Top 5 Backup Trends (Plus Five Bonus Trends for Active Archiving)

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Recent natural disasters have shown many companies firsthand that everything can be gone in a flash.

“With research consistently showing that one major loss event can mean the end of business operations, 2013 is the year to get control of data and the protection of those critical files,” said Margaret Dawson, VP of product management at cloud storage provider Symform, Inc.

And that means backup. Accordingly, here are some to the top trends in the backup arena.

1. Continued Growth of Deduplication

Data volumes continue to grow, while backup windows shrink. It may theoretically be possible to scale the backup hardware continuously, but a more practical solution is to reduce the quantity of data that moves over the network and gets stored.

“Of the available data optimization technologies, data deduplication is the one with the greatest potential to deliver substantial and recurring impact on the cost and manageability of data growth,” says Wayne Salpietro, director of marketing, Permabit Technology Corporation. “Rampant data growth affects budgets, operating costs, floor space and, of course, capital expenditure through the amount of data created and its associated cost.”

2. Automated Storage Tiering for Branch Offices

Backup is not just a way to preserve against disasters, but also to remove the clutter from high speed systems in order to reduce storage costs and improve performance. Rather than dumping the data off into a backup system, use of storage tiering achieves those results while keeping the data readily available.

While this approach is widely used in corporate data centers, the Drobo 5N network-attached storage (NAS) device, released in January, extends it to personal and professional users (Mac and Windows) who need to share and back up files over the network. It provides native support for Apple’s Time Machine backup software. The 5N uses Drobo’s BeyondRAID technology to automate data protection with thin provisioning, instant expansion, mixed drive size flexibility, automatic protection levels, dual-disk redundancy, virtual hot spare and drive reordering. It also uses Drobo’s Data-Aware Tiering, which automatically configures and utilizes both hard drives and SSD technology. Pricing for the 5N starts at $599.

3. Zone-Level Deduplication

A widening array of deduplication backup appliances is hitting the market with enhanced capabilities. ExaGrid Systems, Inc., appliances have zone-level deduplication, which identifies objects within a body of data that are similar to other objects previously seen. It uses both content-aware and generic deduplication, increasing the ability to identify redundant information.

Per ExaGrid, block level deduplication requires a huge hash table, since each block is uniquely identified, limiting its scalability. Zone-level deduplication, on the other hand, allows the use of larger, flexibly-sized backup zones, and looks for unique bytes within the zones. This approach results in a smaller tracking table, which is easier to share across backup appliances.

4. Consolidation of Backup Solutions

As virtualization started to spread, many companies began using VM-only backup solutions to protect their VMs. Now they are moving back toward consolidated solutions.

“Organizations were willing to sacrifice the simplicity of a single solution to ensure they had protection for their VMs in addition to on-premise data,” says Bob Maeser, CTO and VP of R&D, data protection, Quest Software (now part of Dell). “Ironically, the continued proliferation of virtualization will now drive customers back the other way, toward the convenience of a single-source backup and recovery platform. Only this time, they will do so with a virtual-first lens, looking first at a product’s proficiency in protection of virtual environments.”

5. Protection of Services Prioritized Over Protecting Infrastructure

With virtualization and cloud computing, the older backup strategy based around physical systems is no longer appropriate. A service-level approach is needed.

“Backup operations will need to adapt to become more closely associated with the need for business and technology service continuity, rather than merely focusing on protecting specific infrastructure components,” says Maeser. “To facilitate this, global data protection management will become more centralized in order to more closely align with an organization’s service level expectations and corresponding service level agreements (SLAs) for protecting a given application and/or business service.”

Bonus: Active Archive Top Five

Active archiving involves using online tape libraries to store rarely accessed data or large data volumes. While not as fast as disk, with automated tape systems, the data can be accessed in under two minutes.

“2013 looks to be a big year for active archive deployments as active archives are becoming a best practice for organizations that need to store and access large volumes of data,” says Floyd Christofferson, an Active Archive Alliance Board Member, a trade group which includes companies such as SGI, Fujifilm, Crossroads, QStar, Spectra Logic, and FileTek. The alliance has issued its own top five trends for active archives this year:

  1. Continued Growth of Unstructured Data
  2. File-based Storage Solutions Will Take Center Stage
  3. Increased Focus on Data Profiling
  4. Data Security and Encryption at Forefront
  5. Better Understanding of Active Archives and Their Value
Drew Robb
Drew Robb
Drew Robb is a contributing writer for Datamation, Enterprise Storage Forum, eSecurity Planet, Channel Insider, and eWeek. He has been reporting on all areas of IT for more than 25 years. He has a degree from the University of Strathclyde UK (USUK), and lives in the Tampa Bay area of Florida.

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