IT: Application restores must keep pace with 24/7 government
In government today, IT applications such as SharePoint, Exchange, SQL and Oracle — especially on virtualized infrastructures — need advanced data protection. The data protection is not just for cybersecurity to prevent malicious activity. The protection is also needed to safeguard backup data on a system that allows government agencies to get the system back up and running at a moment’s notice in the event of a system failure or loss.
Americans can’t afford a moment’s break from essential government services, from national security to processing entitlements. It is unacceptable for IT data restoration to take a full business day — much less multiple days — in the event of loss. Fast restores are mission-essential. But this can be a challenge for administrators who don’t have funding for an IT solution that reliably backs up data.
It’s rare for an entire application to go down. What usually happens is that single items or particular users lose data. Data loss can occur in the form of corrupt sites in SharePoint, lost data stores in Exchange or custom applications issues that run on SQL or Oracle. The quickly growing space of block-based backups and integrated virtualized backups address the backup window problem, but they do not always translate into faster recoveries. That’s a threat.
I’ll discuss below how to navigate the waters of the two types of IT products to get the most cost-effective solution with the fastest restores for your government agency’s needs.
Block-based backups can be in the form of source-side de-duplication or array-based backups. Such products remove the redundancy of whole file incrementals being moved from source servers to the backup target. Most often, the array-based solutions offer the best restore times, as source-side de-duplication can offer comparable or sometimes slower restores than legacy backups. When comparing the block backup products, look for a description of how whole-server- and single-file restores are accomplished. In many cases, it is a multi-step process that is slow and cumbersome.
Integrated virtualized backups
The integrated virtualized backups usually use VMware’s VADP (replaced VCP) or Hyper-V’s VSS APIs. These solutions allow for secondary servers to back up the VMs instead of the production servers. No matter if it’s VADP- or VSS-based, the application integration is the responsibility of the backup application, not the virtualization API. Without application integration, restores may not be usable. These solutions usually offer quicker full-system restores because of the ability to re-insert a whole VM. They can slow down single-item or file restores, depending on whether they can crack open a VM. As in the block backup solutions, look for descriptions on how a full-system- or item restore is accomplished.
Striking the right balance
There are several good options to consider, so consult the right data performance architects who will have the proper IT expertise to get the perfect blend of restore power into your agency’s architecture. Here is a link to get started. Most likely, the best total solution will probably have both block-based and virtualization integration with a consistent backup and restore process.
The most obvious real-world example of this is a SharePoint site that serves the public as a web app. This is a growing trend in IT for everything from web storefronts to web information portals. SharePoint has many great features, but you need the right tools for backing up and restoring data. Don’t be caught with your agency’s face to its constituents down because it’s taking too long to restore data.
Jean-Paul Bergeaux is chief technology officer at Warwick, N.Y.-based SwishData. The company offers data recovery and backup solutions. It ensures that government agencies can restore their IT data completely, efficiently, and quickly — without a lengthy backup window. The company has skills in combining technologies that enable agencies to reduce their backup times, accelerate restores and maintain network performance.