Ben Hatton How effective is your data backup?

Last month I wrote a blog post on the ‘State of Data Backup 2015,’ which looked at several areas where companies can better manage their data backup and restore methods. While that post explored some of the specific activities involved with backing up data, I want to take it a step further by looking at why the things I talked about are so important. A recent study by EMC helps to put much of this into perspective. EMC Data Protection Index

The Global Data Protection Index report from late last year surveyed over 3000 IT decision makers around the world on their data backup methodology, and how this relates to how well protected their data is when a downtime event occurs. We know that last year companies experienced a high level of downtime, and this study not only concurs with that, but also explores how much of an impact that downtime can have, depending on how regularly data is being backed up.

The findings: Do these sound familiar to you?

  1. A total of  69% of primary business data is maintained on-premise.
  2. When it comes to the frequency that data is backed up, only 7% of businesses back up their data at a near continuous rate (or in real time). Additionally, another 16% of those surveyed said that they back up nothing at all continuously.
  3. 57% of those surveyed said that they are not confident that they could restore their data in the event of a hardware failure (one of the leading causes of downtime).

How do these numbers relate to downtime?

The study data shows a strong correlation between the companies who don’t take extensive data backup measures, and those who experience data loss after a downtime event. Of the majority who back up little or no data consistently (about 61%), these same companies are much more likely to lose data when downtime occurs. This makes sense, given the fact that downtime seems to be an inevitability for many companies out there; for the specific companies that EMC talked to for this study, 72% of them experienced unplanned downtime last year. If your data isn’t being backed up regularly, then losing data when you suffer a hardware failure or other downtime can also be inevitable.

How a business responds

These study findings may sound familiar to your own business’s data backup practices, or you may find yourself lacking confidence in your ability to restore your data like the folks in #3. If either of those is the case, then I would implore you to evaluate your backup strategy, what your risks for downtime look like, and consider what changes you could make. In addition to providing a truly maximum level of uptime for your physical equipment, Data Cave also provides a reliable and timely Offsite Backup service that backs up data from your business to our data center. It could be just what you need!

 

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Ben Hatton How colocation can save you money

Piggy bank

The costs involved with running a data center are very extensive.

We’ve written a lot before about the buy vs. build decision when it comes to data centers, and how buying colocation space at a data center like Data Cave is virtually always the better decision from both a security and financial perspective. And while we’ve touched before on what some of the costs involved with running your own data center can look like, I want to explore this in greater detail for those of you who may be considering the “build” option.

If you build and run your own data center, you should plan for these 3 major cost areas:

Facilities: This includes the up front capital expenditure to physically build the data center, as well as all of the ongoing operational costs associated with managing and running the facility. Everything from the day-to-day maintenance to the purchase of new equipment to the mortgage or lease payments on the building are covered by you, the builder, in this situation.

People: Data center facilities require specialized staff to keep them in operation, and all of the usual employment costs associated with running any business will also apply to the people responsible for running your data center.

Downtime: The big thing that nobody ever wants to think about, the cost and the risk of downtime will be your burden to bear when you manage your own data center. A single downtime event can immediately begin to cost your company money in a number of different areas (for an idea of just what areas, check out our Downtime Calculator). Knowing what your facility’s risk for downtime looks like, as well as how it can impact you financially, are critical when evaluating the “true” cost of running your own data center.

Another important point to remember about downtime is that it’s very hard to fully prevent. Places like Data Cave have highly invested in infrastructures that completely minimize the chance of downtime occurring, and it’s the driving force behind much of our decision-making. Downtime prevention requires a long-term strategy and a long-term investment, both of which are highly difficult to achieve if you aren’t actually in the data center business.

The financial benefits of colocation

These cost areas are just a taste of what you could expect financially if you opted to build your own data center. All of these considered, I guarantee that the 3rd party colocation option would be the much more feasible financial option for you, regardless of your company’s size. Not being responsible for each of these financial burdens allows you to free up resources for projects that are more in line with your business’ core competencies, while leaving the security and physical aspects of your infrastructure (space, cooling, power, etc.) to the professionals who are considerably less likely to ever experience downtime.

To learn more about some of the other key benefits of colocation, I’d recommend checking out these additional resources, or Contact us if you’d like to have a chat about it as well!

