User survey: Data-protection trends

Posted on February 01, 2008

An end-user survey shows strong interest in disk-based backup/recovery technologies such as VTLs, data de-duplication, and CDP.

By Dave Simpson

Drawing a broad conclusion from a recent survey of InfoStor's readers, commissioned by Sepaton, IT organizations are getting better with regard to their data-protection implementations compared to a few years ago, but there is definitely much room for improvement.

Since the data-protection needs of large enterprises are in many ways different from those of small to medium-sized businesses (SMBs), it's important to understand the key demographics of the survey to balance conclusions. In terms of the amount of data under protection, responses ranged from "less than 2TB" to "more than 200TB," with a high percentage (24.8%) of the companies in the 200TB+ range. That's in keeping with the survey respondents' size, based on annual revenues. For example, 44.2% of the companies had revenues in excess of $1 billion, while only 18.6% had revenues of less than $50 million (see Figure 1).

The Sepaton survey asked users to rank a variety of data-protection issues, and compared to surveys of InfoStor readers over the past few years, many of the high-priority issues remain the same, such as backup/restore performance and disaster recovery. However, backup/restore performance is less of a priority than in previous years, a reflection of the shift over the past few years to disk-based backup and recovery.

It's interesting to note that "improving staff productivity" is of relatively low importance to IT managers these days, which is a result of the past few years' worth of belt-tightening and the "do more with less" IT mantra.

It's also interesting to note that, despite all the eco-friendly "go-green" hype from the vendor community, power/energy conservation does not seem to be of high importance to storage managers in charge of data protection (see Table 1). However, storage administrators are investigating or implementing a variety of technologies that, in addition to other benefits, will contribute to energy/power/space conservation, including data de-duplication, data compression (primary and secondary), thin provisioning, and virtualization (see "Software is the key to 'green' storage," InfoStor,January 2008, p. 29).

Overall, 20.6% of the survey respondents said their data-protection strategy "completely" meets their business needs/requirements (see Figure 2). However, in a glass-half-empty interpretation of those results, that leaves almost 80% with inadequate data-protection strategies/implementations.

The inadequacies contributing to data-protection vulnerability include "inability to meet restore objectives," followed by "lack of an off-site backup/recovery strategy" and "inability to meet backup windows."

Despite all the highly publicized incidents involving stolen or lost tapes, it is also surprising that the risk of tape loss/theft does not seem to be much of a threat to users' data-protection implementations (see Figure 3, above). Of course, this is in part due to the shift away from tape-based backup toward disk-based backup/recovery.

When asked why they hadn't plugged the gaps in their data- protection implementations, almost half of the survey respondents cited the age-old reason-"lack of funding"-followed by the closely related "lack of resources/time" (see Figure 4).

When asked about the primary drivers behind the changes in their data-protection environments (see Figure 5), responses were all across the board, topped by "disaster-recovery initiatives" and followed close behind by "data-recoverability issues."

End users are taking a variety of approaches to preparing for disasters and, despite the rapid move to disk-based backup, users still rely heavily on tape. Approximately half of the survey respondents cited at least one of the following approaches to disaster preparedness: "maintaining physical tape on-site," "maintaining tape at a remote data center or corporate site," or "off-siting physical tape to a third party." Reflecting the relatively recent availability of low-cost, heterogeneous replication solutions, 45.7% cited "replicating data to a remote disk-based system" as a key measure they are taking to prepare for disasters (see Figure 6).

Although the hysteria surrounding compliance seems to have died down a bit, it's still a priority at most IT shops (as shown in Figure 2). In the Sepaton survey of InfoStor readers, exactly one-third of the respondents said (or at least think) that they are fully compliant with legal and regulatory requirements, while only 6.4% said that compliance was not a priority (see Figure 7).

Users reported a variety of obstacles to achieving compliance, with close to half of the respondents citing an inability to obtain funding and a lack of understanding regarding compliance requirements. Another 40% cited the difficulty in measuring compliance as a major obstacle (see Figure 8), although a variety of vendors have recently introduced tools for measuring compliance in the context of a variety of regulations.

The survey also queried InfoStor readers on their current and planned data- protection technologies (see Table 2). Although almost 80% of the users still rely on tape libraries for data protection, the trend toward disk-to-disk backup/recovery is clear from the survey results. Specifically, users plan to implement technologies such as virtual tape libraries (VTLs), continuous data protection (CDP), remote replication, and data de-duplication. (For more information, see "Data de-duplication: Questions and answers," p. 17, and "Survey shows rapid adoption of data de-dupe," InfoStor, January 2008, p. 1).

Although about a quarter of the survey respondents were still "unsure" of some of these technologies, the vast majority said that they would be "very comfortable" or "moderately comfortable" deploying technologies such as VTLs, data de-duplication, and CDP (see Table 3).

For complete results of the Sepaton survey of InfoStor readers, visit www.sepaton.com.



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