Combine disk, tape benefits to protect data

The disk-to-disk-to-tape data protection strategy that was previously considered cost prohibitive is within an SMB's budget, says EMC.

Small and midsize businesses (SMBs) cannot afford to lose information. Imagine a dynamic and competitive SMB losing momentum if important information should suddenly disappear as a result of a stolen laptop, a corrupt file, or a failed server.

Given such a scenario, most SMBs today realize the importance of data protection.

Yet, what's the best data protection solution for an SMB?

The answer lies in the adoption of a comprehensive data protection strategy that enables an SMB to protect all its critical business information. In particular, the ability to quickly and reliably restore its data while minimizing any business disruption when a problem occurs.

And for SMBs with limited IT resources, an ideal option will be the disk-to-disk-to-tape data protection strategy--especially when the high performance disk storage that was previously considered cost prohibitive is now well within an SMB's budget.

In simple terms, a disk-to-disk-to-tape strategy capitalizes on the speed and performance of disk and the portability of tape.

Disk delivers fast and efficient backups and rapid restores with minimal manual effort, while tape is used to make copies of the disk backups to store offsite for archival and disaster recovery purposes.

SMBs should adopt a strategy that consists of the following four steps:

Step 1: Selecting the right hardware

Before implementing a disk-to-disk-to-tape backup solution, an SMB must choose an appropriate backup server that can handle the load of moving and managing the data being protected.

Data can be stored directly on the backup server if backups are small. For backups that are large and steadily growing, then a disk storage array will provide a scalable solution that will prove more cost-effective over the long term as when data increases, more disks or higher capacity disks can be added to the array.

Also, as an extra protection measure, the SMB should consider using a RAID array, which prevents data loss in the event of a disk failure.

Step 2: Transferring from disk-to-disk

After the appropriate storage hardware has been selected, an SMB needs to choose the data protection software able to take full advantage of disk storage without requiring complex setup or administration. Backups should be fully automated and utilize the speed and reliability of disk. By capitalizing on the random-access capabilities of disk, day-to-day restores are also rapid.

Another benefit is that backup software can also include an automated data grooming feature to delete older, unnecessary files from the backup disk. Grooming ensures there is always plenty of available disk space for newer backups, allowing the disk to be self-maintaining.

Step 3: Transferring from disk-to-tape

Copying backups from disk to tape protects business information against catastrophic loss due to a disaster such as disk failure, fire, flood or theft. While disk-to-disk backups are performed frequently (often daily), backups are transferred from disk to tape periodically (typically once a week) and moved offsite for archival storage and disaster recovery.

Tape restores are now limited to rare occasions when archived data is needed or disaster strikes.

The software should make two sets of tapes that are independent of each other. This allows the SMB to rotate them so there is always one set offsite if a disaster hits. To accelerate the creation of tapes for offsite storage, select backup software that just adds new or changed data from the disk backup, versus having to rewrite all of the tapes each week.

Step 4: Ensuring data security

Finally, an essential step to implement is the AES (Advanced Encryption Standard) encryption of the SMB's backup media, especially from tape copies with sensitive information because it prevents unauthorized access to data if media is lost or stolen.

Adopted by the U.S. and Canadian governments, AES helps to ensure compliance with an increasing number of regulations. In response to growing concerns about identify theft, these regulations are far-reaching and come with stiff penalties for non-compliance.

Increasingly, more and more SMBs today are adopting a disk-to-disk-to-tape strategy to provide them with a powerful, easy-to-manage solution for protecting their business data. SMBs understand that by selecting the right components, SMBs can achieve fast and reliable backups and restores, recover from a disaster, and comply with regulatory requirements.

Sal Fernando is the chief architect at EMC South Asia, which provides information management and storage products and services.