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Storage Management: Is it a Copy or a Backup?

To What Degree Do Backups Play A Role?

As anyone who’s involved in storage management can tell you, it is business needs and business decisions that must govern a storage management policy, and make technology work for it, not the other way around. Accordingly, much of what we do in the storage management world has to do with policy and procedure, rather than the technology itself. One of the big questions in the storage world has to do with backups, and to what degree backups play a role in storage management.

The conventional backup paradigm suggest that a snapshot of data in a given instant is what qualifies as a backup for purposes of retention and data archiving. Backups are kept in an archival format, as opposed to the original format. There are those in the storage world, however, that are asking the question: can a file copy serve the same purpose as a backup?

Certainly the lines are blurring, and with good reason. Our storage management technology gives us more options today than ever in terms of how we choose to archive data. As such, it’s important to determine at what point a copy becomes a backup for purposes of archiving and/or compliance.

Here are the basic ideas we can start to work from:

1.    Start with the basic definition of a copy. A copy is, in the most basic sense, a copy of a set of data.

2.    Copies may or may not be protected. Copies may be vulnerable to overwriting or corruption. In some cases, a copy may disappear when the primary data set disappears.

3.    For a copy to serve as a backup, it should be separate from the primary data set. Physically, the copy should be stored in a distant fashion, and it should be protected logically within the system.

4.    Because a copy is not encapsulated in an alternative format, it may simplify restoration.

5.    Copies should receive the same kind of attention that backup receives, including a management process, logs, performance monitoring, indexes and the like.

6.    Copies should not affect either the performance or the usability of the primary data set.

Along the way, it’s important to identify the possible benefits of copy-based backup, including:

•    Data in its original format is inherently more useful. This speeds the restore and re-indexing process.

•    When backup targets are disk-based, they’re more accessible than alternative media. Backups don’t run the risk of unknown media failure.

•    Disk-based copy backup lets you use replication or cloud computing solutions to move your data off-site, leading to greater disaster recovery and business continuity readiness.

While it’s not likely that a disk-based copy backup scheme will replace more traditional tape backups and the like, it’s certainly something that the storage management professional should keep on the radar.

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Unitiv, Inc., is a professional provider of enterprise IT solutions. Unitiv delivers its services from its headquarters in Alpharetta, Georgia, USA, and its regional office in Iselin, New Jersey, USA. Unitiv provides a strategic approach to its service delivery, focusing on three core components: People, Products, and Processes. The People to advise and support customers. The Products to design and build solutions. The Processes to govern and manage post-implementation operations.

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