The Backup Delusion – Part 1

Ill put this right out there! I would rather live in a world without Backup and Recovery. I have burnt countless hours and hair follicles working my way through and trying to tame backup application platforms. Unfortunately we have not reached a point whereby the technology we use is reliable and resilient enough to prevent failures and with that we backup and sometimes we recover.

Historically companies and service providers have relied on tape backups to protect their mission critical data, but with the advent of the digital age and to a lesser extent virtualization we find ourselves in an opposing world of increasing resource density and efficiency and Big Data. Tape drives, while still in use by some have given way to disk based backup systems and applications have failed to keep pace with the change.

Ive had the misfortune of dealing with a large number of backup applications over the past couple of years and very few, if any have lived up to expectation. From poor Application Support (sometimes waiting a year to support a new platform after release) to products that staggeringly cant recover data it claims to have backed up successfully. The amount of man hours I see being burnt by onsite techs and senior engineers on backend and client side issues is mind boggling. I would be very interested to see the $$ value Backup applications suck out of service providers and businesses alone! The amount of times I’ve heard a tech or sales person try to explain to a customer that, while we had the backup, and it appeared to be working, we couldn’t recover your data…sorry about that!

And as I currently try to truncate 500GB worth of Exchange Server logs (on a Virtual Server that had a 300GB SnapShot go out of control and consume all datastore space, resulting in VM failure) due to a new version of a product that previously performed the function, but now does not until a future patch, I ponder what makes a good backup application? Im also wondering if traditional backup applications are the way to go? Do we still need to provide an application? Does that application need to cover all requirements?

Traditionally a backup Application needed to cover the following:

–  Agent Compatibility/Deployment

–  Application Awareness via API/VSS

–  File Level Backup Options

–  Bare Metal Recovery of Physical Servers

Throw Virtualization into the mix and you need to cover the following:

–  Agentless Backup Options

–  Multi-Platform Support (?)

–  Change Block Tracking

– Offsite Backup Options

Now throw in Operational Requirements and Expectations to cover the following:

–  Cost of licensing Application and vendor royalties

–  Cost of backend storage and ongoing costs of data sprawl

–  Requirement for storage efficiencies through enhanced compression and de-dupe

–  Proven stability and scalability

–  Minimal Engineering and ongoing Management time

And lastly, throw in business/client expectations to cover the following:

–  Relative value for money“ I want the world, but dont want to pay for it.

–  100% Faith in Product being delivered “ You said it would work!

–  Fast Backup and Recover Times “ I need that file from 18 months ago now!

–  Expectation that Application backups up everything “ This is my DR right?

–  Offsite Backup Options “ To the Cloud! Its safer up there I hear?

Ok, so I might have listed out some pent up frustration drawn from client interactions for that last part but the question remains. is there a product that ticks all those boxes? And while vendors will have you believe the marketing FUD, I have yet to find a product that does and I would argue that no product will ever meet all requirements. We are about to enter the post PC era, and while debatable in some (Redmond) circles the truth is that we have seen the landscape of data and how its stored and accessed shift and with that current backup applications and the platforms they sit upon simply cant cope with the change.

So what do we have at our disposals to cope with this change? What vendor will release that ˜Silver Bullet application that solves all our issues? I dont believe there will ever be one application that covers all bases but there are certainly new applications and technologies that backup and control data which are emerging or are close to release. In Part 2 Ill go through these and try to (not solve) work through what would be suitable for the foreseeable future in data backup and recovery and introduce the often misinterpreted concept of DRaaS.

The BackupDelusion – Part 2