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Data backup is an important topic for organizations of all sizes that must protect and enable important data recovery at any point in time – making it critical that they be able to safeguard data backups. Data backup protection is often associated with taking adequate steps to ensure backup disks and tapes are encrypted, backups are running as planned, or data that should be backed up is actually being backed up and restored effectively. That's where tools from vendors like WysDM, Tek-Tools, Aptare and other backup vendors can help to enable timely data protection management (DPM).
But there is another important consideration in protecting data backups: What to do if a backup vendor or its technology is acquired by another vendor. Given storage market history, it's safe to assume that at some point there will be more vendor acquisitions involving backup and other data protection technologies.
Several points come to mind to help you start preparing customers for potential backup vendor consolidations.
Preparing for backup vendor consolidation
- If a managed service or some other form of backup service involves storing data off site, you must keep extra copies of data stored on site. Not only is this a good insurance policy for rapid recovery, it also provides protection in case something happens to off-site media.
- Understand the format in which backup software saves data when writing to disk or tape: Is it a propriety container file, "tar ball" or backup save set format? For example, if disk-to-disk (D2D) backup is employed, can files be accessed directly from the backup target or do you have to access the backup save set via a vendor's backup software or other utility?
- If a backup vendor is acquired, what is its statement of direction for any products in use and if technology is to be discontinued? What is the vendor's migration plan. Any migration plan should take into consideration time, costs and disruptions to install new software, as well as how to migrate existing backups to the new technology. As part of a migration, understand how existing and any new technology will coexist to maintain backward compatibility.
General backup consolidation questions and considerations
- How long will old backup data with existing software be readable?
- Will existing backup disks or tapes be migrated to a new format and if so, who will do that, how long will it take, how much will it cost and what tools are available?
- What additional software, hardware or network enhancements will be needed as a result of backup technology changes and how will training be provided?
- How long will support and enhancements be provided to existing technology?
- What incentives will the vendor provide to migrate to new technology?
When changing vendor backup software, that may also be a good time to rethink your customer's data protection strategy, shifting to a disk-to-disk-to-disk (D2D2D) approach using remote replication, snapshots, continuous data protection and other technologies.
Given recent vendor acquisitions and consolidation you may be concerned that the market place is shrinking and consolidating -- well, it is. However, there are plenty of new startups emerging, as well as other vendors who have been around for many years ready to step up to the challenge and support data protection and backup needs. Vendors include Asigra, Attempo, BakBone, BreeceHill, CommVault, DataDomain, Dell, DoubleTake, EMC (Legato, Dantz, Avamar), EVault, FalconStor, FarStone, FilesX, Fujitsu, Hewlett-Packard, IBM, IDP, Imation, IntraDyn, Mendocino, Overland, PowerFile, Prostor, Quantum, Sony, SpectraLogic, Softek, Sun, Symantec, Vembu and Yosemite among many others.
Start planning now on how to minimize disruptions caused by backup vendor consolidations. Review and rethink data protection and backup strategies to insure critical data is being protected in a timely and effective manner. For VARs, this represents a golden opportunity to wrap services around existing technologies to add value for booth you and your clients now and into the future.
About the author: Greg Schulz is founder and Sr. analyst of the independent storage analyst firm the StorageIO group and author of the book Resilient Storage Networks (Elsevier).