backup technologies - how far have we come?

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Backup Technologies – How Far Have We Come?

Once considered stale and stagnant, essence of a practice that is meant to be disruptive by nature – backup technology has undergone a renaissance over the last few years. These developments have been so dramatic and rapid, that the newly integrated features even provide business value, disaster or no disaster.

What prompted these developments?

The impracticality of the backup window and the subsequent high RPO values, together with the adoption of server virtualization.

Backup Window – Then and Now!

Backup window is the time required to run a backup process. Previously, because of the limited capabilities of the then existing backup technologies, the time required for backing up data was unaccommodating in the context of the entailing disruption that it carried. Backups had to be run from the start and since the process requires consumption of computational resources, running it in parallel together with daily business operations meant organizational tasks had to be interrupted.

The solution that administrators came with was to schedule nightly backups.

But even that solution short-lived.

Running a backup at night meant that businesses were at risk of losing a full day’s worth of data. In case of mission critical data, the RPO on offer was deemed too high.

So, improvements were sought – this time not in terms of strategy but in terms of technology that powered these backup runs.

Up came the techniques, such as global deduplication and incremental forever backups, because of which administrators no longer had to run a full backup with each new cycle.

This considerably reduced the backup window, but in the fast-paced world of business, it wasn’t enough. With time, businesses realized that the volume of data to be backed up eventually ended up exceeding the practicality of the time window.

Further improvements were sought.

Backup vendors now introduced technologies that were capable of providing continuous data protection.

Block level backups were created frequently and they were copied to a storage array. This eliminated the need for a backup window altogether. Furthermore, the RPO got reduced from 24 hours to 5 minutes.

Adoption of Server Virtualization – It Made Instant Recovery Possible

Server virtualization gave rise to the concept of virtual data centres and its increased adoption allowed vendors to explore the possibility of converging backup and disaster recovery process.

The concept of backup is traditionally associated with ensuring the creation of point-in-time copies of data or systems, where these copies should be available for restoration when needed. Disaster recovery on the other hand, focuses on ensuring that mission critical operations and systems keep running in the event of a disaster.

Server virtualization enabled the bridging of the gap between the two and the concept of instant recovery was enacted. Administrators no longer had to wait for the restoration process to complete, virtual machines could be brought into immediate action. RTO was reduced.

Backup and recovery was now possible almost simultaneously.

And this is how far we have come with backup technologies, with the journey still continuing and new solutions getting introduced with each leaped mile.

How much further can we go? It’s the answer, we would like to explore in another post. See you there!