Whitepaper: Top 10 Reasons to Colocate

Slideshare Presentation: Buy vs. Build-The case for Data Center Colocation

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Ben Hatton The State of Data Backup in 2015

For years many service providers and industry pundits have made the claim that data backup is “broken,” in terms of the actual methods that businesses use for backing up and restoring data. This claim is often made by companies as a means to market some new backup service they have created that will “fix” the problem (doing a Google search for “backup is broken” will provide you with a lot of information, as well as a lot of sales pitches). While there is a level of hype to keep in mind, many of the reasons for the “broken” nature of backup are certainly valid. Here are just a few that are brought up often: Data Backup

  1. Not backing up often enough: Even though many businesses employ some form of backup for their data, many do not back their data up as often as they should. According to a recent study from EMC, the majority of businesses do not back up their data continuously, and frequently see data loss as a result.
  2. Lack of testing: Backing up your data is a good thing in itself, but the backups won’t count for much if they don’t actually work when a restore is done. Regular testing of doing a restore should be part of a backup plan, and it is another area that is often overlooked.
  3. Explosion in the amount of data that a company generates: The volume of data generated by companies is continually increasing 24/7, a trend noted in the latest report from Gartner, “Addressing the Broken State of Backup.” The report makes a good point in noting that “there is no ‘off’ switch for data anymore.” In other words, the more data that your company accumulates and creates, the higher the stakes are when it comes to having effective backup and restore processes in place.

So is backup “broken,” or not?

I don’t think that using the word “broken” to describe the backup industry is either fair or accurate. To me the items listed above aren’t indicative of a broken system, but rather as signs that we simply haven’t yet caught up to the rapidly evolving data landscape (ie. item #3 mentioned above). I think that as the environment evolves, our needs should be evolving along with it. And with this, our approach to meeting our backup needs should likewise evolve. There is no “brokenness” in the backup industry, only opportunity to improve and grow.

Fixing the “brokenness”

Seizing this opportunity means taking steps to improve your company’s data backup and restore measures, to ensure that they can keep pace with your evolving data creation and usage. Identifying what data you should backup, how often you should be backing up, and how often you should test your restores are just a few of the many things you should consider. Top 10 Tips for Disaster Recovery

Data Cave has a great resource available that can serve as a guide for evaluating your backup strategy: our “Top 10 Tips for Disaster Recovery Planning” whitepaper provides many insights into creating a backup plan, implementing it, testing it, and keeping it current. Whether you are looking to create a backup plan, or improve on what you already have, I highly recommend it!

You can access the whitepaper download page below:

Data Cave Whitepaper: Top 10 Tips for Disaster Recovery

 

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Ben Hatton Exploring the business benefits of IPv6

You may recall a blog post from last year that I wrote about the IPv6 protocol, and how much more expansive it is compared to the older IPv4 standard (you can check it out here). While the number of IPv4 allocations hasn’t diminished just yet (and the world isn’t necessarily going to end when they do), there are still many advantages for your business to migrate to the new standard, if you haven’t already. I want to touch on what some of these benefits look like, some thoughts on how you can begin the migration planning process, and how vendors like Data Cave can play a role in your migration. Business Benefits of IPv6

Business benefits of IPv6

Beyond the fact that IPv6 allows for exponentially* more address allocations than before, there are several additional key benefits that it can have for your business as a whole, as well. Here are just a few of them:

  1. More secure: While the IPv4 protocol was certainly not built with security in mind, a wide range of security features are built in to IPv6.
  2. More efficient routing: When it comes to traffic routing, IPv6 allows for a more simplified approach to how internet packets are processed and routed. This enables  data to be routed much more quickly than with IPv4.
  3. Greater flexibility for mobile networks: IPv6 introduces much more flexibility for mobile devices connected to a network. This means that mobile networks (and devices connecting to them) can offer more efficient point-to-point communication than they could have before.

