Modern Approaches to Data Center Backup Strategies

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Published 15-Jun-2017 17:15:52
Backup strategies for the modern data centres

Backup products have had to adapt

Think of backup and you probably picture long overnight batch jobs – possibly still to tape – with recovery times that are not really up to scratch in terms of modern disaster recovery.

As an example, part of the problem with recovering from the NHS’s difficulties following the WannaCry ransomware attack appears to have been caused by substandard backups. Dan Taylor of NHS Digital, highlighted that NHS organisations “are all individual businesses and if I am being honest there may be some organisations that have corrupted backups... or don't have backups.”

Backing up is more than simply replicating data. Every file copied into a backup application tracks information such as file name, owner, date modified, type in a database. Most applications will track information like file name, owner, type, date modified and the number of versions protected.

New approaches have evolved to manage these basics efficiently in a world of virtualisation, software-defined infrastructures, big data and cloud. “It usually takes incumbent backup vendors some time to support newer technologies,” says Simon Robinson, a vice president 451 Research. “Rewind 10 years and it was very difficult initially to easily do backups for VMware virtual machines. This opened the door for players like Veeam to enter and steal the VM backup market from under the noses of the incumbents.”

To understand the current state of play, let’s take a look at the approaches of four major vendors, starting with Veeam.

Veeam’s ‘Always-on Enterprise’

Veeam is a relatively new kid on the block, and its early focus on virtualisation has clearly paid off. The company was named a leader in Gartner’s 2020 Magic Quadrant for Data Centre Backup & Recovery for the upper-end mid-market and larger enterprise environments.

Gartner noted that:

  • Veeam Backup & Replication is a reliable and function-rich data protection solution for VMware and Hyper-V environments.
  • Integration with leading deduplication appliances offers customers the option of enhanced performance and storage efficiency.
  • Customers comment favourably on general code reliability, agentless granular restores and ease of use.

Veeam pioneered a new market of ‘Availability for the Always-On Enterprise’ to help organisations meet today’s service-level objectives of enabling recovery of any IT service and related applications and data within seconds and minutes.

TechTarget notes that Veeam had one of the first products to provide both backup and replication in the same software, and it doesn’t require the installation of an agent inside the virtual machine (VM) to protect it. It can protect and recover an entire VM, as well as individual files for environments like Exchange, SharePoint and Active Directory. Backups are done incrementally at with block level; after the first backup only changed information goes to the target, creating fast, low-impact backups.

Fast recovery time has been a major benefit of Veeam, thanks to its ability to provide in-place recovery. With its replication capability it can utilise a backup of a volume for use on the backup target instead of having to restore the volume across a network. Veeam’s Cloud Connect product also provides cloud-based DR and cloud backup.

back up strategies for the modern data centre

Veritas: back with a bang

Last year’s separation of Veritas from Symantec re-energised the business. The biggest name in backup, Veritas retains a position in the leaders section of Gartner’s 202 magic quadrant – a position it has been in every year since the inception of the report in 1999.

Veritas is the #1 market share leader for backup and recovery software, and its NetBackup software and appliances are widely used and trusted throughout the world. They cover all the traditional platforms an IT department would expect, including Windows, Linux and Unix, and provide online protection of major databases like Oracle and Microsoft SQL. NetBackup continues to support backup to disk and tape, something other vendors are leaving behind.

Today, NetBackup has comprehensive integration with VMware and Hyper-V. It integrates with VMware VVOLs technology to provide volumes with dynamic protection regardless of location. NetBackup automatically discovers virtual machines before adding them to a default data protection group. TechTarget notes that in Hyper-V environments, NetBackup can perform self-service operations from within the Microsoft System Center Virtual Machine Manager console, and VMware instant recovery can trigger from within the vSphere web client.

NetBackup attempts to do it all. It has cloud integration with native interfaces for a variety of cloud and object storage providers, but where there’s a preference to run mission-critical databases or applications in a bare-metal state there’s a solution for that; standalone NAS systems like NetApp are protected as well.

HPE: for complex environments

HPE is making a major play in this backup with its Adaptive Backup and Recovery (ABR) Suite, central to which is HPE Data Protector.

TechTarget notes that Data Protector standardises protection across physical and virtual environments, diverse operating systems and critical applications. Its business application integrations extend server backup, automated point-in-time recovery and granular restores to individual application users.

HPE augments Data Protector with Backup Navigator, which provides operational analytics and reporting, and Storage Optimizer, which helps manage unstructured data and moves files around according to their business value, using the most efficient storage tiers.

As with other leading products, HPE backup software supports deduplication and compression, and it integrates with cloud providers such as Microsoft Azure, HPE Helion and Amazon Simple Storage Service. There’s automated retention and replication management across different backup media, storage tiers and locations, enabling organisations to comply with regulations and data retention criteria.

There’s a 60-day trial of the HPE backup software – speak to Vohkus if you’re interested.

Microsoft Azure Backup for data centres

Microsoft’s Azure Backup proposition is based around value and the ability to demonstrate compliance. Microsoft claims Azure lets you protect your data and applications no matter where they reside to avoid costly business interruptions or to meet compliance requirements.

Using Azure, it’s possible to securely extend on-premises backup storage and data archiving solutions to the cloud, reducing cost and complexity whilst achieving efficiency and scalability. “Using Azure is cheaper than our previous backup solution – one quarter of the costs. The savings increase with every gigabyte of data we add,” notes Chris Palmer, Solutions Architect, PCL Construction.

Azure can keep pace with the exponential growths in enterprise data whilst lowering deployment and management costs if managed well. With a low-cost, massively scalable, tiered backup storage solution in the cloud, organisations can reduce forecasting risks while transforming capital expenditure commitments onto a pay-as-you-go opex cloud model.

Microsoft also claims an Azure approach can improve the organisation’s productivity because administrators spend less time managing and maintaining on-premises backup storage infrastructure and software. It’s possible to simplify backup and data archiving with backup-as-a-service and hybrid storage solutions that easily restore data and applications from the cloud.

Microsoft is confident it has the most comprehensive compliance portfolio on the market. Policies are designed to meet both business and regulatory compliance requirements, and customers can get more than 99 years of retention for backup data and pick any Azure region around the globe for backup and archive location.

A wealth of choice

Never before have there been so many backup options for the modern data centres; but there again there have never been so many scenarios requiring backup. Your choice will depend on your current and future infrastructure state, your recovery objectives, your compliance needs, and your budget.

The one option you can’t afford is not to invest in a sound backup strategy. For agnostic, independent advice, talk to Vohkus.


security HPE backup disaster recovery Microsoft Azure data centre Veeam data centre backup