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Ever since serious commercial IT began, the processes known as ‘backup and recovery’ have always been seen as important. Alas, until very recently almost all of the attention paid by organisations to these matters has tended to focus principally upon the ‘backup’ process. In far too many organisations little attention has been expended on the recovery process and the varying service levels that different business users require for their information to be recovered. Things are, at last, changing as more consideration is paid to recovering information; after all, recovery is the only reason for performing backups at all.
It is clear that organisations are now more acutely aware of the time scales within which certain information needs to be recovered. The stimulation for this attention arises from several areas, with compliance and regulatory pressures being especially visible as drivers behind information ‘recovery time’ requirements. These, coupled with the continuing implementation of storage infrastructures comprised of storage platforms with different performance metrics and security features, are promoting the growth of storage systems where SRM (Storage Resource Management) plays a significant role.
SRM and closely related ILM (Information Lifecycle Management) solutions attempt to position data on storage platforms with the most appropriate service level qualities required by the consumers of information at the most cost effective price.
The switch of attention to data recovery requirements is confirmed in a recent on-line survey conducted by the Data Management Institute and Toigo Partners International in conjunction with Topio Inc. – a supplier of enterprise data replication and recovery software. Of those completing the survey, 64 percent stated that they not only have clearly defined data recovery policies but that they also have defined recovery objectives.
The survey also highlighted a number of trends, particularly the growing use of disk-to-disk backup, where 83 percent said that they would be using this method by the end of 2006, whilst 92 percent currently employ tape for backups. On the subject of Continuous Data Protection (CDP), an area where technology is now being rapidly developed, the survey indicates interest amongst potential users but also a degree of scepticism. Just over half of respondents stated that for CDP to gain traction it is essential for the technology to be tightly integrated with existing data protection solutions.
It is interesting to note that the survey found that just under 60 percent of organisations in the survey are either currently using asynchronous data replication or plan to do so by the end of 2006. Fewer than half these numbers are either using, or plan to use, CDP in the same timeframe. 61 percent reported that they have implemented disaster recovery plans based on using their own remote site, whilst just under a quarter make use of third-party remote site services. One in ten organisations stated that they have no plans to implement off-site disaster recovery. One in five organisations reported “cost effectiveness” as the biggest barrier to implementing off-site disaster recovery plans, whilst 18 percent gave “understanding which technologies best meet their requirements” as the main barrier.
These survey results show that whilst there is a growing acceptance and understanding that it is the ‘recovery’ of information that should be subject to stringent business service criteria, there is considerable uncertainty about the solutions that exist to address data recovery and IT service continuity. These are areas that despite having relatively long histories, at least in IT terms, still have a core lack of knowledge regarding what solutions exist and their respective qualities and constraints.
Vendors such as Topio, along with many of the storage vendor heavyweights, are taking great strides with the development of storage management and information recovery solutions. However, it is essential for the success of such solutions and, far more importantly, the protection of corporate information going forward, that more effort is expended educating and communicating the basics of what storage solutions exist, where they can be deployed and the business benefits that they can deliver. Technology alone is not good enough. Solutions rely on people and good practice to make them usable.