How Many Recovery Plans Do We Need?

November 16, 2009

Several of our bloggers have written about backups in The InnerLayer. This morning, I had an experience that makes me wonder how many recovery plans we need.

I walked out of the house to the driveway and saw that my left rear tire was flat. An enormous nail had punctured my tire right in the middle of the tread, and the slow leak deflated the tire overnight. To recover from this disaster, I needed to get my vehicle drivable and get to the Discount Tire location near my house so that they could fix the flat. Below is a log of how the recovery plans worked out.

Recovery Plan #1: Call roadside assistance. While waiting on them to change my tire, logon from home and get some work done before going to Discount Tire. I have leased four different brands of vehicles over the past 10 years, and roadside assistance was always included with the lease. So I call the 800 number and they tell me I don’t have roadside assistance. (Note to self: read the fine print on the next lease.) Result: FAIL

Recovery Plan #2: Inflate tire with can of Fix-a-Flat. I retrieved the can from my garage, followed the instructions, and when I depressed the button to fill the tire, the can was defective and the contents spewed from the top of the can rather than filling the tire. Result: FAIL

Recovery Plan #3: Use foot operated bicycle pump to inflate tire and drive to Discount Tire. I have actually done this successfully before with slow leaks like this one. It is third in priority because it is harder and more tiring than the first two options. So I go to my garage and look at where the pump is stored. It isn’t there. I scour the garage to find it. It is gone. Result: FAIL

Recovery Plan #4: Change out of office clothes into junky clothes, drag out the jack and spare and change the tire myself. This is number four in priority because it is the biggest hassle. I will spare you all the slapstick comedy of a finance guy jacking up a vehicle and changing the tire (finding the special key for the locking lug nuts was an interesting sub-plot to the whole story), so I’ll summarize and say RESULT: Success!

As a side note, I must give props to Discount Tire. Having bought tires there before, I was in their database as a customer and they fixed the flat and installed it on my vehicle for no charge. I recommend them!

All this got me to thinking about not only having backups, but having redundant recovery plans. Sure, you’ve got a recent copy of all your data – that’s great! Now, what’s your plan for restoring that data? If you have an experience like my flat tire recovery this morning, it might be a good idea to think through several ways to recover and restore the data. Our EVault offering will certainly be one good strategy.

Comments

November 18th, 2009 at 3:04pm

So right you are, Gary.

EVault is a good tool, and provides the means to build a good strategy.

In a traditional environment, we relied heavily on streaming tapes to store our vital data.

Tapes have several weak points as a disaster recovery media for you data, let's name a few:
- Slow - Tapes are slow, especially if you need something from the end of them, and they've been rewound and ejected.

- Unreliable - In many environments, an entire backup (and even multiple backups) can fit on a single tape. Remember that old cassette tape you recorded from the radio in your younger years, the one that sounded garbled after you played it 100 times, or after it came too near a magnet, or it broke, or it was left out in the rain, or fell in the sink, or anything like that? Data tapes are susceptible to the same problems.

- Cost - Tape alone isn't very expensive, you can get a high capacity tape for about $50 depending on the media type, but a high capacity tape drive can cost hundreds of dollars, or even thousands or up to tens of thousands for an auto-loader system. Now consider that a proper disaster recovery plan requires you to send that tape off-site. Now you have costs of physically moving and storing that tape in another location. More tapes cost more money to do this with.

- Security - Unless you've written the data with an encrypted drive, or have a plug-in for your system that writes the data in an encrypted format, anyone who gets their hands on the data can peek at your data if they have the right tape drive. The driver who handles moving your tape off-site might accidentally leave your tape somewhere that it shouldn't be, like at your competitor's office.

- Lack Redundancy - Tapes by themselves have no redundancy unless you create two tapes with the same data on them. This means either performing the backup twice (which doubles your backup window) or copying the first tape to the second. If the first tape had a reliability issue, you've just replicated the errors from the first tape to the second, and nothing good can come of that.

Why is EVault a better solution?

- Fast - EVault backs up over SoftLayer's private network, at wire speed. It's stored on disks where critical data can be located and begin restoration in seconds. Seek times are measured in milliseconds, not in minutes. Backup windows are reduced because of the delta change method used, which picks up the changes of files at each backup, rather than every file that had a change. If 4KB changed in a 40GB file, you backup the data that changed, not all 40GB of it.

- Reliable - EVault constantly reviews the data it has stored, and the data it collects, and has a system of checks and balances to ensure data integrity. The data is stored on redundant disk arrays which protect your data from a single device failure. The list here is long, and includes some items from the next few categories, so I'll mention more about this in a moment.

- Cost - EVault is very cheap to own. For the price of one high-capacity tape per month, which is what you would spend simply to provide yourself a monthly archive tape in a traditional system, EVault can provide all your daily, weekly and monthly archival needs (*depending on data type and quantity, retention requirements, etc).

- Security - There is no middle man required to take your data off-site. If you have a server in Dallas, order EVault in Seattle or Washington DC, and your backups immediately and automatically go off-site. While in transit over the wire, the data is encrypted, preventing a "man in the middle" peeking on your data. Your data is stored in a secured location on the EVault system, which cannot be accessed by anyone other than you. You can further encrypt the data stored on the vault where no-one can even recover it without your passphrase. Nobody can make a mistake that misplaces your data, or puts it into the hands of criminals (or worse, the competition!)

