Backup Systems and Services

How (and Why) to Match Your Backup to Your Business

The role of backup has changed. Backup is no longer just about ensuring that the organization has at least one good copy of its data at all times, working to eliminate the backup window, or simply recovering data in the event of an outage. No, in an economic climate where downtime costs dollars and user expectations are at an all-time high, the role of backup and recovery is to ensure the continuity of the applications and services that make it possible for companies to do business in the first place. In other words, the role of backup and recovery is not just to protect your business; it’s to empower your business.

In talking with customers, we find that while many are aware of the biggest trends impacting data protection in the industry today, they haven’t yet caught up with them in their thinking. First, the much-ballyhooed data explosion continues and it’s not going to stop. When that’s coupled with the need to have everything available 24/7, they find themselves in a position where their existing backup strategy is unable to keep up. Everyone takes the idea of backing up data for granted, and the thinking often is that if I’m backing up all my data, my company is protected. But that’s just no longer the case. Simply backing up data is reactive and passive. Today, backup and recovery must be active and in real time. Today, it has to be about application recovery and business resiliency.

A New Objective

Even a few years ago, the objective of backup was to make sure data was backed up within the confines of the backup window, and the organization had at least one good copy of its data. Today’s large data pool, and the always-on expectation of customers and users, has changed the objective, however. Not only has the volume of data grown, so, too, has the criticality of all that data. A large portion of this mass of data is now considered mission critical. There is also a huge difference in the relationship between businesses and customers, who expect that critical services will be delivered continuously, 24/7.  So, the backup and recovery objective must shift from simply making sure the organization’s data is backed up to ensuring that critical applications can be recovered quickly and application continuity is maintained.

The problem is that many organizations have just continued to renew their backup contracts just like they do insurance policies. Organizations fear that changing up their backup strategy will be complex and difficult, so it’s way down on their to-do list. They figure they’ll worry about it later, but, the reality is that when data loss occurs, it’s already too late to think about revising the backup strategy.

Delivering True Resiliency

To provide the resiliency that empowers the business, it’s critical that your backup strategy be aligned to your business needs. Too many organizations have too large of a chasm between what’s expected from IT in the event of a data loss, and what’s expected of the application owner. When IT’s SLA to bring email back online is eight to ten hours, but the Exchange administrator’s SLA is that email should never go down, that’s a problem. Application owners have zero tolerance for downtime. The demand for IT resiliency by both customers and employees is unprecedented today. The need to drive business alignment and empower the business to meet the SLAs to keep revenue growing means it’s time to stop focusing on just protecting the data, and focus, instead, on protecting the mission-critical applications that deliver services to end users.

Matching Backup to Your Business

To stay competitive in today’s world, it’s imperative to make your backup strategy match the business. When backup is aligned with business needs, downtime will be a non-issue and the business will be empowered to succeed. Here are some steps to take to make that happen:

  1. Implement an ongoing management process that connects IT with the business needs. How much data truly is mission-critical? What IT services are most critical to the business? What are your data retention requirements?  Conduct a business analysis that includes a risk assessment.
  2. Develop impact scenarios that reflect not just disasters, but also regular backup and recovery risks. Include anything that would make your system go down. The accidental striking of a keypad can cause as much data loss as a catastrophic natural disaster. Be prepared to respond to all scenarios.
  3. Develop a resiliency service agreement or catalog. Be prescriptive about classes of people, data, and environment, and determine the cost to deliver the level of uptime needed for each one. This will help you deliver the right protection for the right data.
  4. Use a tiered recovery strategy to align technology investments to the criticality of your applications. Use application-aware backup and technology that fully integrates with mission-critical databases like Microsoft Exchange, Active Directory or SharePoint that the business can’t do without, so you can deliver fast, granular recovery of those apps. Remember, there is no one-size-fits-all data protection approach that works for all data.

Re-thinking your backup and recovery strategy may be number 25 on your to-do list, but if you are hit with a data loss, you’ll lament not having taken the time to put the right strategy in place. Take the time today to match your backup strategy to your business needs, and make business resiliency part of your value-added IT service.


Michael Grant is Director of Software Product Marketing at Dell


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