What Should Businesses Require of Data Protection Solutions?
by Ross Parker - Regional Director, Northern Europe, FalconStor - Tuesday, 15 August 2006.
Data protection today is one of the most innovative and fast-moving areas of Information Technology. Data protection technology developers have, in recent years, engaged in constant, vibrant ‘solution evolution’, continuously striving to deliver new data protection capabilities for increasingly demanding customers. In what has become a virtuous circle, enhanced data protection technologies have led to more sophisticated data protection requirements from businesses, which in turn have stimulated the development of further enhanced data protection technologies. All of this reflects the intuitive understanding that, in today’s business world, the data is the business.

The major difference between data protection today and data protection, say, three years ago, is the prevalence of disk-based solutions. Disk-based platforms redefined benchmarks and expectations for speed and reliability, and today ensure that top-level, critical applications can access the protected data sets that they need, when they need them. With the two main obstacles to traditional, tape-based backup and recovery – lack of speed and unreliability - essentially solved, end users today have a new data protection focus: application recovery.

By describing their focus in this way, they are indicating that their expectations - and, hence, their requirements – of data protection have moved on: no longer is it sufficient simply to schedule a backup, complete it within the allotted window, and confirm that is has completed satisfactorily. In effect, companies have ceased to dwell on the complexity of the backup, and they now demand from their data protection solutions what storage analyst The Taneja Group describes as verifiable and reliable recovery of the right data. They are clearly focused on recovery.

In 2006 this focus on recovery, as opposed to backup, exists in an environment of widespread understanding, approval and, frequently, adoption of Information Lifecycle Management (ILM). Nominally, ILM is defined as “a strategy comprised of people, processes and technology management to store and tap critical business data throughout their lifespan of value”. In practical, engineering terms, this often means analysing and tiering production data to ensure they are held on the storage medium commensurate with their value. For example: high-value, highly likely to be needed, current data may be stored on high speed disk initially, migrating to low-cost disk subsequently, then to a virtual tape library and, ultimately, to tape and/or optical disk for long-term retention or vaulting.

As a direct result of this way of looking at their data, I.T. teams have intuitively grasped that what they now require of their data protection solution is the ability to recover verifiably correct data corresponding to any and all of these production tiers; to create, in effect, ‘recovery tiers’. This is leading businesses to develop data protection strategies that involve aligning the right kind of data protection technology with the appropriate data sets to deliver an optimal recovery schema for the company and all its data. And, in just the same way as for storage tiers, recovery profiles for different recovery tiers vary by criteria that include frequency, speed, granularity, application integration and geography.

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