Continuous Backup and Recovery

Understanding continuous backup and recovery technologies

Continuous Backup and Recovery is designed to meet all of your data protection requirements in a single platform across your entire IT estate. The idea is to converge backup, disaster recovery and data mobility across on-premises and cloud systems.

Additionally, continuous backup and recovery tools should offer orchestration, automation and analytics to further simplify data protection.

Continuous Data Protection (CDP)

In the past, synchronous replication has been reserved for mission-critical workloads. Using Change Block Tracking (CBT) for near-synchronous replication, it is possible to back-up data in real-time without having to worry about backup windows and schedules.

CDP is always-on, operating at the hypervisor level and integrating with existing assets. You can benefit from the technology immediately without costly hardware upgrades or replacements.

Track changes with Journaling

By tracking and recording every single change in your application or server, the journal offers finely detailed recovery options. Every five seconds, the journal is updated, recording these changes as checkpoints.

Any of these checkpoints can be used as a recovery point, helping to significantly reduce RPO and potential data loss. A journal is created for all of your virtual machines – even when you have thousands, giving you total control of your production system and backups.

Each journal is also updated with a checkpoint stamp every few seconds. Checkpoints offer another potential recovery point for files, VMs, applications and more

Long-Term Retention

Checkpoints in the journal are available for up to 30 days – beyond that, your CDP solution will need to offer long-term repositories (LTR). The LTR and replicated files are located on secondary storage – often a low-cost cloud repository.

LTR can be configured to maintain files and journals for up to seven years – or even longer if required.

Multi-VM Application Consistency

Complex, enterprise-grade applications typically run across multiple virtual machines. In order to ensure consistent, accurate data at the point of restore, you must be able to select a consistent checkpoint across them all. In this way, you guarantee application consistency because all VMs are restored as a single entity back to the exact same point in time

Orchestration and Automation

The complexity of your operating environment is reflected in the complexity of your backup processes. Consolidating continuous backup and recovery into a single platform will immediately help to simplify operations. However, a leading-edge tool will also include orchestration and administration functionality too.

By configuring the setting in advance, the recovery process – and intermediate stages – can be triggered with a few mouse clicks. Much of the procedure will then complete automatically so the IT team can focus on other activities in the middle of a data centre crisis.

Analytics

Understanding how your backup and recovery processes are performing is more than a pass/fail indicator. Continuous backup and recovery tools should provide you with detailed analytics so you can see trends, anomalies and issues without having to dig through event logs and reports. Using these analytics you should be able to better model “what if” scenarios for planning future backup infrastructure requirements. And to spot opportunities for improvement.

Taking the next step

The value of your data continues to increase – data loss is no longer tolerable or acceptable. To avoid problems, your business should be looking at implementing a continuous backup and recovery toolkit immediately.

To learn more about your options – and our preferred continuous backup and recovery platform, Veeam – please get in touch.

backup and recovery

Dealing with traditional backup and recovery challenges

In the data-driven business, access to data is everything. Protecting against loss is a strategic priority – and yet many businesses are still reliant on 30-year-old concepts and processes.

Some of the backup and recovery challenges that we have learned to live with over the years are now becoming untenable.

Here are some of the issues you need to consider – and address – as your digital transformation efforts gather pace.

1. Infrastructure complexity

The rapid evolution of your data estate has created an infrastructure that is complex to maintain – and even harder to backup. In the age of hybrid computing, you could be using any combination of technologies and applications, from tape autoloaders to tiered storage arrays with multiple backup targets.

This is an administrative nightmare – and a significant risk to your operations in the event of a disaster recovery event.

2. Tool complexity

This complicated infrastructure typically requires multiple applications to meet your backup goals. Disaster recovery, system-level backup, file-level backup and long-term archiving – all essential functions, each with its own toolset, tailored to your disaster recovery objectives.

If you’re lucky, these apps will integrate neatly. In reality, you’re facing another administrative nightmare.

3. Unacceptably long backup windows

The corporate data estate is growing exponentially – unlike your backup windows. Backup jobs are typically run after hours to limit their impact on system resources. Eventually, however, there is too much data to copy in the allotted time – and that’s before you consider the I/O limitations of your network and backup hardware. Or the various backup checkpoints speed across your VMs.

Eventually, overlapping backup windows and unclear checkpoints will bring the whole system into doubt – can you trust your backups are accurate and complete?

4. Unacceptably long recovery windows

If saving data to backup is slow, recovery is just as problematic. Pulling data back from an archive is also limited by the I/O performance of your hardware and network. And there’s a very good chance you will be trying to recover data during working hours when there is additional load on your servers, slowing operations further still.

5. Outdated RPOs and RTOs

The size of your backup sets coupled with the physical limitations of the hardware means that RPOs and RTOs are commonly quoted in days. Waiting days to successfully complete a backup/recovery operation is simply unacceptable – and unsustainable – when dealing with mission-critical applications.

