The Q&A is also available as an MP3. Click on the link below to listen:
Table of contents:
>> Benefits of using network-attached storage as a backup target
>> Drawbacks of using NAS for backup
>> Backup software for backing up to network-attached storage
>> Scalability issues when using NAS for backup
>> Who should consider using NAS for backup?
>> Who shouldn't consider using NAS for backup?
In a NAS environment, the disk sits behind a filer head and a processor, and the operating system, replication, data reduction and protection software is already built in. In a typical data backup environment, each of these things must be purchased and managed separately -- maintenance contracts are separate, training is separate, etc.
The drawbacks aren't necessarily attributable to the NAS appliances themselves, as much as they are in the plumbing. The inherent inefficiencies of passing large amounts of data at one time through a TCP/IP network was the reason for establishing a separate, private storage area network (SAN).
The faster data is passed, the more packets get dropped, and the more error correction needs to take place, the slower the network performance. Fortunately, there are technologies available to solve problems like this. Mellanox Technologies is one of the companies at the forefront of this space, as well as NetEx, which has a product called HyperIP, that solves a lot of the problems inherent to TCP/IP networks.
The more popular backup software products out there do support NAS. Symantec Veritas NetBackup has a module called the NetBackup NAS SnapVault Option made specifically to work with NetApp. They also have a NetBackup Open Storage Option. EMC NetWorker DiskBackup Option supports NAS. CommVault and BakBone Software do, as well.
I'm a big believer in continuing to use tape in your backup environment as well, because I don't think it's a good idea to store data that isn't going to be used on media that will be spinning and using electricity. Choosing a backup software provider that supports NDMP will allow you to have a complete backup solution.
Today, we're hearing about a lot of new solutions for businesses that need to store data, dedupe, replicate, quickly restore, and meet compliance requirements. And, there's a whole lot of companies, from the SMB space all the way up to the largest enterprises, that are looking at these types of solutions. Many NAS solutions can provide all of these things and more for companies of really any size.
Backing up to disk does take some justification because it requires an additional purchase of all the necessary equipment. If a company's tape environment is running effectively and doesn't require disk, there would be no reason to deploy NAS for backups. Many companies out there are looking for very fast restores of recently backed up data, and for them backing up to NAS could make a lot of sense.
Curtis Breville has over 20 years of experience with data storage technology and is the webmaster of askmrstorage.com.