Disaster recovery and data protection

An effective backup strategy takes equal account of both perspectives.

Companies generally pursue two different directions when it comes to strategies concerning the backup and recovery of their data. While disaster recovery strategies, on the one hand, are directed towards protecting the whole system, by contrast the area of data protection addresses individual data. An effective strategy takes equal account of both perspectives.

Small and medium-sized companies can gain more flexibility through integrated solutions, which unite disaster recovery and data protection.

The data situation for companies has changed dramatically, both quantitatively and qualitatively, in recent years. On the one hand, data volumes continue to grow exponentially because of new IT technologies and processes. On the other, the stored data is becoming ever more important for the company, and more information has to be rated as “business-critical”.

Nowadays it’s not only data from CAD or ERP systems that are important to a company, but also e-mails containing important contract data, or even simple data sheets and product descriptions, which can be decisive for product liability.

 

Data backup

 
Backing up such data is therefore more than ever a central task for the IT department; the company’s economic success or possibly even its very existence may depend on fulfilling it.

At the same time, 24/7 access to company data is becoming the expected norm. Work goes on round the clock and system outages can cause considerable productivity losses. The IT service has to ensure that files and systems remain available after accidental deletion, internal incidents such as hardware crashes, or externally induced events – for example fire, unauthorised third party access, or even natural disasters.

From these requirements, two different perspectives on the backup concepts within a company can be derived:

• Disaster recovery sees data from the perspective of the complete system – after a harmful incident the data inventory, including the operating system, applications and user data, must be completely restorable in as short a time as possible, in order to enable work to continue.

• Data protection puts the individual data at the centre. Different kinds of data are distinguished, which, after an incident, are restored in a specific order in relation to their value and their function in the respective applications.

 

Disaster recovery and data protection

 
Disaster recovery enables the seamless restoration of a complete crashed system and as such represents an indispensable basis of every backup concept. However, with modern data volumes, a complete backup of operating systems, applications, settings and data takes more time, so that, for technical reasons alone, it is usually carried out at longer intervals – even if, with modern imaging technology, the  backup takes place during operation and does not need to be postponed until periods of low activity.

The same applies to restoration. With disaster recovery, then, a company can achieve operational readiness again within a defined period of time. For many incidents, however, especially when they lie below the “disaster threshold”, disaster recovery strategies often possess insufficient granularity.

This is where the concept of data protection comes in. It enables selective backup and recovery on the file or even the object level. The backup can take place at shorter intervals, which correspondingly allows a targeted recovery of very specific individual data to be carried out.

Further added value is offered by solutions that provide a logical and convenient view of the backed-up files with catalogue and search functions. This avoids time-consuming sifting through backup archives, and technical staff can respond quickly and effectively if individual files need to be retrieved rapidly from the backup.

However, if entire systems cease to function because of a hardware fault, the recovery time can only be kept short through a sound disaster recovery concept. Hence the question for companies is not whether to choose one thing or the other. Rather, they need the flexibility to react appropriately in every situation – regardless whether a whole system or individual files are affected.

 

Integrated solutions

 
Disaster recovery and data protection should complement one another. Admittedly solutions for both are, in fact, rarely available on the market, but mostly not as an integrated total solution. Many manufacturers have simply augmented an existing application through additional purchases, so that such a combination is perhaps unified in terms of the product description, but not the underlying technology.

Leaving aside the question of the extent to which the systems fit together at all, this certainly means a considerable administrative burden, especially for small and medium-sized companies. In large companies with a number of administrators it is not a problem to implement and operate two systems alongside each other, and to maintain the required know-how.

Smaller companies with limited IT re-sources, however, can easily be overwhelmed by the parallel operation of quite different backup concepts – which, in view of the importance of this task, can have fatal consequences.

Integrated solutions combine disaster recovery and data protection in a single application. With a total solution, companies have the advantage of being able to carry out a granular or a comprehensive backup and recovery, both in physical and virtual environments, or when using cloud storage.

A unified user interface, which covers both approaches, simplifies the task of keeping data as well as complete systems securely under control. Small and medium-sized companies can also develop security concepts on this basis that cover all aspects of backing up their business-critical data.

Author: David Blackman, general manager of Acronis North Europe, Middle East and Africa

Source: http://www.smeweb.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=2934:disaster-recovery-data-protection&catid=64:features&Itemid=102

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