News/Trends, Tech/Engineering

Evolution of Data Backup from Servers to Cloud Apps

IT admins have been backing up critical data since the earliest days of business computing. The definition of backing up data, though, has evolved as business data has extended from mainframes to servers, and more recently to endpoints and cloud apps.

Back in the era of The Beatles and moon landings, enterprise computing looked a lot like the IBM mainframe. In those days, backing up data involved expensive magnetic tape and was limited to large Fortune 1000 companies managing financial or scientific data.

But, like death and taxes, the only certainty in IT is change. Massive server farms soon sprang up within large corporate environments, storing petabytes of business-critical data on physical servers hosting enterprise applications such as Microsoft Exchange and Oracle SQL. These applications managed enormous sets of vital business and end user data, and SAN and NAS environments sprang up to create a whole ecosystem of vendors, certifications and staff.  IT’s job was to back it all up with regularity and reliability, but backup solutions were notoriously expensive, unreliable and unable to capture data in realtime.

One particular challenge that arose for IT admins was how to restore a single file—say, a CEO’s lost email—without having to restore a full database or take users back to a past instance. To address this need, vendors such as Veritas and Symantec introduced Granular Recovery Technology (GRT) solutions, enabling the restoration of a single email and/or contact without affecting the productivity of other end users. With GRT, IT admins could now look back in time as needed, and locate the critical data of only a few users.

The next stage in the evolution of backup was the adoption of virtual server environments—such as VMware’s ESX farms and HyperV by Microsoft—to allow IT teams to more centrally manage dispersed servers and better manage costs. But as backups expanded to these virtual environments, similar challenges arose: How do you backup a virtual server as well as the applications hosted on a virtual machine? And how do you recover a single email from a full backup of a virtual machine? To address this, Symantec and EMC worked with VMware to create code-aware APIs to backup data stored in Exchange and Oracle SQL applications, protecting the critical data on these servers.

From the data center to the endpoint and cloud apps

While a typical IT admin’s focus was still on backing up server data, a sea change was brewing in terms of where business data lived. Mobile devices such as laptops and smartphones drove critical business information outside the traditional data center and server environments and onto a variety of endpoints—outside of the view and protection of IT teams. This lack of visibility into distributed data brought increased risk to organizations and hampered IT’s efforts to enact comprehensive data governance.

Fortunately, Druva came to the rescue, leading the evolution of backup on endpoints with its enterprise-grade backup solution. With Druva’s endpoint backup, IT could protect and restore data—including data in Office 365 applications—to regain visibility of data across endpoints, avoid data loss, do quick restores, and keep the workforce productive.

With the rising popularity of Microsoft’s OneDrive and Office 365, end user data soon extended to cloud apps. What started with a trickle of consumer apps and Dropbox became a flood of enterprise apps moving to the cloud. Microsoft Exchange was being replaced by Exchange Online; Office 365 was being replaced by Office 365 Online. With this shift, IT now faced the daunting challenge of making sure that critical data was protected, as well as understanding what data was being created and stored across these apps.

Again, Druva was ready to meet the challenge, bringing backup to the next level with a new ‘converged‘ approach to backup across servers, endpoints, and cloud apps. This converged approach backs up and stores data in a single platform, making the data available for other business insights.

As end user data migrates to cloud apps, we tend to take its integrity for granted; e.g., OneDrive guarantees redundancy, so losing a file is less common. Modern backup today is therefore less about an insurance policy for data loss, and more about converging distributed data into one platform for IT to address a wider range of devices and services. Now IT teams have greater visibility into what data the company stores, and can better analyze it, assess risks, improve compliance, and meet other business needs.

In other words, backup has evolved to be more than backup

The only constant in IT is change. Critical data has moved beyond servers and endpoints to cloud apps. In the future, what will worry IT the most? Not losing the data itself, but losing out on any critical business insights offered by the data that they’ve backed up. In this way, the cloud and big data are changing how data is protected and analyzed – fast replacing monolithic storage pools and excel spreadsheets of the past.

IT leaders today have an opportunity to change how they manage the critical data that they store, and bring new insights and efficiencies to their business.

To see Gartner’s take on how enterprise endpoint backup is evolving, read the 2015 Gartner Critical Capabilities Report.