News/Trends, Product

Backing up your data center when you can’t get in it

April 8, 2020 W. Curtis Preston, Chief Technology Evangelist

It’s very difficult to manage your data center when you are told to work from home. It’s even harder to do so when any of your systems require physically touching them to make changes.  Nowhere is this more true than with a typical backup and recovery system. I’ll review a few data center backup challenges that you might find yourself dealing with during this current Coronavirus/COVID-19 crisis.

Tapes are still around

While tape drives may have disappeared from many data centers, they’re not gone from all of them. This is because the typical choice available to customers who wanted tapeless off-site backups was to buy two target-deduplication arrays and replicate between them. While this generally worked, it was incredibly expensive.

This is why many companies deployed target deduplication appliances on-premises, but then copied backups from those appliances to tape — and then handed those tapes to a man in a van. Another problem might be the capacity of your tape library. It’s very common to not have enough capacity for all of your backups. There aren’t a lot of good choices in this scenario — short of buying a bigger tape library. The most common practice people do is to rotate empty or expired tapes in and take full tapes out.

Unfortunately, it’s rather hard to do that if you’re not in the data center, leaving customers using this architecture with a few uncomfortable choices. How do you swap tapes around when you’re supposed to be sheltering at home?

Tell your backup administrator they’re essential

Requiring your backup administrator to access the data center is not an ideal situation but nevertheless, essential.

“The good news, Janet, is that you’ll be the only person in the data center – except for the Iron Mountain driver, of course. The bad news is that we need you to go in and swap out the tapes, put them in a box, and hand them to the man in a van.” 

Ignore your DR plan’s RPO

You can either completely forgo off-site backups for now, or decide to only send your backup administrator in once a week. Then, you hope that nothing bad happens to your data center while this is happening. Because if it does, you will only be able to restore data to the last time you sent backups off site, which could be a week or more ago.

You can’t buy additional hardware

Perhaps you’re lucky enough to have a tapeless system. Maybe you even bought a scale-out, hyper-converged backup system. You won’t have to deal with the tape issues above. But, what if you need to expand your capacity? Many vendors are unable to source new hardware, which means you won’t be able to get additional capacity if you need it.

Once again, you’re faced with two very bad choices: Either you’ll have to change your backup configuration to reduce the retention period for your backups, or your backups will start failing as the systems fill up.

You say you don’t have this problem because you buy capacity years in advance. Yes, you won’t have the problem that’s mentioned above, but you’ve got another problem. You bought today’s capacity with yesterday’s money. For example, perhaps you bought a new system at the beginning of the year, and you bought enough capacity to last three years. You bought disks that you might not need for three years, but at today’s prices and with today’s budget. That is just the nature of the way that world works.

This also means you won’t be able to easily repair anything that fails without putting someone’s health at risk. Hopefully, you’ll get lucky and won’t have a disk or system failure while we’re all locked down. But if you do, you’ll be faced with similar bad choices.

Switch to fully automated, off-site cloud backups

What if your backup system automatically received backups off site, but also allowed you to keep a cache of data locally for fast restores? That way all of your backups would be off site regardless of what happens, and you could do cloud-based restores and disaster recovery if the worst happened. This is what’s possible with a cloud-based backup and disaster recovery-as-a-service vendor like Druva.

Believe it or not, you can even switch to such a product without ever visiting your data center. Install a Druva agent on your VMware or Hyper-V server, authenticate it to your Druva account, and watch it backup your entire data center without you ever having to lift a finger.

With Druva, you can simplify data protection and improve your data visibility. Our SaaS platform harnesses the native efficiencies and global reach of the public cloud while delivering unmatched storage flexibility, scalability, durability, and security.

Learn more about how you can simplify your data center backup and reduce your TCO by up to 50% with Druva.

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