Starting the IPv6 planning process

Migrating your organization to IPv6 is definitely an undertaking, but it is completely worthwhile if you want to realize these benefits as well as put your business into a more “future-proof” position. Here are a few areas of consideration that should help you to get the planning process started:

  1. Evaluate your current hardware and software: Understanding what you already have is an important first step of the planning process, because this will determine early on what a significant chunk of your project budget will look like. You will want to look at your current hardware and software and evaluate what is or isn’t already compatible with IPv6, and then budget accordingly for any new equipment/software you will need.
  2. Work closely with your vendors: In addition to determining your company’s own level of readiness for IPv6, it is equally important to communicate with your IT vendors as well on their own capabilities; this includes your data center provider and any network service provider you may work with. The more you know about your vendors’ current and future IPv6 capabilities and plans, the more fleshed out and realistic your IPv6 adoption plan will be.

Understand that it is a process

One of the biggest things to remember is that this most likely won’t be a quick change for you, but a large undertaking with several moving parts and dependencies on third parties, so you should treat it as such. Also, it helps to not just look at it as a “challenge” or an undertaking, but as an opportunity for your business to take advantage of the connectivity and security advances that IPv6 can afford. As an IPv6-ready data center, Data Cave can play a part in supporting your IPv6 efforts when it comes to your point-to-point internet connectivity. For more information on what that could look like, contact us today!

 

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Ben Hatton Addressing the ‘Comatose Server’ Problem in Data Centers

NRDC Data Center Efficiency Assessment

You can view the Data Center Efficiency Assessment report in its entirety at this link. Image courtesy of NRDC.

A report from the National Resources Defense Council (NRDC) came out this past year that has been making the rounds in numerous IT blogs, concerning the high power usage of the world’s data centers. One article about this report goes so far as to call the energy consumption of data centers wasteful, citing a few different reasons for the higher power usage. While it’s no secret that data centers do consume a lot of power, one major factor highlighted in the report is the existence of “comatose servers” that needlessly waste power within data centers.

A “comatose server” is basically any server that runs and consumes power, yet doesn’t serve a functional purpose for an organization. They are often the remnants of network projects where new servers are added, or where services are migrated off of one server and to another; often when this happens, the old servers don’t actually get decommissioned or removed from the infrastructure (often due to simply being overlooked). This results in a piece of equipment that is running and drawing electricity needlessly. They also include servers that are frequently idle and not active very often; even when idle, they still consume power. According to the report, an estimated 20-30% of servers in data centers today fall into this “comatose” category.

It pays to lose these servers

The report emphasizes the importance of reducing a data center’s power consumption by decommissioning these comatose servers, as well as the high cost savings that can be seen as well. It references a great example of AOL (yep, they’re still around), where they recently decommissioned over 9,000 comatose servers. This led to an estimated total savings of close to $5 million, a big chunk of which was in power and cooling savings. This shows that it is definitely worthwhile to take efforts to cut back on any of these power-sucking comatose servers that may exist in a data center.

Some steps to get things started

While the existence of comatose servers can present a daunting challenge, there are ways that the number of them can be reduced, and their impact on power use lessened. Here are just a few of them:

  1. Consolidate whenever possible: Making efforts to consolidate your organization’s applications and data onto fewer production servers has many benefits. A key benefit you’ll see is lower power usage by the data center for powering the equipment itself, as well as for cooling that equipment. For companies who colocate in a data center, these savings are often passed on to them in the form of lower power costs. Although consolidation projects are very involved and require planning, they can yield tremendous benefits for an organization, with less power usage being just one of them.

  2. Document everythingA little bit of documentation can go a long way when it comes to identifying any servers that are good candidates for being decommissioned. With proper documentation you can determine which of your servers may host an application that is no longer used in production, or servers that contain data or files that already reside elsewhere. This knowledge can help you to determine any servers you have that may be comatose.

  3. Consider switching to SSD where possible: Solid state drives consume much less power than traditional hard disk drives, due to the fact that they have no internal moving parts and are often lighter. This can result in less power that is consumed by servers with SSD’s, as well as less power needed for cooling them (since SSD’s don’t generate as much heat either). Another nice benefit of SSD’s is that they will only consume power when they are actually in use, so if the drive is idle at any time, virtually no power will be consumed. And, while these types of drives have traditionally been more expensive than hard disk drives, the price gap has been lessening over time.

Good for the environment and the bottom line

Taking efforts to reduce the number of any comatose servers in a data center can have huge benefits for the data center’s operators and tenants, both in terms of how much power the data center uses, as well as how much cooling is needed. Not only are changes like these beneficial to everyone’s bottom line, but they are better for the environment as well; that is especially a big deal in our industry!

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