The Business Value of Microsoft Azure – Part 3 – Backup

This article is part 3 of a series of articles that will focus on the Business Value of Microsoft Azure. Microsoft Azure provides a variety of cloud based technologies that can enable organizations in a number of ways. Rather than focusing on the technical aspects of Microsoft Azure (there’s plenty of that content out there) this series will focus on business situations and how Microsoft Azure services can benefit.

In our last article we focused on data security from the perspective of the ability for users to purposefully or inadvertently cause data to leave the organization. Today we’re going to focus on data loss from the standpoint of system failure, corruption or other disaster that requires access to a backup.

Many organizations still rely on tape based backup systems as the primary means of backing up critical business data. Let’s take the typical municipal office. Chances are that our fictional town of Gamehendge has either a traditional backup to tape solution or perhaps a disk-based virtual tape system where copies are then made to physical tapes. These tapes are sent offsite to a facility that manages tape archiving for disaster protection purposes. While this seems reasonable, our town faces a problem.

If a production system fails or if data needs to be restored due to user deletion/corruption it might take up to 24 hours for the IT department to work with the off-site records management company to request, locate and deliver the appropriate tape with the ensuing process to then actually recover the data.

One solution to this problem might be to set up a co-location solution with a hosting provider and replicate certain servers. Again, this is a fairly common practice. However, replicating all the servers in their environment is costly and so only a handful of the most high-priority systems are replicated. This approach, while a step in the right direction, only allows a few key systems to be restored in 2-3 hours, leaving the remaining systems to a 24 hour recovery period.

Our fictional town wants to free up their IT folks to spend time on value added activities. Right now the amount of time spent managing backups, restoring data and managing the replication processes makes this a challenge. Our town budget is just as tight as everyone else and so finding a creative way to address this issue without needing to hire another resource is critical.

Enter the Microsoft Azure StorSimple family of hybrid cloud storage solutions.

StorSimple is an on-premise enterprise storage area network that interoperates with Microsoft Azure to provide hybrid-cloud storage, data archiving, and fast disaster recovery. The solution replaces traditional backup processes with the concept of “cloud snapshots” that automate the process of creating copies of data remotely in the Azure Storage Cloud.

With our data securely backed up in Microsoft Azure Cloud Storage our town has a couple of options. They can purchase a second StorSimple appliance and deploy it at their co-location facility or they can use a virtual StorSimple appliance in the Microsoft Azure Cloud to quickly bring data or a virtual machine back online resulting in a significantly faster recovery time compare to tape storage.

Our town has realized additional benefits by pursuing this solution. Beyond the backup capability, the StorSimple device provides “bottomless” storage. With three tiers of data storage capability (SSD, HDD, and Cloud) the device intelligently transfers data from higher cost/higher performing storage (SSD) to lower cost HDD and eventually Azure Cloud Storage. This happens automatically based on usage characteristics and other criteria. Further, with the deduplication and compression technologies in the device our town has been able to reduce the total amount of storage space needed to protect its data.

There are other approaches that can be implemented as well using Microsoft Azure Cloud Storage, but with the StorSimple device it provides a significant step forward for cities and towns that have struggled to keep up with the ever growing demands for storage. Every town that has considered implementing a cop-cam officer mounted video camera solution will immediately face significant data storage and backup needs and StorSimple can play a key role in managing these costs.

As a partner with BlumShapiro Consulting, Michael Pelletier leads our Technology Consulting Practice. He consults with a range of businesses and industries on issues related to technology strategy and direction, enterprise and solution architecture, service oriented architecture and solution delivery.

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