World Backup Day: Best Practices for a Hybrid Approach

Greg Schulz

March 31 is annual World Backup Day — a great reminder to make sure that your systems, applications, and data are protected. Being prepared on the last day of March can help prevent you from being a fool on the first day of April. But the truth is, you should be aware of enabling data protection and recovery every day — not just once a year.

In addition to expanding awareness around the importance of data protection, including recovery and restoration on a continual, proactive basis, it’s time to revisit where and how data is protected. This is an excellent time to mention the 4-3-2-1 data protection guide which is an extension of the older 3-2-1 backup rule. The 4-3-2-1 rule adds one more crucial step to the 3-2-1 rule, which requires you to have at least three copies of data on at least two different systems or storage devices with at least one of them being offsite.

Today’s hybrid IT and multi-cloud environments span multiple locations, from local onsite, on-premises locations; to offsite, remote managed service and cloud providers. In addition to different places, 4-3-2-1 hybrid data protection leverages different types of storage mediums that are complementary rather than competitive.

For example, using fast flash solid state devices (SSD) to store frequently accessed, critical data onsite. This includes primary applications data along with metadata. In addition to using bulk hard disk drive (HDD) capacity-based devices for supporting disk to disk (D2D), also use SSD to disk (S2D) for fast data protection. Another variation is using tape for S2D to tape (S2D2T), as well as D2D to tape (D2D2T) — a high bandwidth means for moving bulk data to the cloud or other offsite venues.

Similar to SSD and HDD, tape continues to evolve. It has a higher capacity, improved performance and reliability standards, and is being used in new ways. While tape is moving out of some organizations — most environments having evolved to a D2D2T data protection mode — tape is also finding a new role in clouds as a bulk cold, offline, air-gap based storage tier.

Tape and cloud-based services are a good destination for parking older, inactive, not-accessed data. For example, if data has not been accessed (read or written) for 30 days or more, set a policy to archive it offsite (which also serves as an air gap). Another example is if data has not been accessed for over a year, migrate it to a bulk storage media, such as tape, then send it offsite.

Air gaps are a good data protection measure, ensuring an offline, offsite, inaccessible copy of your data. This includes applications as well as configuration settings. Air gaps of multiple versions or point-in-time protection copies are also one of the best defenses against ransomware. They can be a companion to virus, malware and other software-defined threat intrusion prevention tools.

Using a dedicated 10 Gbps network (no overhead, no retransmits, no other activity, full 10 Gbps line rate) would require about seven hours to move 30 terabytes of data. Using a dedicated 1 Gbps based network with the same caveats (e.g., no other traffic, no overhead, no retransmits) would take around 67 hours to move 30 terabytes of data.

Meanwhile, an LTO-8 tape drive being fed by fast storage can sequentially stream compressed data at up to 2.75 terabytes per hour, storing up to 30 terabytes on a single cartridge. Using LTO-8, about 11.5 hours would be needed to move 30 terabytes of compressed data to tape; then, with overnight shipping, protection copies could be offsite within 24 to 36 hours. This best-of-both-worlds approach leverages tape for the bulk movement to or from a recovery facility while freeing up networks for the smaller point-in-time copies or more modest and frequent restore requests.

Why wait until World Backup Day to verify that your data is being protected and backed up? Verify that you do not have any adverse data protection gaps on a regular basis. Make sure what is supposed to be protected, is protected.

Here are some data protection tips to implement daily:

  • Keep in mind that the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) goes into effect May 25, 2018, affecting large and small organizations around the world.
  • Test your restores at an alternate location and be careful not to cause a disaster by recovering data over good production data.
  • Understand that hybrid environments need hybrid data protection — use different techniques, technologies and storage devices that complement each other.
  • Start using old and new things in new ways, including leveraging tape in hybrid ways, either onsite for creating offsite air gaps, supporting bulk data movement, or leveraging cloud and managed bulk cold storage services.
  • Gain insight and awareness into your data, including how many versions and copies you have and where it is stored onsite, offsite and remotely.
  • Be prepared for a malware attack: It’s inevitable your organization will be hit, but being prepared means having a solution that isolates that critical data, preventing it from being infected, and being able to quickly recover it.

World Backup Day is March 31. Use it as a reminder to verify that your systems, applications and data are protected, backed up and recoverable.

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