be presented with the option of backing up mission critical RTO sensitive data to flash disk drives using de-duplication to reduce the amount of flash needed and thus significantly lowering costs over the disk option. Flash will drastically improve recovery times (the RTO), since it is much faster than rotating disk for read operations. Flash is also more energy efficient than disk in this case. If going green is an important issue, using disk-based backup for long periods of time with minimal or no access is not as energy efficient or cost effective as some emerging technologies.
Customers also need to consider their IT geography when architecting remote office data protection. The presence of electricity in some locations is no longer a guarantee. In areas where electrical outages are increasingly common along the Gulf of Mexico and Atlantic Coasts and some areas of California, the issue of how to provide backup and recovery services if there is no electricity is important. Many locations don’t want removable media. However, if power availability and cost is an issue, and the challenge of how can you get your data safely out of the danger zone is an issue, removable media allows someone to simply put it on a truck.
Action Item: Strand accomplished what they needed to do to meet their stringent requirements for remote backup. However, their environment may be different than others. There are many items to consider when building a compelling and sustainable backup strategy including the cost, energy, ease of operation, RTOs, availability, technology selection, bandwidth, geographical issues, and personnel. Secretaries and professionals managing backup and recovery in remote offices are not acceptable in the 21st Century and given the wide selection of backup solutions, tailoring a solid solution to meet your needs is clearly achievable.