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Derek Giles of Bull Information Systems looks at how a new breed of storage appliances can overcome issues such as poor network connectivity or lack of local IT staff to ensure that data protection for remote offices and mobile users can be providedData protection is not only a concern for data centres. More and more valuable data resides in servers hosted in small satellite offices and on end user workstations, laptops and other mobile devices. The distributed nature of data in 21st century organisations has to be carefully considered when dealing with data protection issues.
Many organisations have eliminated or significantly reduced their remote office IT staff. This erosion has led to situations where sites have no idea if their backups are failing on a nightly basis because there is no system administrator reviewing the backup logs. Most users won’t perceive a problem until the day they request ‘IT’ to recover business critical documents, the delay and inconsistencies will be deemed unacceptable.
Falling data protection
It’s not, however, just lack of staff that may result in the level of data protection in a remote office falling below that achieved in the centre; issues such as network bandwidth and lengthy or irregular periods of disconnection of mobile devices from the office LAN infrastructure both create issues which need to be addressed.
The requirement for backup and recovery of data held in remote offices where no IT staff are based requires a new solution. A solution needs to be affordable and not consume all the benefits of remote and mobile working, so options such as adding technical staff or improving network connectivity to multiple offices are too expensive.
The most appropriate data protection solution for distributed organisations will be one that is easy to deploy, configure, monitor and use. This leads immediately to consideration of the new breed of appliance storage solutions capable of providing disk to disk (D2D) backup and continuous data protection (CDP). One such appliance is Bull’s StoreWay DPA (Data Protection Appliance).
The StoreWay DPA provides both local storage and backup software with web access for administrators and users. Centralised monitoring allows supervision of the devices deployed in remote offices, to ensure that consistent levels of backup and recovery are available across even the most distributed of organisations. In addition, a dedicated solution, FileSafe, enables full user workstation protection when they are mobile and where they must manage, alone, the restoration of files.
Appliances such as the StoreWay DPA have the advantage that they carry ‘on board’ intelligence which means that no local supervision of the configured machine is required. The StoreWay DPA appliance is available with a range of disk capacities so that no manual intervention to the backup process is required once the appliance is appropriately sized and installed.
Profiles and missions
Control from the organisation’s central IT operations team is maintained through the ability of the central team to define policies through a web console. The StoreWay DPA has the notion of ‘profiles’ and ‘missions’. A profile defines a set of backup properties such as data to be saved, exclusions, possible data recovery procedure (DRP), copying (to tape or another DPA), retention periods, backup mode (full, incremental), and so on. Once defined, a profile is associated with a specific system or systems.
The StoreWay DPA’s unique ‘mission mode’ also allows backup operations to adapt automatically to environment changes such as network problems or unavailable systems. Failed systems will be automatically tried again at a later time according to pre-defined and centrally controlled priority and backup window.
Mission mode also simplifies the addition of new machines to the backup schedule. A new system is simply associated with an already defined mission, or a new mission is defined for it. The appliance itself then dynamically reorganises its mission order – thus maintaining a reliable quality of service with no disruption to operating tasks.
Consistent levels of protection
By deploying appliances in remote offices and departments, central IT groups can rest assured that a consistent level of data protection is being provided across the organisation. Users in remote sites will benefit from this protection and be able to utilise an appliance’s web interface to restore data for themselves when necessary. Thus, an appliance based approach can be a highly effective solution to data protection for remote offices, improving the quality and predictability of backup and restore.
In addition, an appliance based solution does not require additional IT staff, and may lead to a reduction in the central IT team’s workload as users become confident with using the web browser interface for tasks such as self restoration.