- High Redundancy Factor - I've already mentioned the storage system under the reliability section, but what's more you can enable a feature called Dual-Vault and simultaneously backup your data to multiple sites. If your server is in Dallas, you can backup to Dallas and Seattle at the same time, or for maximum protection, you can backup your Dallas server to Seattle and Washington DC at the same time.

- Scalable Retention - Notice I didn't mention this with tapes- If you want to maintain a proper retention strategy with tape, you have to purchase extra tapes for each level of retention so they can be stored for re-use at different intervals. With EVault, we can maintain as many retention levels as required by each individual's recovery requirements *without* the requirements of doubling or tripling the media requirements. Because EVault collects the delta changed data (see what I said under the "Fast" section) we can easily maintain the changes for each level of retention, so that the data can be rebuilt as it existed on any date in the retention plan. Again to my example of the 40GB data file, if the average change is 4KB per day, and if our retention calls for seven (7) daily copies, five (5) weekly copies and twelve (12) monthly copies, we collect 40GB + 96KB of change data, rather than 960GB of data. You can easily see from this example that EVault can scale to meet your retention requirements without breaking the bank!

My fellow administrators- what is keeping you from protecting your data with EVault? Sign up today!

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Comments

November 18th, 2009 at 3:04pm

So right you are, Gary.

EVault is a good tool, and provides the means to build a good strategy.

In a traditional environment, we relied heavily on streaming tapes to store our vital data.

Tapes have several weak points as a disaster recovery media for you data, let's name a few:
- Slow - Tapes are slow, especially if you need something from the end of them, and they've been rewound and ejected.

- Unreliable - In many environments, an entire backup (and even multiple backups) can fit on a single tape. Remember that old cassette tape you recorded from the radio in your younger years, the one that sounded garbled after you played it 100 times, or after it came too near a magnet, or it broke, or it was left out in the rain, or fell in the sink, or anything like that? Data tapes are susceptible to the same problems.

- Cost - Tape alone isn't very expensive, you can get a high capacity tape for about $50 depending on the media type, but a high capacity tape drive can cost hundreds of dollars, or even thousands or up to tens of thousands for an auto-loader system. Now consider that a proper disaster recovery plan requires you to send that tape off-site. Now you have costs of physically moving and storing that tape in another location. More tapes cost more money to do this with.

- Security - Unless you've written the data with an encrypted drive, or have a plug-in for your system that writes the data in an encrypted format, anyone who gets their hands on the data can peek at your data if they have the right tape drive. The driver who handles moving your tape off-site might accidentally leave your tape somewhere that it shouldn't be, like at your competitor's office.

- Lack Redundancy - Tapes by themselves have no redundancy unless you create two tapes with the same data on them. This means either performing the backup twice (which doubles your backup window) or copying the first tape to the second. If the first tape had a reliability issue, you've just replicated the errors from the first tape to the second, and nothing good can come of that.

Why is EVault a better solution?

- Fast - EVault backs up over SoftLayer's private network, at wire speed. It's stored on disks where critical data can be located and begin restoration in seconds. Seek times are measured in milliseconds, not in minutes. Backup windows are reduced because of the delta change method used, which picks up the changes of files at each backup, rather than every file that had a change. If 4KB changed in a 40GB file, you backup the data that changed, not all 40GB of it.

- Reliable - EVault constantly reviews the data it has stored, and the data it collects, and has a system of checks and balances to ensure data integrity. The data is stored on redundant disk arrays which protect your data from a single device failure. The list here is long, and includes some items from the next few categories, so I'll mention more about this in a moment.

- Cost - EVault is very cheap to own. For the price of one high-capacity tape per month, which is what you would spend simply to provide yourself a monthly archive tape in a traditional system, EVault can provide all your daily, weekly and monthly archival needs (*depending on data type and quantity, retention requirements, etc).

- Security - There is no middle man required to take your data off-site. If you have a server in Dallas, order EVault in Seattle or Washington DC, and your backups immediately and automatically go off-site. While in transit over the wire, the data is encrypted, preventing a "man in the middle" peeking on your data. Your data is stored in a secured location on the EVault system, which cannot be accessed by anyone other than you. You can further encrypt the data stored on the vault where no-one can even recover it without your passphrase. Nobody can make a mistake that misplaces your data, or puts it into the hands of criminals (or worse, the competition!)

- High Redundancy Factor - I've already mentioned the storage system under the reliability section, but what's more you can enable a feature called Dual-Vault and simultaneously backup your data to multiple sites. If your server is in Dallas, you can backup to Dallas and Seattle at the same time, or for maximum protection, you can backup your Dallas server to Seattle and Washington DC at the same time.

- Scalable Retention - Notice I didn't mention this with tapes- If you want to maintain a proper retention strategy with tape, you have to purchase extra tapes for each level of retention so they can be stored for re-use at different intervals. With EVault, we can maintain as many retention levels as required by each individual's recovery requirements *without* the requirements of doubling or tripling the media requirements. Because EVault collects the delta changed data (see what I said under the "Fast" section) we can easily maintain the changes for each level of retention, so that the data can be rebuilt as it existed on any date in the retention plan. Again to my example of the 40GB data file, if the average change is 4KB per day, and if our retention calls for seven (7) daily copies, five (5) weekly copies and twelve (12) monthly copies, we collect 40GB + 96KB of change data, rather than 960GB of data. You can easily see from this example that EVault can scale to meet your retention requirements without breaking the bank!

My fellow administrators- what is keeping you from protecting your data with EVault? Sign up today!

Leave a Reply

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