Storing Data Off-Site Critical Insurance Against Disaster


Data centers provide mirroring, replication, shadowing


An astonishing 95 percent of enterprise data is still backed up to tape and trucked to vaults, according to an estimate by one Gartner analyst. It's a recipe for disaster that storage service providers (SSPs) are trying to fix.

"We say to customers: 'Your data is backed up and can be restored when and where you need it. If you can't get the data to where you need it,whether on your desk or 3,000 miles away,then it doesn't matter if you have a disaster-recovery site available. If you can't restore the data, everything else is a moot point,' " said John Clavin, executive vice president of marketing at Waltham, Mass.-based StorageNetworks, which remotely manages clients' storage on- and off-site.

Since the events of Sept. 11, the SSP industry has rushed to create systems to ensure the quickest possible access to data. That means a minimum of manual handling and more reliance on secure, readily available methods such as mirroring, replication and shadowing of data, said Donna Scott, vice president and research director at Gartner.

Managed storage services,the outsourcing of part or all primary or secondary storage requirements,is still a small part of the storage space, Scott said. Only about 20 percent of enterprise data is replicated to off-site disk arrays, she said, adding that the 95 percent figure on data is her "gut" estimate.

But with the dramatic decline in bandwidth costs, clients with up to 5 Tbytes of data are now finding it practical to do backups over VPNs, said Walt Hinton, CTO of ManagedStorage International, a Westminster, Colo.-based managed SSP. An off-site location is also inherently more secure, Hinton said.

"One company was backing up data to tapes and storing them in New York," Hinton said. "After the attack on the World Trade Center, the client, which had a remote facility in Denver, was unable to move the tapes to that facility because no one was allowed to fly. They are now a client of ours."

Arsenal Digital Solutions has noticed a spike in clients moving IT infrastructures to Internet data centers and using the online centers on a remote basis, said Geoff Sinn, president and CEO of the Durham, N.C.-based SSP. "People are realizing that they have to get more of their assets off-site and have better disaster-recovery plans in place."

As a result, Arsenal is starting to mirror clients' data to remote facilities, said Kevin Tooley, vice president of sales and marketing at the company. "Not only is the production data safe, but this cuts the time to get back online in case of disaster," he said.

StorageWay, a Fremont, Calif.-based SSP, is currently expanding its storage infrastructures from the Internet data center to metropolitan-area networks, and eventually to wide-area networks, to serve customers looking to implement disaster-recovery plans.

Dave Martin, senior product manager for StorageWay's Outbackup and Outstore services, said the company will offer a service through which remotely stored data is routinely tested to ensure it can be restored. "This is a key component to a disaster-recovery plan."