Storage front-and-center in 2007

Storage front-and-center in 2007

Farewell the storage problems of 2006 and bring on the new year

Statistics show that 30 percent to 60 percent of all backup jobs do not complete successfully, says Lin. "The most common problems for companies backing up straight from disk to tape are firstly, failure of backup due to errors such as changes to administrator password, directory path name and keying typos and secondly, backup is 'aborted' when the time window for the job has been exceeded. This is a business risk unknown to many managements."

Many local companies are facing backup problems. "Data is growing very rapidly but the time available for backup is shrinking, particularly with applications running on a 24x7 basis. So a highly scalable backup solution is essential," said Li. "One of the most difficult areas for storage and backup is with file servers where the stored data can easily grow to the terabyte level but backup speeds remain comparatively slow."

A key solution is disk-to-disk backup. "Disk-based backup is one of the best hopes for near-perfect backup," said Li. "A number of years ago people were thinking LAN-free backup was the best solution but now people are thinking in terms of volume-based backup with file-based restore capability, all using disks. Server-free backup is also being adopted."

"We now do our backup disk-to-disk and backup the copy on tape. Previously, we were online during daytime and batched the backup at night," said Hickerson, "Now, customers using online systems expect 24x7 access, so we have 24x7 hours working, there is no opportunity to use direct tape backup."

2007 offsite backup encryption

In a January 2006 report, Gartner analyst Adam Couture found that concern over theft or loss of archive tapes is changing users' behaviour. "50 percent of high-end respondents say they will encrypt all backup tapes and 58 percent will review their internal backup security policies." The same survey reported that an 'alarming 60 percent' of low-end respondents and 80 percent of high-end respondents continue to back up data to a local device.

"In 2007, I expect that financial or healthcare institutions will face some compliance-related issues when they perform online backup to remote sites," said Hickerson. "They need to ensure that sensitive information relating to customer accounts is well protected. Online encryption is one solution."

2006 saw increased reports of offsite archive tapes being stolen or lost and users are looking for a solution. "High-speed tape encryption-our system encrypts at 120 MB/second-is something more users need, and key management software is included," said Lin.

Disaster recovery

Midland Realty has a production datacenter at our head office, and this is connected over a fibre network, to its new standby storage facility at PCCW which is now synchronized almost real-time, and acts as the DR site. "Our server writes to both sites for data synchronization, with just a few seconds delay, so if the connection were cut, we would lose very little data," said Francis Fung, CTO, Midland Realty, "In case the production site has problem, all our 300 branches can access PCCW with minimum interruption through an optical network."

"All our 300 branches are connected to the production servers, and in case of disaster, we would switch them over manually to the standby systems at PCCW's IP network in about half an hour," continued Fung, "We considered automatic switchover, but that raises the danger of switchover if our network became congested."

"In our business, we handle many contracts and other documents related to customer transactions, and we have installed a document imaging system to store them," said Fung. "Usually, standard documents are changed to suit the contract, then signed, and we make copies. The originals are sent to our physical store, and the copies can be scanned and linked to our database for searching."

Typical Hong Kong companies do not excel at business continuity planning, and backup activities are often too casual, with no offsite location, even for archive tapes. "The trend is to take backup more seriously, and make more use of data replication between two sites," said Ko. "Smaller companies use a commercial datacenter, with a synchronous link for banks and other companies with online transactions, and cheaper asynchronous solutions for the rest. More serious offsite protection of tapes is another trend."

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