Backup to Archive

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The good folks at IDC published a white paper in March 2010 regarding the ROI of data backup and recovery using de-duplication.  Nice paper.  One could spend time picking nits regarding methodologies used in this analysis or any other, but I’d rather focus on the “Challenges and Opportunities” highlighted by the authors on page 13 of the paper.

The authors argue that for smaller organizations, and even some larger firms with satellite offices, backing up to disk and electronically vaulting data may be more cost efficient than backing up to tape technology that is several generations old (LTO-1 was discussed).   The authors certainly paint a picture supporting that position.  However, if one moves beyond the backup and recovery equation to the real elephant in the room, which the authors point out, you’ll find “the looming archive problem”. 

How do you maintain and manage increasing quantities of data over lengthening periods of time while doing so efficiently and cost effectively?  In these situations, I’m not sure keeping disks spinning over 5, 10, 15, and 20 years or more, while adding additional spindles to the mass, is the way to go.  Disks in motion consume power and power is money.  Ask the folks at the Clipper Group about this equation.  For long-term storage like that found in organizational archives, tape’s cost effectiveness can’t be beat.

So what’s a beleaguered storage customer to do in these situations?  Check out an Active Archive.  An active archive allows the user to address the looming archive problem while maximizing the efficiency of available storage pools.  Think single file system, with index, stretched across all your storage that allows for direct retrieval from any of it at any time based upon the search criteria you give it.  Now, critical, frequently accessed data can reside on disk, historical data with minimal recall requirements can be housed on cost effective tape, and you can manage all of it through a single pane of glass.  Doing so allows you to readily provision the storage you already have, refresh it, or add to it as you see fit within your archive.

Active Archive goes well beyond mere backup.  It’s simple, but effective, and it can incorporate disk as the authors of the white paper discuss.  Maybe they should do an ROI analysis on Active Archive as well?