A remote office backup and recovery strategy that relies heavily on human intervention by non-IT staff and manual procedures is a recipe for disaster if and when files and systems need to be restored – not to mention much more expensive and slower than alternative solutions that are available today. This premise was well articulated by Justin Bell, a Network Engineer working for multidisciplinary engineering firm Strand Associates, Inc. of Madison, Wisconsin during Wikibon’s November 17th, 2009 Peer Incite Research Meeting.
Bell was tasked with architecting a solution to replace Strand’s outdated legacy systems and processes that would meet or exceed their backup, recovery, and DR requirements while providing additional business value to the engineering and administrative staff.
Legacy remote office backup activities typically comprise outdated systems and processes including:
- Servers configured with local disk (directly attached),
- Tape drives that are dedicated to each server,
- Inadequate documentation,
- Inconsistent policy enforcement,
- Excessive human intervention.
Typically this process is prone to error as humans make mistakes for a variety of reasons - particularly when performing backups is not part of their primary job and they may not have been not properly trained. Recovery is even a bigger problem if the process is not highly automated, as when tapes need to be retrieved and mounted or when the recovery process needs to follow a specific sequence which business professionals are typically too busy or don’t want to do.
Bell’s remedy was to automate the process architecting an appropriate remote office backup and recovery solution that would specifically provide remote office/branch office backup and recovery services, software to automate the process and software, hardware, and infrastructure for their mostly Microsoft environment that allowed IT staff to manage the entire process (backup and recovery) remotely. After evaluating several vendor offerings, Strand chose Falconstor’s CDP solution which provides:
- Continuous local and remote data protection,
- Nonstop data availability,
- Storage mirroring, snapshot, replication,
- Remote management,
- No remote user intervention required.
Justification and Getting Rid of Stuff
Implementing this solution allowed Strand to avoid having to upgrade several servers and tape drives as well as freeing up remote employees to focus on their core job functions. Bell estimates that Strand was able to recoup 35% of the cost by eliminating the following list of items, many of which would otherwise have needed replacement to maintain the old tape-based system, :
- 308 tapes in remote offices,
- 7 tape drives,
- 7 backup exec licenses,
- 7 backup servers.
This figure does not include the 20 to 30 hours per month of productivity returned to the workforce through the automation process or the improved accuracy, speed, and reporting capabilities now available to IT staff.
Bell has not yet opted for the deduplication features that are now available with Falconstor and suggests that snapshots are typically 50% the size of the original data. Today, Bell estimates that Strand has 20 terabytes of storage under management and is not resource constrained. Other firms may also want to consider deduplication, compression, single instancing and other data reduction functions that will help to reduce speed of the expanding the overall storage footprint.
Action Item: IT professionals should seriously consider replacing outmoded backup and recovery systems and processes in favor of solutions that reduce human intervention and offer additional Disaster Recovery (DR) capabilities as well as avoiding the cost of upgrading older equipment, while providing additional business value by improving worker productivity.