Dan's Take

It's World Backup Day, but Don't Forget Availability

IT priorities are seeing a shift from just safeguarding data, to making sure it's accessible at all times.

March 31 is "World Backup Day." The organization behind this event wants individuals to remember to back up their important documents. Here's what it says about it:

World Backup Day is a day for people to learn about the increasing role of data in our lives and the importance of regular backups. This independent initiative to raise awareness about backups and data preservation started out -- like most good things on the Internet -- on Reddit by a couple of concerned users. Let's make this happen!

While a focus on backing up data to address potential disasters is a good place to start, it really can't be the goal for enterprises.

Veeam Software reached out to me to discuss Worldwide Backup Day, and the company's view that while backup day is an important message for consumers, enterprises need far more. The company is suggesting that enterprises consider the need for applications and data to always remain available and that the day would be better named "World Availability Day." Here's what Veeam is saying:

For consumers, World Backup Day, which happens every year on March 31, is a great idea. Family photos, tax documents, e-mail -- a hard drive crash or a spilled cup of coffee can cause a lot of heartache if nothing has been backed up. Even if it takes a few hours or even a couple of days to get the data back, that's not a big deal.

But for businesses the question is no longer, "Are we backed up?" The question is now, "Are we always available?" It's not enough to just back the data up.

Backup is only a portion of an availability strategy. It's just creating copies of important data and applications, so that in the case of an outage or disaster, these important files can be recovered and the business be brought back online. While this is important to be sure, there is a base assumption that there will be a disaster and that a process needs to be in place to pick up the pieces.

High Availability (HA), on the other hand, starts at a different place. While backup and recovery are likely to be components of an HA strategy, the goal isn't just recovering from a disaster. The goal is making sure that applications, services, databases, networks and storage remain available and reliable to support enterprises regardless of what's going on. This means considering disaster avoidance, as well as recovery.

Dan's Take: Disaster Avoidance, as Well as Recovery
HA solutions, for the most part, rely on redundant hardware and special-purpose software designed to make the best use of that hardware. Furthermore, HA solutions can be expensive and an enterprise's portfolio of IT solutions may not need the same level of availability. Business-critical functions are likely to need the highest levels of availability. The requirements for business-support functions are not likely to be as high.

That's why enterprises would be wise to go beyond thinking about backup/disaster recovery to focusing on availability.

Only a few CIOs I've spoken with tell me they're satisfied with their ability to address the service-level objectives their organizations need today. The key point of our discussions was  that they need to understand how their portfolio of applications are used and what availability requirements exist for these applications. Then the decisions about what technological approaches and staff procedures must be put in place to address the higher goal of keeping IT solutions available.

About the Author

Daniel Kusnetzky, a reformed software engineer and product manager, founded Kusnetzky Group LLC in 2006. He's literally written the book on virtualization and often comments on cloud computing, mobility and systems software. He has been a business unit manager at a hardware company and head of corporate marketing and strategy at a software company.

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