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Intraday Data Protection

Intraday data protection allows data to be protected multiple times per day. The copy is often made to the same disk subsystem or to a separate disk subsystem depending upon the technology. Intraday data protection allows data that is lost near the end of the day to be restored from a point in time more recent than the previous night’s backup tapes. For example, if a SQL database is corrupted at 3:30 p.m. and an intraday copy was created at 12:00 a.m., then only 3.5 hours of data would be lost. Without intraday data protection, restores would be performed using the data from the last nightly backup, which for this example, could represent as much as 7.5 hours of lost data assuming the work day began at 8:00 a.m.

In addition, since restores are typically from a disk storage system, not tape, recovery time is measured in minutes, not tens of minutes to hours with tape.

There are 3 basic types of intraday data protection:

  • Snapshots are available on certain disk storage subsystems and file systems. Snapshot software either makes or retains historical versions of files on a frequency that is determined by the user. Snapshots can be scheduled as often as once an hour.  Snapshots are limited to a fixed maximum number, typically 64 or 256, depending on the implementation. Once this maximum number is reached, the oldest snapshot is eliminated when a new snapshot is taken. Snapshots provide for intraday data restores, assuming that the deletion or corruption happened within the period in which a snapshot is available. If the deletion or corruption happened earlier than the oldest snapshot, a restore would have to be performed from traditional backup tapes. Also, if the primary disk system fails, not only is all of the primary data lost, but so are all of the snapshots.  In both of these cases, traditional nightly backups would have to be used to restore the lost or corrupted data.

  • Application dumps are available for certain applications, such as Microsoft SQL Server and Oracle (Recovery Manager – RMAN), which have a backup utility built into them.  With application dumps, point in time database images can be created multiple times during the day to reduce the exposure to losing more than a few hours of data in the event of system failure or database corruption.

  • Continuous Data Protection (CDP) is fairly new and not widely deployed at this time. Think of CDP as continuous snapshots that can also be replicated to another system, resulting in a historical record of data that is up to date anywhere from within seconds to an hour. With CDP, if a disk subsystem fails or becomes corrupted at 12:25 p.m., a restore could be performed from the CDP data just seconds to minutes earlier resulting in minimal data loss. As with all technology, there is a trade off - CDP creates a byte-level replicated copy and therefore takes additional system, network and storage resources. As with other forms of intraday data protection, data that is protected by CDP must also be backed up nightly with traditional backup applications.

Snapshots, application dumps and CDP are not replacements for weekend and nightly backups.  In each case, their function is to keep a minimum number of intraday copies to reduce the amount of data lost in the event of midday data loss or corruption. In addition, weekend and nightly backups are still required for long term history.

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