Overview of System Center 2012 Data Protection Manager
Traditional best practices for backing up storage follow the 3-2-1 rule: 3 copies of data on at least 2 different types of media with a minimum of 1 offsite copy. To make things more complex for IT administrators, most of today's servers and storage are virtualized. System Center 2012 R2 Data Protection Manager (SCDPM 2012), Microsoft's enterprise backup system, addresses these challenges by offering comprehensive support for virtualized servers and storage, and by working seamlessly with Microsoft Azure cloud-based backup (Azure Backup). In addition, SCDPM is optimized for mission-critical Microsoft workloads including SQL Server, SharePoint Server, Exchange Server and Hyper-V virtual machines (VMs). SCDPM can also back up file data from servers and clients and allows full, incremental, differential and bare-metal backups for full system restoration. All of this can be managed by a single SCDPM 2012 console with self-service capability available to trusted users for specific workloads.
Progent's Microsoft-certified consultants can help organizations of any size to plan, implement, manage, and troubleshoot a backup solution based on System Center 2012 Data Protection Manager. Progent can help you migrate from earlier releases of SCDPM or from another backup platform, and Progent can optimize your SCDPM 2012 deployment for on premises, cloud-based, or hybrid environments. Progent can provide online or onsite consulting services and offers as-needed support to help you resolve especially challenging problems, or full project management services with ongoing consulting support. Progent can also provide Data Protection Manager upgrade expertise to help your organization upgrade efficiently from SCDPM 2012 to a modern release of System Center Data Protection Manager.
Progent's consultants can follow industry best practices to help you:
SCDPM 2012 can be deployed as a relatively straight-forward standalone backup solution, as part of a more complex disaster recovery strategy, or as part of an even more complex business continuity plan. Progent offers disaster recovery planning consulting and business continuity planning expertise centered around SCDPM 2012 to maximize the availability of the vital elements of your information system and your business under worst-case scenarios.
Your network infrastructure plays a crucial role in both on-premises and cloud-based backup/restore solutions, and Progent offers the online and onsite service of Cisco-certified CCIE network consultants who can help you design and troubleshoot a cost-effective network architecture that offers high performance, maximum availability, centralized management, and easy expandability. In addition, Progent's certified network security consultants can help you assess and validate the security and compliance of your Data Protection Manager ecosystem and help you remediate any vulnerabilities.
The Problem with Tape Technology for Backup
Experienced IT managers know that when it's time to go into disaster recovery mode, the tape backup system is often one of the biggest disasters. The traditional model of tape-based backup is fraught with problems. Tape is slow, unreliable, and requires meticulous management. Microsoft's reported in-house operational experience indicates a 17% failure rate for its tape devices. Basically, for a tape-based restore procedure to be successful, too many things have to go right:
Finally, tape-based backup and recovery regimes are logistically complex and demand substantial time and care to administer. Media has to be managed, cataloged, and stored in a way that allows for consistent backup and accurate recovery, but issues such as personnel changes, company relocations, the need to accommodate remote offices, maintaining tape-friendly temperature and humidity in the storage facility, and the hassle of validation testing all invite human error or omission and inflate IT budgets. In essence, while tape technology remains a popular and often mandated means of long-term archiving, it has become obsolete as a medium for primary backup.
Disk Drives to the Rescue
Microsoft System Center 2010 Data Protection Manager radically changed the reliability and usability aspects of backup and restore. The key innovation was that SCDPM 2010 offered an intelligent disk-to-disk based backup solution. SCDPM 2012 builds on the concept of disk-to-disk primary backup and adds key enhancements including seamless cloud-based backup and recovery based on Microsoft Azure Backup for improved disaster recovery, lower investment cost for off-site infrastructure, and simplified recovery management.
The basic idea is simple. You configure an SCDPM 2012 server with sufficient disk storage to hold a complete replica of all the data you want to protect from your servers and workstations along with space for the historical changes you want to keep. For a 30-day history this may require somewhere in the range of 1.5 to two times the protected data space. The actual disk capacity needed is highly dependent on how often your data changes. Since disks are inexpensive and getting more affordable all the time, storage costs are relatively trivial for most IT organizations.
What is more significant is that an SCDPM 2012 server can be built with highly fault-tolerant components such as redundant power supplies and ample redundant cooling. By configuring high-availability storage arrays, reliability is far higher than with tape-based systems.
