The Best Data Backup Practices to Leverage Tape and the Cloud

Michele Hope

What are the newest options for bringing cloud backup into a tape backup world? What are the best ways to approach it?

Think strategy first, technology second.

Many organizations have eagerly begun to explore and use cloud backup in their data protection environments. Small and midrange organizations (or remote offices of big ones) may even find it acceptable to use a small, direct-to-cloud backup service to accommodate smaller backup needs.

This approach to cloud backup becomes more of a challenge, however, with large organizations who have to determine what to do with the current and legacy backup data sets they already retain, and what type of cloud architecture will work best for what can amount to hundreds of terabytes of backup data.

These are real questions that require real answers. Before an organization can get these answers, however, a cautious step back is often required. Many organizations have a good handle on the RTO and RPO backup/restore goals of most of their applications. This is good as part of a general backup strategy, but does not go far enough.

Backup is only part of the continuum of protection requirements needing to be addressed before the best disk, cloud or tape technology “fit” can be identified.

Backup, disaster recovery and archiving needs all play a part in any strategy that decides which data should go to which target (disk, tape or cloud) and for how long. Third-party experts may be especially helpful in defining the goals of such a strategy. Be prepared to discuss how best to automatically migrate (or “tier”) data from backup to long-term archive. This is especially important for organizations needing to retain data for years in order to meet regulatory compliance, eDiscovery requirements, or to derive value from that historical data.

Be prepared to discuss a potential “hybrid cloud” model as well. This might include local backup data for fastest restoration, while other copies are either backed up or replicated to the cloud provider’s site to meet the needs of wider disaster recovery or long-term archiving.

It’s also important to explore new options and ideas. Emerging cloud services for backup, disaster recovery and archiving may be surprising. Here is a service sampling that may be incorporated into an organization’s best data backup practices:

  • Initial Cloud Seeding: Cloud seeding has a different meaning for backup environments than its original, weather-modification bent. In cloud backup, this allows sizable, initial backup data sets to be copied first to an organization’s local disk, appliance or backup tapes. The physical media is then physically transported to the cloud provider (who uploads its data to the cloud environment). Subsequent backup data transmitted may consist of only smaller, changed files or data blocks.
  • Legacy Backup Alternatives: For organizations wanting to retire their local, legacy backup environments, service provider options now exist for more than just backup tape vaulting. Some also offer consumption-based data restoration services for tape data to accommodate compliance or eDiscovery requests. This may make sense for organizations wanting to retire legacy backup environments, yet keep their associated backup data safe and still accessible.
  • Cloud-Based Appliances with Tape-Out Services: Many large backup environments deploy Data Protection Appliances (DPAs) to consolidate growing backup data. Some cloud providers may offer cloud-based counterparts. These are consumption-based DPAs for faster, offsite replication and archiving. Some may even offer to tier this type of cloud data off to tape (for a non-networked, DR “gold copy” or for more economical, long-term retention).

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