The broken state of backup mainly refers to the pain associated with backup and recovery processes. Backup administrators complain about two main points. The first is the “backup window,” the time available to perform and finish the backup, which is directly related to the backup process itself. The second is related to the efficiency of the restore and recovery process, the recovery time and recovery point objectives. While the recovery point objectives (RPO) and recovery time objectives (RTO) are essential to overall business performance, recovery remains an occasional process. On the other hand, the pain related to the backup window is a daily occurrence that has a direct impact on IT staff productivity and the efficiency of primary business services.
The roadmap to eliminate backup window pains starts with small non-disruptive changes to the backup infrastructure. Tape backup processes can be significantly accelerated by seamlessly introducing disk into the mix. Adding a VTL or a file-interface data deduplication target can seamlessly change the disk-to-tape backup process into a disk-to-disk backup, which can significantly accelerate backups to stay within the backup window boundaries. This addresses the back end of the backup process and the overflow of backup data and ameliorates the effect of the shrinking backup window but still does not address the cause.
In order to deal with the cause of the backup window we need to address the front-end of the backup process in one of two ways. One is to redirect the source of the backup process to the SAN infrastructure rather than backing up the server infrastructure. Leveraging clean snapshots or copies of the data to perform backups removes the impact on the server infrastructure and primary service applications and greatly reduces the backup window. You still have to consider network traffic during the backup process, but this isolates backup operations from the production environment. Also, this method further accelerates backups by running over the SAN infrastructure rather than the LAN.
To cross the last chasm towards next-generation backup and recovery solutions, and in order to completely eliminate the backup window, we need to change the backup batch job into a continuous or near-continuous process that has limited to no impact on the server and application infrastructure. This is especially true in a virtual server infrastructure environment, where CPU and network resources are highly utilized. This continuous data protection method (CDP) also has the benefit of reducing RPO from 24 hours to near zero data loss. In addition, CDP can transform the restore process into a recovery process to meet very aggressive RTOs that are measured in minutes instead of hours or days.
Action Item: Evaluate your current backup processes and determine how they align with your business goals; in many cases small changes can make a big difference. If you can tolerate hours of data loss and restore speed is not too critical changing to a D2D backup can be enough. If you have aggressive RPO and RTO, take a serious look at redesigning your backups and implementing a CDP solution, it doesn’t have to be expensive to work.