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Using a backup software for an archiving purpose, is it a good idea?

Posted by Jessica Delage on July 5, 2017 at 9:08 AM

Owadays, more and more companies are using backup software in order to handle archive requirements. In fact, the last decade has shown that the archiving products do not enthousiast enterprises customers. To illustrate the situation, let’s take the example of paper archiving and digital archiving.

Companies are used to paper archive their data since day one. Therefore, transforming this data would require time and generate costs that they are not ready to invest, in addition to a complete change of their archiving system. Whereas, enterprises that are already using a digital archiving system are afraid of losing the control over their entire data through a new system.

Though, is there any way to evaluate the reason why?

Valery, our CEO, would tend to say yes and no. Indeed, here is what we understood from the market. Today, we are facing a consumerization effect. As a matter of fact, enterprises, product administrators and product end-user desire more and more easy-to-use systems. Consequently, “old school” archiving products were not cost effective enough and were too complex to handle. Besides, the way to use them required to understand all businesses and users data flows. With this regard, a true policy based enforcement was required at the enterprise management layer. However, it could become complex to get the top management focus. Doing so, justifying the cost of purchase of such kind of product was difficult. The results are that enterprises have to manage archive differently.

 

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What are their current solutions ?

They managed, via their backup software, to create an archive job in order to move down data which have to generate lower media costs. Enterprises that applied this, understand only now the down effects.

First down Effect :

End users wish to retrieve data from their archive. They have to ask their IT service to move back the required information. However, the SLA (Service Level Agreement) to do such kind of job is not in alignment with the users’ needs and requires days to get any information back. Consequently, users are not satisfied with this current solution and complain.

Second down effect :

Administrators are constraints to stick to an application/product and desire to migrate to another one. To do so, they have to migrate all “backup” data, requiring a lot of headaches and time.

Third and last down effect :

Due to a compliancy purpose it is hard to verify what data are archived. For instance: on which support/media, on which state the data & media are, if we can retrieve them and how, can we make sure that they will still be available during the duration required. These are complex questions and situations that more and more customers are facing.

How can we reduce these risks today and how can we get out of this issue?

We have observed through our experience following opportunities:

1. Reducing vendor-locking

How? By using software which are not linked to a vendor lock-in. In fact, there are solutions to do it. We are able to advance that using storage system is the right choice and even more if we can manage data copies on LTFS tape (LTFS is a way to write data on tapes in a file system, it is an open format which allows access to anybody having a LTO drive (LTO5 and higher) to read any LTFS tapes).

2. Holding online data and metadata catalogs

How? By using systems providing an online & reachable catalogs of the contents store and archive give the visibility needed by the users. With this view, they can get their data as soon as they need them. Another advantage is that due to a compliancy purpose, it is necessary to use a verification where data have been copied to dedicated archive tapes.

3. Hybrid storage & active archival system

How? By being able to virtualize a file system build from storage on flash/disk/LTFS tapes provides an unprecedented easy-to-use solution. Subsequently, all data are reachable for the end-user. Moreover, 80 to 90% of your data is rarely consulted whereas 10 to 20% is regularly used. By using a hybrid solution, these data would be transferred to the right place in order to reduce costs while being able to access them easily at any time. Besides, even if the data are on tapes, the user will have to wait 1 or 2 minutes to get the wished data. Nonetheless, he will remain autonomous while doing it.

Hybrid storage helps to reduce the TCO cost of the solution. Solutions exist to store massive data at a scale of hundreds TB for a CAPEX cost of 400$-600$ per TB, and an OPEX cost of 0.75$ per month per TB! Understand here the significant low investment costs! Now imagine the same calculation for a full disk storage...

4. Open solutions

How? If automations were possible (from a catalog or a system management perspectives), it could be very interesting to use REST API to link such kind of storage & archiving solution with business applications.

What have we learned ?

To cut a long story short, the objective of this article was to understand the opportunities of a hybrid storage and active archival system. With this regard, companies should not be afraid of changes in their archival system as this solution would give the chance to users to remove complexity and to provide businesses with significant added values while facing unprecedented data explosion. Moreover, this type of tapes would be able reduce their TCO cost and to save data during a longer period to answer law or business compliancy.

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