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The Critical Importance of Fault-Tolerant Backup Infrastructure

August 2023
Sagenet Blog Backup Infrastructure

A solid backup plan is the last line of defense against catastrophic data loss, but emerging challenges are making it difficult to hold that line. Increasingly distributed data sources, complex multi-cloud and hybrid IT environments, and ransomware attacks that target backups are all putting immense pressure on backup infrastructure.

A 2022 study by IDC found that 60 percent of organizations across North America and Western Europe experienced unrecoverable data loss during the previous 12 months, largely due to inadequate backup processes. Only 28 percent expressed complete confidence in their backup system’s ability to recover data.

Increased decentralization is making it harder to ensure data availability. Having data in multiple data centers, branch offices, cloud repositories, edge servers and endpoint devices limits visibility and hampers backup management. More than 80 percent of organizations say there is an “availability gap” between how quickly business users need data to be restored and how quickly IT can actually bring it back.

Ransomware is another growing challenge with many attacks now encrypting or deleting backups in order to coerce victims into paying to regain their data. Approximately 85 percent of organizations were attacked at least once in the past 12 months, according to a new study. On average, these companies reported that only about half of their data was recoverable.

Single Points of Failure

Modifying the existing backup infrastructure to address such challenges often increases complexity. In a traditional enterprise backup environment, data from multiple sources is simultaneously sent across the network to a dedicated backup server, where it is processed, compressed, deduplicated and then transferred to tiered backup devices. Things become more complicated when organizations run different backup appliances and software for physical, virtual and cloud environments.

The interdependent nature of all these components creates multiple single points of failure. Changes or problems with one component can cause cascading failures that disrupt the entire backup operation.

For example, a security patch for a server operating system could require a database upgrade that might create compatibility issues with the backup software and interrupt a backup job. Or a failed host bus adapter could prevent the backup server from connecting with networked storage. These aren’t particularly uncommon issues — a 2021 study found that 37 percent of all backup jobs fail.

The Value of Redundancy

To avoid such failures, systems should be designed with fault-tolerance characteristics that ensure continued operations in the event of a component failure. For example, it’s a good idea to have multiple backup servers in redundant configurations. Network storage devices should also have redundant pathways.

Redundant backup media is a particularly important element of a fault-tolerant backup environment. This has long been achieved by adhering to the 3-2-1 method  — make three separate copies of your data, stored on at least two different media types with one located at an offsite location. It’s considered a best practice because it’s a simple formula for ensuring that you can access your data under almost any circumstance.

Another recent improvement is the addition of continuous data protection (CDP) hardware with disk storage. These systems back up applications, files or blocks of data any time a change is made. The backup window essentially becomes irrelevant because backup is occurring all the time.

Data is arguably a company’s most valuable asset, but a number of factors are impacting the reliability of traditional backup measures. A robust backup infrastructure designed with fault-tolerance capabilities is critical for eliminating points of failure and reducing the risk of catastrophic data loss.

Nathan Jones

Nathan Jones

Architectural Sales Engineer

Networking is at the core of anything we do dealing with customers – you have to have connectivity. The equipment and everything else grows from that on a step-by-step basis. Even from SageNet’s perspective as a Managed Services provider, it’s still true and always will be. The networking is a fundamental for everything you do in telecom. We support that and help customers grow with that as the foundation.

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