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FalconStor: Continuous Data Protection and Virtual Tape Libraries: it’s a team game

November 2007 by FalconStor

There is more than a passing interest from business customers about Continuous Data Protection (CDP), and with good reason. With a true CDP solution, data is backed up on an ongoing basis even as changes are made, and one can essentially go back to any point in time if need be and recover the desired data from that moment. This eliminates the risk of data loss in between regular backups — the ultimate objective of data protection. But when CDP is combined with VirtualTape Library (VTL) technology, in which data is backed up to disk-based virtual tapes instead of physical tapes, dependency on backup windows is eradicated — and data protection is truly optimised.

The best, most comprehensive CDP solutions provide non-stop data protection for all infrastructures: SAN, NAS, and DAS. Typically, different elements of any given solution will protect different elements of an environment: one product or option might protect a networked storage environment via continuous data replication software, and host machines (including notebooks, desktops, Exchange clusters, etc.) that use DAS might be protected via a host-based replication solution.

The point of CDP solutions is that they empower users intelligently to ‘roll back’ data to any point in time, or set policies so that the software takes snapshots at time intervals that make the most sense for your business operations. CDP allows customers to choose ideal checkpoints and recovery points for vital data stores including databases, application servers, and email servers. A few implementations of CDP, including FalconStor’s unique application-aware Snapshot Agents, enable databases and message stores to be replicated with full transactional integrity. The result: instant access to the replica for recovery, daily backup, and data mining.

Virtual Tape Library technology, meanwhile, does away with backup windows by using disk to emulate almost any tape library, with high-speed data transfer and the ability to perform multiple concurrent backups. It can import/export from/to physical tapes without impacting production servers. In addition, virtual tape libraries eliminate robotic failures associated with physical tape, facilitates offsite tape vaulting over IP with secure encryption, all while allowing you to preserve existing backup software, policies, staff, knowledge, etc.

For enterprises where mission-critical transactions and changes are constantly being made, even one minute’s worth of lost data can spell disaster. CDP is an absolute must in these cases, and VTL solutions augment this data protection by providing intermediate-term backups with export to physical tape for long-term archiving. Moreover, VTLs also offer encryption capabilities to secure data so that unauthorised users cannot access them.

Other businesses might have more latitude with regards to frequency of snapshots, explains FalconStor VP of Product Management John Lallier. “Storage needs vary from company to company, even from department to department.” In such cases, a business may backup to a server using VTL, have a DR site in another location, and use CDP for additional backup. CDP can feed the data directly to the backup server without impacting the host. CDP increases backup frequency and reduces backup windows. Businesses can accelerate the backup speed via SAN, and eliminate the performance impact on host.

Clearly there are several routes through the data protection maze. But, as Lallier explains: “The best CDP and VTL deployments do more than let the customer roll back to any point in time; it gives them the ability to find the very best point in time.”

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