Microsoft leveraged key Windows technologies to make System Center Data Protection Manager the backup-and-restore solution of choice for Windows environments. The foundation of SCDPM is the use of Volume Shadow Copy Services (VSS) for creating and maintaining extremely compact differentials. It does this both on the protected server for efficiently replicating change differentials over the network to the SCDPM server, and also on the SCDPM server itself for efficiently storing the historical snapshots, or recovery points, used to recover data.
You can gain almost continuous data protection by replicating data from your protected servers as often as every 15 minutes. This means that if you have a failure on your server, in the worst case you can restore it to the last 15 minutes. This is far beyond the practical capability of tape-based backup systems. Basically, the SCDPM server always has a complete and up-to-date replica of all protected data. SCDPM takes further advantage of disk technology by storing the data in a Windows format file system that you can directly navigate with Windows Explorer. SCDPM actually creates separate disk volumes for each protected server.
Thanks to support for disk-to-disk restoration, SCDPM can reduce network recovery time from hours to minutes and make administrative tasks far more intuitive than with tape-based solutions.
The New Standard in Fault-tolerant Data Backup and Restore
SCDPM offers significantly more granular control over your recovery time objective (RTO) and recovery point objective (RPO) than tape-based systems. On the SCDPM server, you can take snapshots for historical restorations based on a schedule that matches a variety of protection requirements. For example, you can schedule daily, twice a day, three times a day, hourly, or 15 minute snapshots, and you can define a separate snapshot schedule for each protected server or share. Your accounting server, for instance, may require frequent snapshots so you can recover to a specific moment in the day, while other servers may be fine with daily snapshots. The bottom line is that Microsoft's System Center Data Protection Manager is flexible enough to handle almost any environment.
The obvious question with disk-to-disk backup is what happens if a natural disaster or other catastrophic event such as fire or theft wipes out all your local servers including your SCDPM server? One way to prepare for this is to back up your SCDPM server to a separate SCDPM server at a Colocation Site. Colocation facilities are affordable, offer geographic dispersion, and provide high levels of redundancy for power, Internet connectivity, and environmental controls. With SCDPM 2012, you can integrate SCDPM with Azure Backup, Microsoft's cloud-based protection platform. This can provide the off-site storage and high-availability infrastructure needed for advanced disaster recovery without the CAPEX requirements and management headaches associated with a conventional off-site datacenter. This solution can also be a practical alternative to using tape for long-term backups because it leverages the effectively "bottomless" capacity and nominal 99-year storage capability of Azure Backup. (Tape backup may still be required to meet regulatory requirements.)
An important feature of SCDPM that supports off-site backup is the ability to perform highly efficient over-the-wire compression for all transferred data. This can easily result in about a 5-1 compression ratio and theoretically can go as high as 10-1. Once the initial replica is established, backups are further streamlined by the fact that SCDPM sends only differentials and utilizes inherently fast hard disk technology. As a result, SCDPM-based backup works well with the WAN bandwidth typically utilized by any business.
For your original data replica, which can't take advantage of differentials, a time-saving technique for small businesses is to create the replica manually. For example, in the case that you add a new large server to be protected and your SCDPM server is in a colocation facility, you can simply copy all the data from the new server to a USB hard drive, bring the hard drive to the colocation facility, and upload the data directly. You can then perform a consistency check that will quickly and intelligently update anything that has changed with the data set since you made the manual copy. From that point, you are backed up and ready for any emergency.
System Center Data Protection Manager also supports bandwidth throttling so you can keep bandwidth use low during the business day and crank it up to use all the available bandwidth in the middle of the night. SCDPM has the speed and versatility to match your performance needs and to adapt easily as your business evolves.
Tape-based archiving is efficiently supported by SCDPM. There is an option for performing tape backups via the SCDPM server for off-site tape protection, which may be required for regulatory or compliance. Another powerful feature of SCDPM is that tape backups copy the replica data set residing on the SCDPM server and therefore don't needlessly consume WAN bandwidth. SCDPM also gives you the option to have a second SCDPM server configured to back up the primary SCDPM server's data so you can have a local SCDPM server as well as an off-site backup SCDPM server in order to improve fault tolerance and optimize recovery speed.
To find out more about Progent's support for Microsoft System Center 2012 R2 Data Protection Manager, phone
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