6. Outdated technologies

Periodic daily backups are only used for secondary systems that are rarely used. Incremental snapshots and array-based replication are a far safer option, allowing you to backup regularly throughout the day and narrowing the window during which data may be lost.

However, these developments are still insufficient for your line-of-business applications that are updated many thousands of times each hour. Every gap between snapshots is an opportunity for data to be lost.

A glimpse of the future – continuous backups

Ultimately, the success of any backup and recovery strategy is the speed at which you can resume operations. To help bring narrow that timeframe, we now have continuous data protection (CDP). CDP uses software-based replication to capture every data modification, copying it to a target repository.

CDP is an ideal solution for disaster recovery; replicating data to the cloud allows your business to resume operations in a matter of minutes – from anywhere in the world.

To discuss your backup and recovery challenges and learn more about overcoming the limitations of legacy backup and recovery solutions, please get in touch.

Cloud-based backup and disaster recover i

Cloud-based Backup and Disaster Recovery Planning – The Essentials

Because data is the lifeblood of your business, you need to ensure it is always protected against loss. This short guide will take you through the essentials of planning your data protection strategy and explores the options for cloud-based backup and disaster recovery solutions.

Technology choices

Backup and disaster recovery (DR) are similar – but different – concepts, designed to protect your data against loss. Although the terms are sometimes used interchangeably (even by technology vendors), you must know the difference to ensure you choose the right systems for you.

Do I need backup?

Backup technologies are designed to create an exact copy of your data so that you can always restore it in the event of a major problem. If your file server is infected by ransomware, backup allows you to recover affected files quickly and efficiently. This technology is particularly well suited to lower-priority data sets and systems.

Do I need Disaster Recovery?

Disaster recovery technologies are typically focused on helping your business resume operations as quickly as possible after a significant outage. Data from your mission-critical systems will be continuously replicated to the cloud (or similar off-site facility), allowing you to bring operations back online quickly.

Backup and disaster recovery (DR) are similar – but different – concepts. Although the terms are sometimes used interchangeably (even by technology vendors), you must know the difference to ensure you choose the right systems for you. You will probably need a combination of both – backup for low-priority systems, DR for the most important.

Building a workable plan

A successful plan relies on knowing what data you have and how important it is to your operations. Prioritising data will help you decide how it should be backed up and recovered.

Assessing RTO

Recovery Time Objective (RTO) describes the amount of time between your systems going down and you bringing them back online again. For mission-critical systems, your RTO targets must be as low as possible – perhaps just minutes – so you can restart operations quickly.

Systems with a high RTO are best suited to cloud-based disaster recovery solutions that offer near-instant fail-over capabilities.

Assessing RPO

Recovery Point Objective measures how much data is lost when your systems go offline. Some of your line-of-business applications will be updating constantly; any updates during a period of downtime may be lost entirely. Other systems update far less frequently – a few hours of downtime would not cause any data loss.

Systems with a low RPO are best suited to DR technologies that offer instant replication to ensure every detail is captured and protected. Higher RPO data can be used with lower-cost traditional backup mechanisms.

Replaceability and interdependence

As you assess your data estate, you need to answer two questions:

  • How easily can we replace lost data?
  • How does each application relate to the others?

Some data is more important to operations than others. Your financial data is essential – the CFO’s financial modelling spreadsheet for the financial year 1998/99 not so much. Plan your backups so that critical data is prioritised and protected accordingly.

Second, don’t forget to assess the interdependence between systems. Sometimes rarely-used systems underpin your mission-critical apps. If the ‘unimportant’ system is not backed up correctly, it’s more important sibling will be unusable. Both systems need similar levels of protection to avoid these problems.

Implementing backup

A good backup plan has three key elements:

  • Retain at least three copies of your data
  • Data is stored on two different media
  • At least one of your backup copies is stored offsite

Cloud backup solutions make this process incredibly simple, with many services offering multiple versions for restore. And because the data is stored offsite, it takes care of media and geography concerns.

Implementing disaster recovery

Disaster recovery is all about restoring operations as quickly as possible. In most cases, this will be in the form of a co-located data centre or cloud-based platform.

When choosing a partner, consider:

  • Are their replication capabilities sufficient to prevent data loss?
  • Do they offer tools and support to manage the post-failover and fail-back processes?
  • Do they offer a pricing model that aligns with your budgets?

Again, cloud technologies offer a good level of protection, flexibility and scalability that is more suitable for most businesses than a traditional co-location setup.

Testing your provisions

Replicating and backing up data is relatively easy – but can you recover it when needed? The final stage of any backup and disaster recovery plan is to test that your fail-over and recovery systems work.

Essentially, you need to be sure that your RTO and RPO goals can be met. This will mean testing backup mechanisms to ensure data can be properly restored within the specified timeframes. Similarly, you will need to trigger a live failover event periodically to confirm DR resources kick in as expected and any disruption falls within acceptable boundaries.

Through testing, you will identify weaknesses and opportunities for improvement before encountering a show-stopping outage.

