Horse Sense #100

Data Protection is Getting Better!


This is the 100th issue of Horse Sense!  That works out to a little more than 5 per year, since we have been in business for 22 years 3/28/2012.  Horse Sense articles are usually not about specific products and usually only show pricing to demonstrate a general point because they are intended to give you strategic information you can use personally and in your business over the long term.  As always, we will post Horse Sense on our web site soon.  In this issue of Horse Sense, though, I will be talking about an industry leading backup program from Symantec and how it is changing by adding new ideas and technologies to fit the times.  Of course, other vendors are doing the same types of things, but it helps to have a reference.  And, I think for the 100th issue it is important to talk about one of the most important things you should do when you have a computer:  protect the valuable information on it.

In this issue of Horse Sense:
-Reliability and Cost
-New and Useful PC Facts
-Backup Is Not Important!
-The Sad State of Data Protection--And Some Hope
-Symantec Backup Exec 2012 (a review)
--File By File versus Image Backups
--Data Growth and Deduplication
--Conclusions, Comments, and For More Information


Reliability and Cost

Computers have all kinds of speeds and feeds, but one of the more important ones is difficult to pin down:  reliability.  If you had to choose a car to get you where you wanted to go, you would choose reliability over speed or any other features.  Reliability is now being promoted by some laptop manufacturers, but there is no one measure that tells you how reliable your particular computer will be.  Yet, computers have gotten more reliable over time.  In the early days, hardware was responsible for many computer issues.  Now, software is by far the more likely culprit.  Long service and support upgrades to standard warranties are a very cost-effective insurance policy against hardware issues, especially accidental damage or "no-fault" plans.  Pricing on these plans has gone down as hardware has become more reliable.  That means the manufacturer does not expect to perform that support very often and, if it does, that support will be minor.  The best warranty and support plan, like traditional insurance, is the one you never have to use.

When you are buying computers or building a network, build in reliability, redundancy, and use protective devices and software.  Remember that the cost spectrum looks like this:  lifetime hardware costs << lifetime software costs << lifetime professional service, labor, support, installation, training, and troubleshooting costs << lifetime costs of the user actually using these tools (<< is "much less than").  Even if your computer seems reliable, though, there may well be reasons to upgrade.  Every piece of software and hardware has a service life.  Sometimes it is shorter than you think.  Though your hammer may still work fine and you are welcome to use it, a modern day nail gun can help you do the job a lot faster.

Reliability and Cost Figures From Intel (2011):

-They estimate using a solid state drive in your next laptop, mainly due to its better reliability, will save corporate users about $375 per PC over the life of the unit, even though the solid state drives are more expensive.

-After three years, the support cost on a PC can exceed the cost of a new PC.

-PCs experience 54% more security incidents in their fourth year versus their first year.

-PCs in year four have a 24% failure rate versus 12% in year one.

-23% of hard drives over 3 years old will fail within the year.

-An out of warranty repair on a laptop PC typically costs $1425.

-Similar Intel Core processors today multitask twice as fast, perform encryption four times as fast, and run business applications 60% faster than processors from 3-4 years ago.

New and Useful PC Facts:

-New laptops are also sold with better security features today than those built a couple of years ago, allowing for better data security.

-New laptops are more rugged today than they were three to four years ago.

-New PC types are available that did not exist or were rare 3-4 years ago like all in one computers, tablets, smart phones, and ultrabooks.

-Battery life on new notebooks may be many times that of models made 3-4 years ago.

-Windows XP will reach its end of life in 2014 and Windows 8 is already being "previewed" by customers (a great marketing term for a beta test by Microsoft).

Backup Is Not Important!

Before we get too far into talking about new techniques, I should mention that backup is unimportant.  What is important is restore.  So, when you look at restore, you start thinking about some critical questions.  How long will it take me to restore? (The computer lingo is Recovery Time Objective=RTO)  How much can I afford to lose? (Recovery Point Objective=RPO)  How long do I have to back up without impacting something else I want to do? (Backup Window)  Can I back up multiple systems at once? (Parallelism) What if I have legal issues or need to get to old information?  (Archive retrieval) What if my hardware gets destroyed? (Disaster Recovery=DR, Business Continuity, and Continuity Of Operations=COOP)  What if I cannot get to my office?  (Remote recovery and off site replication)  What if the same hardware is not available or I want to do a migration?  (Hardware independent restoration or virtualization)  What if I need to restore only one or a few files or mailboxes? (Granular restore)  What if I want to test a backup? (Compare and virtualization)  What if I am working with a special database or mail program? (Application awareness)  What if I am working with virtual servers and storage? (Virtualization awareness)  What if I am here, but I want to back up to somewhere else? (Location awareness)

