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Partner TechTip: Improve Your Tape-Based Backup and Recovery Processes

High Availability / Disaster Recovery
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Many organizations still depend on tape backups as their primary—and often only—means of protecting data from disasters. There are at least three reasons for tape's continued prevalence as a backup medium. First, it's cheaper than disk for large-volume storage. Second, it's portable. A courier can easily move terabytes of data offsite for safekeeping. Third, the compliance regulations require that many companies use tape-based backups.

Despite widespread use, tape backups suffer shortcomings. For one, because they are disruptive, backups are normally performed during off-hours, but the 24x7 operations that come with increased globalization and ecommerce, coupled with growing databases, mean that backup windows are often too short or even non-existent. Another problem is that, despite much faster tape speeds than in the past, tape recovery is still a comparatively slow process. Recovering a data center—which is, after all, the reason for taking backups—may take days, crippling operations in the meantime.

The biggest problem, however, is that because backups are typically taken nightly or weekly, data updates that occur between backups are likely to be vulnerable to loss should a disruption occur. If you're using journaling, these will be captured, but a disaster serious enough to destroy the primary databases will likely also obliterate the journals if the information is not also saved to tape and moved offsite. Thus, as much as one day's worth of unsaved data (or more if the most recent backup tape is corrupted or has not yet been shipped offsite) may be permanently lost after a disaster.

The gold standard for rapidly and completely recovering data is high availability (HA) software that maintains a hot-backup server at a remote location, but some organizations consider this too costly for all of their servers. Not only must they acquire the high availability software, but they must also buy and maintain a second System i server of adequate capacity to serve as the backup. Consequently, financial considerations often lead organizations to, reluctantly, accept the risk of losing a day's worth or more of unsaved data. Fortunately, that's no longer necessary, Although many smaller shops can now cost-justify HA because of dropping prices, not all are ready for HA. Data vaulting solutions, such as iTera Vault from Vision Solutions, provide a practical solution to companies that need an intermediate solution.

iTera Vault is a disk-to-disk solution that transfers data and object changes to another system serving as a "vault" for backups. This vault, which can be either local or remote to the production system, doesn't require special software, nor does it have to be a System i server. It can also be a low-cost Linux, Windows, or UNIX platform. The only requirement is that it be able to support sufficient disk space to store all of the data to be vaulted on it.

On the production System i server, iTera Vault uses journaling to monitor changes to data and objects. It can batch journaled information and transmit it to the vault at regular intervals, or it can send them on an ongoing basis as they are modified on the production server. Before sending data, iTera Vault compresses it to reduce network bandwidth requirements. This compression, coupled with the fact that only changed data and objects are sent, makes network transmission to a remote site a practical alternative.

In addition to being faster because the interim data saves are disk-based rather than tape-based, recovery after a disaster is also easier with iTera Vault. Loading tape backups onto a system at a recovery site is a mostly manual process. In contrast, iTera Vault automates most of the operation and guides an operator through the complete recovery process. This automated, disk-based recovery process can shave hours or, depending on the size and nature of the data, even days off the time required to restore operations.

iTera Vault can also provide benefits when a problem of less-than-disastrous proportions arises. It can be used to recover single or multiple objects when data on the production system is inadvertently erased or corrupted.

See the MC Showcase Buyer's Guide for more information about iTera Vault and Vision Solutions.

Joel Klebanoff is a consultant, a writer, and president of Klebanoff Associates, Inc., a Toronto, Canada-based marketing communications firm, and author of BYTE-ing Satire. Joel has 25 years experience working in IT, first as a programmer/analyst and then as a marketer. He holds a Bachelor of Science in computer science and an MBA, both from the University of Toronto. Contact Joel at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Joel Klebanoff

Joel Klebanoff is a consultant, writer, and formerly president of Klebanoff Associates, Inc., a Toronto-based marketing communications firm. He has 30 years' experience in various IT capacities and now specializes in writing articles, white papers, and case studies for IT vendors and publications across North America. Joel is also the author of BYTE-ing Satire, a compilation of a year's worth of his columns. He holds a BS in computer science and an MBA, both from the University of Toronto.


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