Get in touch

For more help and advice about Cloud-based Backup and Disaster Recovery technologies that help protect your business against disruption and data loss, please get in get in touch.

IT resilience

Cost savings and benefits enabled by an IT resilience platform

The always-on nature of modern business means that the cost of downtime has increased exponentially in recent years. The need to restore operations quickly and the complexity of the modern hybrid computing environment means that traditional backup mechanisms are unable to keep pace.

IT resilience platforms like Zerto overcome these shortcomings, allowing businesses to better protect their operations from failure – and to recover quickly in the event of an outage. Indeed, the benefits of IT resilience platforms are substantial.

Reducing downtime and outage costs

Even in a 99.999% uptime environment, downtime is still a reality. Forrester Research estimates costs of more than £7000 every hour that systems are down – including planned maintenance. Avoiding unplanned downtime is vital – as is reducing the window of time required for planned maintenance.

According to the same Forrester report, the Zerto IT resilience plan delivers savings of £1.8m on unplanned downtime during the first three years after implementation. This is in addition to a further £695k saving realised by simplifying the process of deploying upgrades, patches and migrations.

Consolidate DR and backup tools

Zerto offers a chance to consolidate numerous operations management tools – backup, disaster recovery, staging, deployment etc – into a single application. This consolidation reduces application purchasing, licensing and maintenance fees – by more than £560k.

Simplify disaster recovery and backup operations

Disaster recovery and backup routines are only as good as the testing that ensures everything is working correctly. Although vital, these tests can be time and resource intensive, consuming budget that could be better spent on strategic projects.

The Zerto IT resilience platform streamlines many routine backup/DR operations, simplifying the testing process and reducing the burden on the IT team.

Streamline technology migrations

Technology migrations are a major undertaking, usually involving many months of planning, testing and staggered rollouts. An IT resilience platform can help to simplify the migration process, particularly when using cloud services.

Zerto has been shown to achieve no data loss and near-zero recovery point objectives using change-block tracking during the move.

Conclusion

The Zerto IT resilience platform improves the data security of your business and allows your team to be more productive through automation. With deeper insights comes greater control, allowing your IT to flex and adapt as business needs change.

Zerto also offers significant cost savings. In total, Forrester calculate an average ROI of 279% realised over three years. This represents a sizeable proportion of IT budget that can be reclaimed for investment in other strategic projects. And with the power and reliability of continuous data protection, Zerto makes it easier for your business to embrace the fail-faster AGILE model – without concerns about the impact testing and development has on operations.

To learn more about continuous data protection, IT resilience platforms and what Zerto can do for your business, please get in touch.

Cloud backup and disaster recovery - Cloud like filing cabinet, hosting or database with folders isolated on white background.

Creating a Successful Cloud Backup and Disaster Recovery Plan

Cloud backup and disaster recovery is easy to set up. But how can you be sure these provisions will actually work when the worst happens, and you encounter a genuine disaster?

As always, success is dependent on planning, the better your plan, the less risk of failure.

Audit your systems and data

Effective backup (and recovery) relies on having at least one copy of all of your data duplicated off-site to protect against loss of the original. As you begin designing a backup and DR plan, there are three questions to answer:

1.  What data assets do we have?

2.  Where is the data stored?

3.  What tools do we need to backup that information to the cloud?

As your business adopts more cloud services, defining what you have and where it is located is the first step to defining a workable plan. As well as the on-premise file shares, you probably have information stored in several SaaS services, including Office 365 and OneDrive. You may also have hosted email (Outlook 365) – anything stored there will also need to be included in your provisions.

You will then need to assess the available technologies to find one that can backup all of your data from every location. Do you need to install local agents? Can backup and restore operations be completed from a single console? Are there any permissions issues you need to address when connecting to third-party services?

Once you have these answers, you are in a position to select a cloud backup provider and to begin backing up to their hosted service.

Prioritise your systems and data

During a disaster, your business must be able to resume skeleton operations as quickly as possible. This means prioritising applications and data so that they are recovered in order of importance to the running of your business.

You should also look to automate as much of the recovery process as possible, freeing your IT staff to focus on other tasks (there will be plenty during a show-stopping outage).

Test your recovery plan

The worst time to discover your disaster recovery plan doesn’t work is during a disaster. Any kind of oversight could have significant consequences – which is why testing is so important.

By testing the DR plan in advance, you can confirm that:

    • All of your data is being backed up correctly
    • Your cloud backup archives are usable
    • Your order of restore does match your operational priorities.
    • Recovery completes within the acceptable timeframes.

You can then refine your DR plan, tweaking, optimising and re-aligning the various elements as required. Your cloud backup and disaster recovery plan must then be reviewed and tested regularly to ensure it continues to meet your needs.

Define – Prioritise – Test

Much like any other DR plan, an effective cloud backup strategy has three elements; define, prioritise and test. So long as your plan addresses them all, your business systems should be ready to face any outage.

To learn more about cloud backup and how to build a disaster recovery plan that meets the needs of your business, please get in touch.