IT professionals explore disk-based backup, data deduplication to speed backup

As backup windows expand, UK storage professionals search for new technologies to optimize the process. At the Storage Decisions Advanced Backup School, storage pros agreed that data deduplication and greater use of disk are promising solutions.

As data storage capacity continues to grow, so do the size of backup windows -- a challenge that is prompting many users to consider disk-based backup products and data deduplication, according to IT pros who attended the Storage Decisions Advanced Backup School held in London this week.

W. Curtis Preston, executive editor of the Storage Media Group and independent backup expert, was the seminar presenter. Preston addressed the basics of backup strategies and implementations, as well as the latest trends in backup and optimisation technologies, including data deduplication, virtual tape libraries and continuous data protection (CDP).

To tackle the backup window, I think we'll have to look at trialing dedupe over the next six months. We'll also look at disk-to-disk-to-tape and see how the two can affect the time taken for backups.
Anish Taank
network infrastructure engineerTradition

"The biggest challenge in backup is data growth and not necessarily having the budget to deal with it," Preston told the crowd of storage professionals. "Everything has to have ROI built in today -- and the challenge is that many solutions don't necessarily pay for themselves unless you factor in risk and what it would cost you if you didn't do them."

Key to his presentation at the seminar was the message that disk-based backup and data deduplication are crucial enablers in making backup more efficient.

"Disk-based backup is the simplest way to improve stability and service levels in the backup system," Preston said. "Dedupe is a further enabler and truly brings the cost of disk down near that of tape."

A straw poll in the meeting room found that only two attendees had so far implemented data deduplication, but the majority were interested in what it could do for them.

Anish Taank, network infrastructure engineer with City-based financial services firm Tradition, attended the one-day seminar to hear about optimising backup and disk, as well as data deduplication technologies. His firm is in the process of merging two environments after a company acquisition last year that brought the company from 100 seats to 1,000.

"The backup window is our big challenge and we haven't yet rationalised all our data after the merger," said Taank. "When we have, we'll decide if we're using the right backup product. At the moment, we use Arkeia, which was what the larger of the two pre-merger companies was using, and we opted for that over Symantec [Veritas] NetBackup, which is what the smaller firm used."

He added, "To tackle the backup window, I think we'll have to look at trialing dedupe over the next six months. We'll also look at disk-to-disk-to-tape and see how the two can affect the time taken for backups."

Greater backup discipline needed

Gary Stevenson, a storage analyst at the Portsmouth office of Scottish and Southern Energy, was at the seminar to find out about new technologies, but said his IT department was trying to enforce a more disciplined attitude toward the the type of data retained as a way of tackling lengthening backup windows.

"Our big challenge is doing backup better and making sure we can rely on our restores," Stevenson said. " A lot of people say just throw money at it, but we're aiming to manage policy better. We want to educate the company to store data in a way that makes it easier to recover and bring in policies for inactive data and some file types to be either discarded or stored in more cost-efficient ways.

"The further challenge here is convincing top management that a little investment now could save us money down the line," Stevenson said. "We're interested in data deduplication, but we want to find out which will work best for us. We're also interested in CDP as it makes sense to trickle backups through the day, but again the challenge will be to convince people to spend money on it."

For some attendees, data deduplication isn't an option for reasons having to do with the types of data they process. Still, there was interest from all in ways to attack sprawling backup windows.

"We looked at data deduplication, but it's not for us," said one IT manager with an international financial services player who requested anonymity. "Our data is pre-compressed so it's impossible to dedupe."

But, he continued, "we're planning to use disk more as a place to stage data before moving to tape, and will be trying to get the company to shift toward CDP soon as a way of getting faster, more reliable restores."

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