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Spring Journal

Volume 31, Issue 1

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Data…a company’s most valuable asset, the one piece of real estate that all businesses, large or small, cannot afford to lose. When you consider this fearful fact, there are many variables within a network environment that can produce data loss.

But the real issue is that once your data has been deleted, destroyed or lost, and there is no implemented backup strategy within your network, you and your company can kiss your data good-bye….hasta la vista baby! Companies today cannot afford to be complacent that their data will be safe in one place. If this is the case; you are waiting for disaster to happen. Today, business leaders and IT managers around the world are realizing the real value and importance of backing up their company’s data on their network to keep it secured, safe and centralized. The awareness of data protection as well as storage utility issues has increased to a very high-level of priority and security, which has in turn forced company decision makers and their IT administrators to seek out data backup solutions and storage management software and hardware.

In light of this new focus and initiative in the data storage world, the storage and backup industry has already recognized that there is a great demand for data warehousing and backup solution management, this industry is predicting a $40 billion dollar market by 2003 in storage needs, according to IT research firm IDC. The worldwide storage/ backup management software market will benefit with revenue increasing from $2.6 billion in 1998 to more than $6.6 billion in 2003.

What this translates into is, as data grows day-to-day within a company’s structure, the pressure to move and store data on centralized secondary storage devices becomes the highest utmost importance to the survival of any company’s future or existence.

Take the time to allow yourself to answer these questions first. What would happen if your company lost all its critical data right now? Or better yet, consider one of your network servers, the one that houses all your company’s data. Its hard drive goes down and you have no backup solution in place? What kind of effect would this have on your company? Could your company bounce back and survive and continue functioning…profitably? How would this affect your job, your co-workers, the investors, the liability, and the embarrassment? There are many variants that can affect the normal functionality of a company in a data loss scenario. The real answer to these questions are what steps do you need to take in order to “prevent” or reduce the chance of a disaster situation in order to protect your company’s valuable data. So with this in mind, let’s move on to the real important subject: the advantages of a network backup and how to implement a backup strategy for your network.

To begin with, all network and hardware protocol configurations differ from business to business.

Network protocols vary from LAN to WAN, connection types through the network, 10/100 base-T, GB base-T Ethernet connection is usually the standard format on a network to swap and transfer valuable data through and across the network. Servers, machine types that manage the network and store data vary in a variety of OS support. Within these networks are different types of client machines that are connected to the network. One other scenario is that all data is allocated to one, two or more servers that client machines can have accessibility to in order to access, write, save, delete or archive. The basic functionality of the network is to provide access and communication between each of the computer machines on the network, which is called interconnectivity. This interconnectivity allows data to transfer and be accessed from one machine to another, without physically moving data by route of manually removable disks storage devices.

In a network environment, backup over the network to a primary/secondary centralized storage device is a viable alternative to using removable storage devices. These removable storage devices are a very inexpensive way of protecting data on computer machines without the expense of utilizing tape drives, tape libraries or RAID systems or other type of means of storing and archiving data. On a network environment in today’s world, utilizing removable data storage devices would not be a very productive system for data storage/backup solution, which would require physical handling and implementation to initiate backups. The alternative is to configure backups to a centralized storage device and scheduling backups according to how often data is changed.

To implement or schedule a backup over a network is a very simple strategy, but takes thought and organization. Many corporate network environments are utilizing a centralized storage backup device (tape, tape library, Jukebox, etc.) in conjunction with the network server to backup all data on machines throughout the network. Usually within this network resides a backup application software that is installed on one of the servers. Its main functionality is to access data from the machines attached to the network and transfer the data to a centralized storage device. Network backup software plays a valuable role in providing true functionality to a backup strategy solution in heterogeneous network environments.

There are several different methods to schedule backups on a network. Before you begin to consider a backup solution for your network, you would first need to consider how many machines on the network are being used, what type of network protocol is used in network environment and how often will files change over a certain period of time. There are different techniques of implementing and scheduling a backup on a network. These are the most common: Full, incremental and differential.

A full backup is done by backing up all data on all machines on the network. The advantage of this type of backup is that all data is saved up to one backup set and easier to restore the files in the case of a restore process. The disadvantages are that a full backup is more time consuming than other backup options and full backups require more disk, tape or network drive space.

An incremental backup provides a backup of files that have changed or are new since the last incremental backup. For example: the first incremental backup, all files in the file set are backed up (just like a full backup). If you use the same file set to perform an incremental backup later, only the files that have changed are backed up. If you use the same files set for a third backup, only the files that have changed since the second incremental backup are backed up, and so on. The advantages of incremental backups are that backup time is faster than the full backups and require less disk space, tape or network drive space. Also, you can keep several versions of the same files on different backup sets. The disadvantages are that in a restore process, you must have all of the incremental backups available. This may take longer to restore a specific file since you must research more than one backup set to find the latest version of a file.

A differential backup provides a backup of files that have changed since a full backup was performed. A differential backup typically saves only the files that are different or new since the last full backup, but this can vary from different backup applications. Together, a full backup and a differential backup include all the files on your computer, changed and unchanged. Differential backups require even less disk, tape or network drive space than incremental backups and backup time is faster than full or incremental backups. Restoring all your files may take longer, since you have to restore both the last differential and full backup. Also restoring an individual file may take longer since you have to locate the files on either differential or full backup archives.

Other important things to consider for a heterogeneous backup solution is multiplexing, parallelism and multi-flow technology, which is the ability to transfer data at high speeds through maximizing network throughput, the available function to backup several machines simultaneously, and last but not least the ability to improve backup performance through multi-flow technology. This all can be explained at another time, but important issues not to ignore when you or your company decides to consider a data backup software application to run and manage backups of data on your network to storage devices.

On a closing note, the advantages of a data backup solution on your network, really outweighs the thought of the cost to implement one. If you really look at the real value that you have on your network machines and the data that resides on them, it is probably the only true asset that keeps the company up and running day to day. It is the bloodline of your network and provides life to your company and without it your company will die and cease to exist.

William Mathis joined Knox Software in June 2000 as marketing coordinator for the US corporate office. The role has broadened to multi-positions, which include: administrating and managing marketing functions such as print/web creative advertising; multimedia presenting; coordinating tradeshows and events; testing products; and communicating to the media and the press.