How to unify your backup strategy across the enterprise

Getting a consistent backup strategy in place within an organisation is a constant struggle. The simple task of ensuring important documents and data are backed up regularly is hard enough in itself.

End users see it as a chore and don't realise its importance until too late, when a catastrophic event causes the loss of something mission-critical. But the situation has been further complicated by the proliferation of mobile workers, the plethora of different platforms available, and the fact that remote workers often connect to resources over unreliable public networks.

Even when users can be coaxed into regular backups, the systems they use can be many and varied, causing great inconsistency. What is needed is a unified backup system across the enterprise that can cope with the heterogeneous computing environment now found in most companies.

In this feature we look at how you can fulfil this need.

Build it for the end-user

The main solutions to the problems of backup lie in making it simpler, or even totally transparent, for the end user, whilst avoiding the silos that make the process such a headache for systems administrators.

With an increasing range of mobile devices being used, backups can employ a range of products from different vendors, which can't easily be integrated into a single, centrally administered system. This is where HP's StoreOnce storage and Data Protector come in.

Whilst these two products are available and have been implemented separately by a number of companies, it's when the two are used together as an integrated joint solution that an unbeatable combination is formed.

That's not to say that StoreOnce and Data Protector are not powerful products on their own. StoreOnce consists of a range of hardware backup storage options from entry-level to data centre, and there's even a software-defined Virtual Storage Appliance (VSA) implementation that is hypervisor-agnostic and has no requirement for dedicated hardware.

The latter can be highly beneficial for remote and branch offices, particularly as there is now a 4TB VSA license with support for Hyper-V environments that offers particular cost effectiveness.

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Sort your storage

Where dedicated hardware is required, however, options start with the 1U StoreOnce 2700, which offers 5.5TB usable capacity, arranged as eight virtual tape libraries with 768 emulated cartridges. It can support eight source appliances, and can emulate a variety of LTO tape libraries for backup software compatibility.

The 2U StoreOnce 4500 increases usable capacity to 16TB, with the option to expand this to 124TB (in a 6U chassis), and the ability to emulate 24 virtual tape libraries. Beyond this, the StoreOnce 4700 offers up to 160TB, and the 4900 up to 432TB, emulating 40 and 50 tape libraries respectively. Topping off the range, the StoreOnce 6500 offers expansion up to 1728TB usable capacity in a 42U rack, and up to 384 backup targets. Each hardware option offers an entry point with room to grow, so companies can specify what they need now and only upgrade as demand increases.

Further enhancing the hardware's abilities is the StoreOnce Catalyst deduplication software. This allows the StoreOnce 2700 to back up at a rate of 3.7TB per hour, the 4500 at a rate of 14TB per hour, the 4700 and 4900 at a rate of 22TB per hour, and the 6500 at a whopping 139TB per hour.

StoreOnce Catalyst's deduplication can also reduce the amount of data stored by up to 95 per cent, since duplicate files will only be stored once. This is performed globally, and only performed at one point in the backup chain, hence the significant reduction in bandwidth requirements and backup times, as well as storage requirements.

Whilst StoreOnce provides a range of expandable hardware options for fast, flexible backup data storage, it's only one half of the equation. StoreOnce can centralise backup from any software that supports the devices it emulates, but it doesn't specifically combat the potential cacophony of source devices needing backup. This is where Data Protector comes in.

Creating storage solution synergy

Data Protector maximises storage efficiency with federated deduplication, and provides comprehensive support for leading operating systems, applications and infrastructure. Data Protector is built with virtualised environments specifically in mind, but integrates with applications natively as well.

Data Protector is compatible with Microsoft Windows, Unix and Linux operating systems, offering a Disk Agent for each. This enables that system to be backed up, whilst a Media Agent client system controls the process.

The network environment contains a Cell Manager that orchestrates the relationship between the backup clients and the storage devices being used. The software can back up and restore virtual environments from all the most popular vendors, include VMware, Hyper-V, Microsoft Virtual Server 2005, Citrix XenServer and HP Integrity Virtual Machines. Client-based or device-based encryption can be enabled for data security.

There is also a Notebook Extension which allows data to be backed up and recovered remotely and even offline. Data is captured and backed up automatically every time a file is changed, created or received.

The process is totally transparent to the end user, with no performance impact. The backup data is stored locally if there is no connection available, and then sent efficiently to the data vault. Another key feature comes from the Granular Recovery Extensions, which allow the user of an application to select individual items from a larger restoration job, such as a single file from a Microsoft SharePoint backup directly from within the SharePoint graphical user interface.

However, Data Protector has enhanced features when used in tandem with StoreOnce. Adaptive Backup and Priority allows administrators to give network and capacity priority to business-critical applications over less important data.

The combination also improves the federated deduplication process, providing accelerated backup windows, which are crucial as data requirements grow. But, most importantly, the Data Protector interface also allows administrators to directly manage the backup process alongside the deduplication storage. The administrator can orchestrate the creation of StoreOnce stores, as well as replication and security policies.

The ability to perform all these tasks in place greatly reduces the administrative burden, and the range of options available in one place is even more greatly expanded on a system using the StoreOnce VSA.

The combination of Data Protector's wide platform support, including mobile remote workers, with StoreOnce's comprehensive ability to centralise backup storage in one expandable storage structure, promises to end the need to support a plethora of backup solutions.

It also makes backup transparent to the user, so an enterprise's data can be kept more secure, whether users involve themselves or not.