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Removable storage: the new breed

December 27th, 2006

Today’s advancing broadband technology has allowed large amounts of data to be placed online very cheaply. However, the reliability of internet hosts and the possible difficulties with ensuring continual access means traditional backup technologies must not be ignored. As a result, the format war between disk and tape continues.

Storage formats such as tape have enjoyed year upon year of being in pole position as the format of choice for secondary backup, though in recent years hard disk technologies have caught up with the aging medium. Hard disk technologies, however, deliver a more realistic approach to data security by removing many of the usage restraints of tape technology, while allowing the following advantages: Faster backup and recovery, Instant failover to maintain constant availability of your data, Improved reliability, Less maintenance: no more need to clean your tape drives, Random access for single files, Lower costs.

One fundamental challenge for hard disk technology is to prove its ability to provide cost effective off-site security, something of a hardship for a fixed disk technology. Unlike tape, disk technologies are traditionally not as removable and have to be handled carefully due to the drive mechanics being transported with the media. Off-site security, therefore can be a difficult, cumbersome job.

Disk technology has been attempting to achieve off-site security and archiving in three main ways:

Remote site replication

Remote site replication is an attractive option as it can be deployed in a way that removes the need to take data cartridges off-site each night for remote security. However, this method is not only reliant on your business having more than one office location, but also on an abundance of budget that many SMB’s can’t justify.

3 stage solutions – disk-to-disk-to-tape (D2D2T)

The D2D2T solution meets the demands of both high performance backup and the ability to take data off-site, which is one of the more complex choices for companies that have a single location but require both high performance backup and a third layer of hardware to provide off-site security and archiving ability.

Removable disk technology, disk to removable disk (D2RD)

If the one and only benefit of choosing disk technology over tape is to improve performance and reliability and conversely the reason for choosing tape technology over disk is simply because of removability then why not provide a disk technology that’s removable?

Iomega has done that with REV™ disk technology, an advancement of hard disk technology that uses removable instead of fixed disks, to provide both high disk-to-disk performances along with the removability of tape. Iomega launched REV™ in 2004 and by 2006 Iomega had already shipped nearly one million pieces of media to customers using REV drives and Autoloaders.

The challenge for this type of media is to keep the capacities growing, in order to remain within the key capacity points of small and medium businesses.

Your data heath check – security you should have for your network data

Protect against the outside world

Should hackers manage to navigate their way through your layers of protection and cause data loss, you need a physical copy of your data from which you can restore from. If the attack happened days earlier it’s likely you will need to revert to earlier backups therefore having a backup rotation scheme in place can provide you with multiple data sets from which to restore from. Autoloader products are capable of holding around 8 disks full of data which can equate to either 8 days or even 8 weeks of data sets. A REV Autoloader is available from www.iomega.com

Protect against hardware and software failure

Data failure continues to be a challenge, particularly with primary storage. The very fact that data needs to regularly accessed, changed or moved exposes it to high usage risks of both hardware and software failure which could potentially lead to data loss. Secondary storage was introduced to provide an extra later of security should your primary data set fail. Storing a backup copy isn’t the only consideration though when a data loss occurs the likelihood is that you’ll need that data back fast. Removable technology, for example, enables you to retrieve your data quickly and effortlessly by using the highest performing storage technology available today – disk.

Protect against human failure

While automation can provide you with daily backups by using one cartridge per day, another option is aggregated backup automation which enables all slots to work together as one location. Iomega’s REV Autoloader’s have around 8 slots capable of working as one aggregated backup and restore device. This choice of storage method eliminates the need for users to manually change cartridges when backup capacity reaches or surpasses the single cartridge capacity. Compared to stand alone drives automation doesn’t rely on manual intervention, a responsibility that’s often delegated. As 98% of backup errors are caused by human intervention it’s best to keep these to a minimum and choose automated disk technology.

Ultimately, the choice will lie with the business-leader. While internet and tape technologies both have their benefits, they also are susceptible downsides such as poor reliability and difficulties with removability. Ultimately, we feel removable disks are the best option and, as capacities increase in line with industry needs, will continue to be so into the future.

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