7 Tiers of Data Recovery - Software Aspects

Executive Summary

Disaster recovery planning is one of the key components of a business' security strategy. The hardware component of such planning is well discussed in the manuals and white papers of the hardware providers. But, the software component, being no less important, is often overlooked in the planning.

CBFS Storage is a software component for programmers working on data storage and data integrity solutions. CBFS Storage augments your data recovery solution:

  • Reduce recovery time.
  • Minimize data loss and ensure data integrity.
  • Prevent malicious tempering or destruction.
  • Reduce requirements for the highly skilled IT workforce.


Recovery Planning

Statistics show (Jim Hoffer, Health Management Technology) that only 6% percent of enterprises fully recover after a serious software or hardware disaster, either malicious or due to negligence, while 43% never reopen and 51% of companies shut down the business within two years.

In real life, planning for data recovery is necessary for every company — every company that can't afford significant downtimes due to data loss. The inevitable losses that result from the interruptions to the company's activity can come from the following:

  1. Direct revenue loss
  2. Loss of "face" — customer trust, damage to the company image, etc.
  3. Brand damage
  4. Loss of know-how, insider information leaks, public availability of privileged data, etc.
  5. Legal costs

The key to prevent these severe consequences and to ensure the continuity of the business is planning a careful, proactive disaster recovery strategy. For every business process, such a strategy must define a Recovery Point Objective (RPO) and Recovery Time Objective (RTO). As always, there are tradeoffs between cost, speed, and effectiveness to weigh. Obviously, the zero-data-loss, zero-recovery-time solutions are the most expensive.

Besides well-known hardware-based precautions, one of the ways to reduce the costs of disaster recovery is the use of custom file systems such as CBFS Storage.
CBFS Storage allows the creation of huge encrypted compressed single-file storages encompassing any type of data. This paper analyzes the possible application of CBFS Storage on the seven tiers traditionally identified for business continuity solutions.

Tier 1: Data Backup with No Hot Site

Businesses with Tier 1 continuity solutions rely on tape backups made at specific time intervals. These tapes are then shipped off site for storage.

For reserve copying purposes, it is very convenient to place the data into CBFS Storage. All documents will be conveniently stored in one file. There is no need to rewind the tape searching for a specific document - the whole storage can be quickly restored.

Moreover, the fact that CBFS Storage has built-in cryptographic protection allows the company to entrust the tape storage to almost any third-party service provider without the risk of information leaks. In this case, the keys or passwords used for encryption should be safeguarded and kept separately from backups. The loss of the key will not effect the feasibility of the storage restoration but will make it impossible to access the stored data.

CBFS Storage also allows the use of incremental backup systems working on a sector-by-sector basis: there is no need to update the whole storage file when minimal changes have been made to the data. The practicability of this approach depends on the frequency of the stored file changes, i.e., on the specific application.
The advantage of reserve-copying whole storages is that the backup system does not need to know the internal structure, encapsulation level, or directory tree of the storage. The whole storage will be copied without the possibility of losing a single file attribute.

In addition, CBFS Storage supports native data compression. If a CBFS Storage contains data susceptible to compression, the use of CBFS Storage for whole-storage compression is much more time- and cost-effective than the use of regular compression tools applied to separate files or folders. CBFS Storage uses journaling for self-integrity checks. If a part of a tape or sector on the disk becomes physically damaged and unreadable, the whole storage saves the damaged file(s), which remain intact and functional. There is also the possibility to backup separate files from your CBFS Storage, if necessary.

CBFS Storage Driver Edition allows access to your storage as regular files and folders from the application doing the reserve copying or from any other application. This also makes possible the development of monitoring tools that watch the changes made to files inside a CBFS Storage and export them in any convenient format for reserve copying or any other manipulations. Naturally, the restoration of a whole CBFS Storage takes more time than a single file, but the result of the restore is the whole working storage with all files, interdependencies, and directory content preserved. Such a data restore operation can be executed by less-qualified personnel than those required for a full manual reassembly of the storage structure. In addition, the use of CBFS Storage makes possible an easy separation of storage back-ups from the operating system back-up procedures: quickly restore your storage independently from the software operation environment.

Tier 2: Data Backup with a Hot Site

This tier has the same provisions for disaster recovery as Tier 1; plus, it provides a reserve computer system (so-called hot site) at a remote physical location. The hot site is capable of handling the same data processes as the main system. Upon a disaster event, the data saved on the tapes is restored on this reserve system. This approach allows faster system restoration as only data, not the system itself, is going to be restored.

The use of CBFS Storage provides significant advantages over traditional backups. Since the reserve copying of data is made separately from the system, it can be deployed in new places faster and by less-qualified personnel. The remote site will be able to start working in less time, thus significantly reducing RTO.

Tier 3: Electronic Vaulting

Tier 3 has an additional provision for some mission-critical data to be constantly copied to a remote server (electronic vault) through a dedicated channel. Since the bandwidth of such a constantly open channel is limited, only predefined data of the utmost importance can be backed up under these provisions.

CBFS Storage allows the partitioning of critical data into separate storages, which will significantly simplify their transfer and later recovery. The CBFS Storage functionality can be enhanced so that changes to data deemed to be critical automatically trigger the data transfer through the aforementioned dedicated channel to the electronic vault. Moreover, CBFS Storage allows multistream access to the storage: your separate subsystem can monitor the state of the critical data and transfer them to electronic vault. The integrity of the storage is not violated; encryption and access authentication are also supported.

Tier 4: Point-in-Time Copies

This level is different from the previous three; here, hard disks are used in place of tapes. The disk have a faster access time but still need to be shipped to a remote storage location through the same channels as tape.

The advantage of CBFS Storage in this case is that CBFS Storages are single files and recording a single file takes much less time than writing all files and directory tree one-by-one. The same applies to the recovery. As in the previous case, the remote facility receives encrypted disks, making data tampering impossible. Native use of compression increases the speed of writing to disk and, even more so, recovery.

Tier 5: Transaction Integrity

Retail and service organizations are often centered around transactions, rounds of interactions between the company and its customer, vendor, supplier, etc. Applications used by these enterprises are also centered on the transaction, so preserving the transaction integrity between its initiation and completion is critical.

CBFS Storage supports transaction integrity by default. All transactional files remain in their original context and preserve their links and interdependencies. The recovery process from such a storage returns all the transactions to the time point immediately preceding the disaster. The transaction generating/managing application can be restarted exactly where it was left with almost no data lost. To increase security and efficiency, all files changed during a transaction may be singled out in a separate storage for real-time immediate backup to a remote electronic vault. The feasibility and practicability of this approach depends on the logic and design of the transaction-generating application.

Tier 6: Near-Zero Data Loss

This level presumes the existence of an application that is doing constant synchronous or asynchronous mirroring of data to a geographically remote server. This solution is independent from the software used for everyday business operations. CBFS Storage is fully compatible with such applications; additional advantages include faster compression and encryption and full control over data access and authentication.

Tier 7: Highly Automated, Business-Integrated Solution

In the seventh tier (the highest) the disaster event is automatically detected by devices separate from the computer system. The disaster event triggers the system restoration and activation of a mirror reserve site without any human input. The advantages of CBFS Storage in this scenario are similar to those described above. Regardless of the specific data recovery tier that the company will choose, the use of CBFS Storage is a solution with the following advantages. These generally reduce the requirement for a highly skilled specialist on the customer side of the soultion.

  • Faster recovery time
  • Integrity preservation
  • Data protection from inadvertent or malicious destruction and tampering while in storage

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