The Sad State of Data Protection--And Some Hope

Let us get the basics down first.  Everyone knows you are supposed to back up (make a secure reference copy of) your most important data.  But even though most of us know this, we do not do it.  Good data protection involves policy, procedure, good software, testing, and, most of all, a continuing commitment and recognized need by both management and the rank and file to actually do it!
For those who need some scary current facts from a recent Symantec sponsored study (similar to others I have seen):
-50% of small to medium businesses (SMBs) do not have a disaster preparedness plan.
-Downtime outages cost SMBs $12,500 per day on average.
-44% of SMBs would lose at least 40% of their data in a disaster.
The staid backup market has made some spectacular changes in the last few years.  Reliability, flexibility, granularity, and ease of use have improved.  Even better, the time and effort put into making and restoring backups has decreased markedly.
As our computing environment has gotten more complex, we have had to develop more and more sophisticated backup and restore strategies and policies.  Tape backup still exists, but due to speed and reliability limitations, hard disks have become the preferred backup media.  Hard disks are much easier to work with than tapes.
If you have not looked at your backup and restore process lately, please do.  Disk based backups and new software and techniques have made it much easier to do backups.  And, the easier and more automatic a backup is, the more likely it is to happen.  And, the more likely it is to happen, the more likely you will have something to restore from.

Symantec Backup Exec 2012 (A Review)
Symantec realizes how much things have changed, so it has rolled out the biggest changes in the Backup Exec product history.  These are the new software versions for the most popular name in backup software in the world.
-Their flagship Backup Exec 2012 product is targeted at both physical and virtual servers.  You will want it if you have 3 or more servers or if you have LINUX servers or VMware.  It is available in standard licensing, but it is also now available in capacity based appliances and on a capacity basis for hardware you own.  With the capacity based licensing, you can use practically any of their software as long as you do not back up more than the allotted capacity.  Bare metal or image based recovery is now integrated into Backup Exec 2012.  No additional licenses are required and granular application, file, and image backup can all be done in a single backup pass.  They have greatly simplified their licensing model, made it more flexible, and even lowered the licensing costs in some cases.
-Backup Exec 2012 Small Business Edition (SBE) replaces Backup Exec for Windows Small Business Server.  It turns out that a lot of networks needed good backup software, but were not running Windows Small Business Server.  So, Symantec has changed the licensing to handle up to three Windows servers of any type.  SBE is limited to the media server and two super agents that can deal with any or all of Active Directory, MS SQL, MS Exchange, and Hyper-V.
-Backup Exec.Cloud is for the small business that has a distributed set up or fewer support and hardware resources.  Backups go directly to the cloud and it can back up what SBE can.  The backup console is in the cloud, so you do not need a server, but you do need an Internet connection.  You pay for the storage you need as you need it.  There are no per user or per server fees.  Data is encrypted during transmission and in the secure storage facilities.  This is the simplest backup offering.  While full server recovery and file level recovery are supported, granular restorations into applications like Exchange are not supported.
-Backup Exec System Recovery is now Symantec System Recovery.  It is now for those who want to quickly and easily take image based snapshots of their clients and servers for rapid restoration, even to dissimilar hardware, in the case of a disaster.  File by file restore is slower than image based restore, so an image based disaster recovery containing lots of small files will be much quicker.
-V-Ray allows you to do both physical and virtual backups in a single pass to create a VMware or Hyper-V image file allowing for a single step recovery.  V-Ray is intended for customers who are fully or primarily virtualized.  V-Ray is licensed per CPU processor socket and supports VMware ESX, VMware vSphere, Microsoft Hyper-V, Windows and LINUX.  Deduplication, host and virtual operating system, file and application backup, and granular application recovery technologies (Exchange, SharePoint, and MS SQL) are included.  V-Ray can examine the backup stream to reduce the amount of storage space needed by 30% or more.  For example, white space in Hyper-V is not backed up.  Symantec is one of the few companies that can back up both virtual and physical servers in its product line.

