DIY Recovery

Disk-based storage can cut backup headaches and lets users recover data from active archives.

It was the Keystone Kops routines that convinced Scott Roemmele that there had to be a better way to store and retrieve e-mail archives at Quicken Loans Inc.

"We would back something up from the night before and shoot those tapes off-site," says Roemmele, SAN team leader at the Livonia, Mich.-based financial services firm. "A few hours later, the Exchange administrator would get a [user] request to restore something from their in-box from the night before."

That meant having the company's off-site vendor return -- for a fee -- the same tape that Quicken Loans had just sent it. Even worse were the episodes when Roemmele's staff asked for the wrong tape or multiple users needed restores from different tapes, forcing an expensive volley between Quicken Loans and its off-site vault.

Roemmele has since purchased DD400 Enterprise Series backup and recovery appliances from Data Domain Inc. in Palo Alto, Calif. They reduce the amount of data that needs to be backed up so dramatically that he now stores two months' worth of Exchange backups on the appliances, from which users can easily recover their own e-mails.

Roemmele's dilemma is all too common. The pressure to quickly recover specific files from backed-up data comes from careless users who delete important files, regulators who demand quick access to records, and corporate lawyers who need a particular e-mail or memo to defend a lawsuit.

Those demands are reflected in IT spending plans. In a survey of more than 300 IT professionals by market research firm IDC, two-thirds of the respondents said backup and recovery/data protection would be a major driver in their spending on storage services in the next 12 months.

Customers are using a combination of technologies to reduce the amount of data that needs backing up and store it in "active" archives that can be accessed more easily than typical off-site tape archives. Those technologies include disk-based storage, incremental backup, data compression or reduction, and WAN optimization.

Active Archives

"For years, many customers viewed archiving only as taking backup tapes out of the normal rotation cycle and storing them off-site," says Rob Emsley, director of product marketing for information management products at EMC Corp. in Hopkinton, Mass. "We've seen a significant increase in people creating what we call active archives," keeping archived data on disk storage so it can be quickly accessed for regulatory or litigation purposes.

Oftentimes, the active archive is kept on storage built around ATA or Serial ATA drives, which offer performance and reliability close to that of Fibre Channel arrays but cost significantly less. One user taking that approach is Jamesburg, N.J.-based Argix Direct Inc., which tracks detailed information about shipments it makes to retail stores from its four package-sorting centers. Until last year, the company had backed up that Microsoft SQL Server data to its headquarters using Backup Exec from Symantec Corp. However, over time, the amount of data grew so large that it threatened to exceed the company's backup window and slowed traffic on the WAN between headquarters and the sorting centers.

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