Options Abound for Disk, Tape and Cloud in Archiving

Topics: Data Archive | Offsite Tape Vaulting

By Michele Hope

The need to improve data backup, recovery and archiving operations routinely tops the to-do lists of enterprise IT professionals, since growing data volumes are straining the IT infrastructures tasked with data protection and recovery. There is also the burden of retaining or archiving data to meet strict governance, compliance or eDiscovery requirements, while managing flat to declining budgets.

Many organizations have deployed a mix of disk, tape and cloud solutions to meet their storage needs. However, the question becomes how to ensure long-term retention in a cost effective way. Luckily, new options are increasingly focused on integrating the best of all worlds with tiered storage using disk, tape and cloud in archiving.

The Difference Between Backup and Archive

Backup vendors and industry pundits explain the difference between backup and archive in various ways. Knowing the difference can help companies evaluate various options for disk, tape and cloud in their archiving strategy.

In an Enterprise Strategy Group white paper on archival software and platforms, senior analyst Jason Buffington defined digital archiving as "the long-term retention and management of electronic information that has been purposefully retained to satisfy records management, data management, regulatory compliance or litigation support requirements." He further distinguished backup data from archives, noting that "backup data is typically a temporary copy of a data set that is ultimately overwritten."

The discussion of backup versus archiving is not new. As early as 2006, Computerworld asked experts to differentiate between backup and archive. Michael Osterman, president of Osterman Research, said, "Backup is really used to restore data in the event of a server crash. Archiving is intended to restore information in support of corporate goals."

Backup expert and author W. Curtis Preston noted that the distinction was one of retrieving data, as an archive would do, versus recovering data, as backup or recovery would.

Sorting Archives From Backup via Storage Tiering

Without a good policy to separate true archive data from the backup stream, two problems can arise. First, backup copies become used as a costly, ineffective archive. Second, long-term retention volumes keep growing exponentially, thereby needing more expensive storage, along with the equipment and resources to manage it.

To avoid these issues, companies have started to implement storage tiering solutions with built-in policy automation. Such solutions help move archive data outside of the backup data stream. They send it, instead, to another storage tier with low-access, low-cost characteristics more appropriate for long-term retention.

For regulatory or business retrieval requests, tape and cloud are increasingly seen as the ideal, low-cost, secure, off-site retention tier for a company's "gold copy" archives. For faster operational restores from backup data, however, on-site, highly available disk is often the chosen tier.

Tape and Cloud as a Powerful Offsite Storage Tier

Increasingly, enterprise companies have started to favor local disk-based backup that is streamlined with data protection appliances (DPAs) using inline deduplication. Mission-critical backup data is then replicated for offsite disaster recovery to a cloud or colocation provider.

Using preset options for policy-based data movement, DPAs offer the management and storage of both backup and archive data sets on the local appliance, where each type of data can be managed under different retention rules. Appliance integration occurs between both leading backup application and leading archival applications. Special compliance, governance and long-term retention features ensure data integrity for data that is stored on the local appliance or replicated to a remote appliance in the cloud.

Given the emergence of more affordable OpEx-based, pay-per-consumption cloud services, many enterprises have started to look to secure cloud providers that host the same secondary data protection appliances. Having a secondary appliance in the cloud is an option for faster, more affordable WAN replication of already deduplicated, local data sets.

Once archival data is stored securely offsite in a secondary appliance, some appliances can even offer a "tape-out" functionality that allows tape to be used as another storage tier for archival or long-term retention.

Many organizations see the economic benefits of tape for long-term retention and archiving, but don't want the headache of daily tape management. Here, tape and cloud providers are emerging with options to fit an organization's multiple needs for backup and archiving. Look for providers who let you "have your cake and eat it, too," by combining the automation of DPAs and offsite replication with managed tape-out services.

You've read about tape and cloud in archiving, but where do disk, tape and cloud fit into a disaster recovery plan? Read about it, here.

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