Feature: Data Dilemma

Organisations both small and large must distinguish between backup and archiving functions and work to implement data classification policies in order to combat death by data, Chloe Herrick writes.

The firm uses a CommVault backup toolkit to move data from its primary storage onto EMC’s Data Domain which it then uses to replicate across the Wide Area Network (WAN).

Boasting 155,000 members, the firm has also experienced exponential data growth rates as it develops different business products requiring the investment of time and funds in a range of new data types.

“We’re addressing some substantial growth requirements, add in a lot of legislative requirements such as mortgage documents, which have to be kept for extended periods, bank statements and all manner of different regulatory reporting and it’s quite difficult to predict as well as hard to manage,” Thomas says.

On the other hand, Brisbane-based Anglican Church Grammar School (ACGS) uses the same system for both its backup and archiving, making no distinction between the two functions.

The school’s 10-strong IT team have just transitioned the school, which has about 1700 students and 250 staff, to a virtualised environment with the deployment of 30 virtualised servers leaving just a couple of physical servers remaining.

According to its network systems administrator, Gavin Rees, a nightly backup across the school’s servers also acts as the basis for its archiving.

“The Storagecraft ShadowProtect platform operates as a straight backup tool, we can at any point in time roll back a server for whatever reason, such as a critical failure or a virus and we also use it to recover user data,” Rees says. “To a lesser extent we use it sort of as an archiving solution, mind you we do lose data, if data changes we can go back at any time and do comparisons on data but it’s not a true archiving solution where we capture every single change that happens across the board.”

This is a concern, Rees says, as financial data must be kept for seven years, but with archiving solutions remaining too costly, a sequel database is used to secure sensitive data.

“Because it’s written into a sequel database it is tracked and logged, sequel is more secure and because it’s a financial system, everything that happens in that database is logged providing a record of who has logged in and what they’ve done.”

“We’ve looked specifically at archiving a few times but so far the solutions have just been way too expensive and that’s been the main issue when talking to executives.”

Both Thomas and Rees express dissatisfaction with tape-based technologies and their desire to take tape out of the equation altogether due to its inability to easily go back at random to find specific data.

“It’s really tedious, having done it any number of times the issues are whether the tapes are on site, whether it’s the tape in the machine or up in the safe, then whether the tapes’ catalogues have been deleted, it’s a hugely involved, horrible process to restore stuff from tape,” Rees says. “We’re now buying more disk arrays and basically our theory is we’ll be able to keep up to seven years backup on disk in a DR site.”

Thomas says one of the main reasons he has moved his data online with EMC is the painstaking nature of tape, but he cannot get rid of the technology altogether until the data currently stored on tape, which has not been moved to Data Domain, has expired.

Rees also notes the use of the Cloud to store data remains out of the question for the school, mainly due to the cost fuelled by the sheer volume of data the school has accumulated.

“Even if we’re just moving the data backwards and forwards we have an issue with the amount of data we have, to fix this we’re doing little bits with internal Clouds where we’ll have data storage at a different DR site across the road,” he says. “So we’re happy to say we have an internal Cloud but it’s really just data across the road.”

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