When Does Open Source Backup Run Out Of Gas?

Open source back up solutions don't scale the enterprise

One of the least sexy areas of IT is backup and recovery.  Let's face it; it doesn't get very many of you excited. Nevertheless, it is something we all have to do. It is also a multi-billion dollar market.

Over the years we have seen many different takes on backup.  Automation and speed are two keys to successful backup and restore. Scalability is another factor. At the end of the day, backup would seem to be a perfect area for an open source solution to be perfected that would just make this mundane task, well, mundane.

But surprisingly while there are several open source backup and restore projects out there, if you are looking for enterprise-ready, industrial strength backup and restore, you probably are going to outgrow your open source solution.  This is exactly the fact pattern of many of the customers of backup and restore market leader, Idera.

I had a chance to speak with David Wartell, VP of Server Backup Products at Idera about this and other aspects of the back up market.  David is a veteran of the space, having started at R1 Soft, which was acquired by Idera back in 2007.

Wartell says that most of the Idera customers started out with open source solutions before migrating to the Continuous Data Protection (CDP) Idera product.  By far the biggest open source backup solution, at least on the Linux platform is Rsync. In fact David says many of the commercial backup products in the market use the open Rsync under the covers as well.  Rsync is actually included in several Linux distros as well.

On Windows, backup is another story.  It requires a separate application and according to Wartell you don't see as many Windows based open source solutions as you do in Linux. There are of course no shortages of commercial vendors for Windows backup and restore however, including household names like Symantec.

The dividing line between using open source and stepping up to a commercial product according to Wartell is a question of scalability. Once you get past 4 or 5 servers for instance, most open source backup solutions start to drag. Other factors that mark the demarcation zone from open source to commercial is the amount of apps you are backing up, the load on apps and the size of your data set.

When it takes longer to back up the system then it does to create the data, you know your backup solution is not scaling. In backup like many other things speed rules.

Another change in backup that Idera has seen is the move away from tape to drives. At one time Wartell said tape was the dominant backup medium. But with the advent of cheap hard disks, the move to HDD was underway. Also solutions like the CDP from Idera offer multiple site replication and high speed restore. 

Restoring can be as important as backing up in your selection of a backup solution. Unfortunately many people don't realize this until the time comes to restore from your backup and you realize that your solution is not really well thought out in restoring quickly.

So when choosing a backup and restore solution make sure you check out the restore features as much as you do the backup aspect of it.

Even so according to Wartell, many services and companies don't build the backup solution in as part of the original plan. David relayed to me how he was contacted by a company a year or two back that makes an iCloud product. While the cloud was being used by millions to back up their data, the cloud solution itself was not being backed up.  After the fact this particular fruit company was trying to graft a backup and restore solution onto the service. Of course they were having a hard time finding one that ran on Mac OSx.  But hey they were not the first one who took backup for granted.

So what are you using for backup? Are you even backing up?  If so, are you using an open source solutions? Have you actually checked how the restore works?  Don't wait until you are behind the eight ball to find out.

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Copyright © 2012 IDG Communications, Inc.

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