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SmartAdvice: Standardize Backup-And-Restore Storage

Deploy backup tasks to underused resources for best efficiency in an enterprise backup system, The Advisory Council says. Also, there's a high threshold for moving PowerBuilder developers to Java.

Editor's Note: Welcome to SmartAdvice, a weekly column by The Advisory Council (TAC), an advisory service firm. The feature answers two questions of core interest to you, ranging from leadership advice to enterprise strategies to how to deal with vendors. Submit questions directly to

Question A: What should we consider when selecting enterprise backup software?

Our advice: Standardization is our best advice these days when considering an enterprise backup-and-restore system. In the four or five years since network-attached storage and storage area networks caused an upheaval and brought new functionality to enterprise backup-and-restore technology, the market for enterprise backup systems has matured. It remains competitive and relatively stable.

The top three products -- Veritas NetBackup, IBM Tivoli Storage Manager, and Legato NetWorker -- dominate the market. They offer similar functionality, such as distributed backup and application-specific support for database systems and E-mail servers, at similar pricing. Although prices for very large-scale implementations can vary up to as much as $50,000, it's likely that most of that difference can be negotiated down -- these vendors typically don't want to lose a big customer due to price.

Because pricing is so similar, the total cost of a backup-and-restore system will be driven more by your company's personnel costs for training, initial data analysis, configuration, implementation, and on-going operation of the system.

Discussions with Advisory Council clients have led us to believe that none of them think of their backup-and-restore systems as a competitive advantage. This isn't unreasonable. For the most part, they're focused on providing a sufficient, low-cost service. We also learned that most don't exploit much of the functionality that's offered in the backup systems they've implemented, such as disk-based and distributed backup and physical-infrastructure use optimization. We also learned that they're not typically standardized on one or two backup systems, but operate a historical hodgepodge of different systems with very different capabilities.

Related Links

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Enterprise Backup Applications Make Backing Up Not So Very Hard To Do

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In addition to standardizing on one enterprise backup-and-restore system, we recommend that your company focus on providing an application that offers a comprehensive, appropriate backup-and-restore "fit" for each category of data, such as E-mail or records subject to Sarbanes-Oxley or Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act requirements.

The NetBackup, Storage Manager, and NetWorker products are complete and complex, and they provide distributed backup, application-specific backup, many configuration options, and a lot of tuning features. Any of these products can be used with only a modest understanding of their full capabilities and very little understanding of the corporate data being backed up.

This type of simple turnkey operation is common, but it provides minimal efficiency. It's more efficient to use the distributed backup capabilities of an enterprise backup-and-restore product to deploy backup tasks to underused resources such as tape drives or tape archival systems.

Intimately understanding corporate data categories and providing the best backup for each type can be a better business value. You might use an online backup in one instance and batch backup in another. It's also important that the application-specific backup capabilities of these products are leveraged for collaboration servers such as Lotus Notes or Outlook Exchange, along with various databases and file systems.

-- Peter Sorrentino

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When it comes to managing data, donít look at backup and archiving systems as burdens and cost centers. A well-designed archive can enhance data protection and restores, ease search and e-discovery efforts, and save money by intelligently moving data from expensive primary storage systems.
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