File By File versus Image Backups
One of the downsides of traditional file by file backup is that it also did not work well as a disaster recovery backup.  You first had to restore the operating system, then the patches to it, then the backup software and its patches, etc.  It took a long time relative to restoring from an image backup which merely copies back a faithful image of everything that was on that server and then you reboot.  Symantec has now integrated bare metal disaster recovery into the file by file backup world of Backup Exec.  You can now restore to the same or dissimilar hardware.  You only have to back up once to get both a file by file backup and a disaster recovery backup.  These backups will be smaller than traditional disaster recovery backups and thus backup and restore will be faster.

Virtualization allows you to use one expensive server to do the job of many servers.  This allows you to consolidate your network, but poses backup complexities.  A virtualization capable backup product like Backup Exec 2012 is now a necessity (figures from Symantec):
-Last year 4 million virtual hosts versus 8 million physical servers were shipped.
-3/4 of companies plan to deploy virtual servers within 12 months.
-46% of respondents surveyed run "Tier 1" applications on virtual machines
-65% of all virtual machines are unprotected
-Virtualization increases storage consumption

Data Growth and Deduplication
Industry data growth estimates vary widely, but the best figure I have seen is 60% per year.  That means in 5 years, you will use 10 times the storage you do now.  Of course, all other things being equal, this really hampers your ability to protect yourself as your backup window grows and your recovery time and recovery point objectives will probably shrink.  In addition, managing all that storage space is expensive.  I counsel people to delete irrelevant data and to tier data into layers that need more or less protection, but storage space still grows.  Among the more effective techniques in modern backup is data deduplication.  When you deduplicate, you back up your information once.  The next time an identical piece of information needs to be backed up; the software does not do it.  Instead, it says "look here for that information."  Some Symantec Backup Exec deduplication and data facts:
-From 2000 to 2010 the number of mailboxes grew 10x.  E mail grew at 30x.

-Deduplication normally results in a 90% reduction in file backup size and time.

-Deduplication normally results in an 80% application data backup reduction (Exchange, SQL, and Active Directory).

-Deduplication normally works just fine on existing hardware.

-Deduplication can be done at client, the server, or on a dedicated appliance.

-You can deduplicate files, applications, and virtual machines (or portions of them).

-Backup Exec deduplication is done in 128KB blocks, so even if a large file changes, you keep track of only the small part that changed.  If you do not need the full 128KB block, Backup Exec does not use it to save even more space.

-At least 70% of data is duplicate data that has not been accessed in more than 90 days, according to a recent study.

-The deduplication option is purchased per media server.  It includes:

--Client side deduplication (great for remote and WAN links)
--Server deduplication (catalog is only at the server)
--Appliance deduplication (Data Domain, Exagrid, etc)

-If you want to store a backup on tape, Backup Exec will take the deduplicated data and "rehydrate" it so that you will have all the information you need on the tape.

-With additional Symantec software (CASO), you can synchronize deduplicated data across a wide area network or Internet link without "rehydrating" it first, saving tremendous amounts of bandwidth, storage, and processing.

Conclusions, Comments, and For More Information
Licensing has gotten simpler with Backup Exec 2012.  Instead of lots of Microsoft specific application licenses, there is now the more flexible Agent for Applications and Databases, you just need one for whatever application or database you are using and you can change it at any time.
The new Backup Exec 2012 user interface is server, rather than job, focused.  This allows you to more easily see that a particular server is, or is not, protected like you want it to be.  In addition, it is trivially easy to set up and view multi-step backup processes.
Modern backup and restore has to be faster, more capable, and more flexible than ever.  Backup Exec has an answer to most of the questions a small to medium sized business (and even a large one), might ask.
You can find out more about Backup Exec 2012 and related products at < >.  Unfortunately, some of the information there has not been changed to reflect the new 2012 version which was released 3/5/2012.  You can also download trial versions from the site and try them out in your own environment.  There is no support from Symantec on trialware.  You can also take the easy path and just contact Iron Horse and we can provide you with what you need!
Of course, the reason I could write such an article is that I am constantly reading and taking training classes.  I recently got four new Symantec certifications in Data Security and Backup for small to medium sized businesses, garnering us an SMB Partner designation.  So, whether you want to buy the product from Iron Horse, have us help you implement or troubleshoot it, or just ask us a question, give us a call.  We will be waiting.

©2012 Tony Stirk, Iron Horse