The above questions prove to be a good starting point for determining the level of backup technology needed. Most enterprises have complex needs, yet once the task of backing up data is broken down into manageable pieces, it becomes much easier to create effective backups.
As part of the selection process, it is important to identify product features that can improve the backup experience, while still meeting the requirements. Some features worth considering include:
Data deduplication: A technology that eliminates duplicate files during the backup process. Deduplication can reduce backup size by as much as 90 percent and can be of great benefit to enterprises that use virtualization for servers and desktops. Those systems often contain many duplicate images and virtual hard drives that are duplicated throughout the enterprise.
Bare metal recovery: With bare metal recovery, backups can be restored to dissimilar hardware. That enables administrators to replace failed systems with different hardware and also can be used as part of an upgrade process, where older systems are replaced with new systems.
Image-based backups: Many backup products now apply the concept of imaging to backup systems. The technology works by taking a 'snapshot' of the system's hard drive and then saving a compressed image of its occupied data sectors. Imaging tends to be much faster than file-by-file backup technologies.
Selective backup: Most enterprises do not need to back up every file on every storage device every time. With selective backups, administrators can choose which files or directories to back up.
Quasi file-by-file backups: For purposes of archiving and retrieval of data for discovery purposes, a file-by-file backup storage methodology offers a way to retrieve individual data files. Most imaging products today support the ability to mount an imaged hard drive and then selectively mark files for retrieval.
Open file handling: The product should be able to close or hold open files to guarantee that data is not corrupted during a backup procedure.
Automated script capabilities: Administrators may need to create event-based macros or scripts to set a database or other service into a state that may be required for backup.
Compression: By compressing backup files, storage requirements can be reduced by as much as 80 percent.
Encryption: To protect backups from unauthorized access. Strong encryption is often a compliance requirement and it also protects businesses from data theft.
Management console: To allow execution, scheduling and monitoring of backup tasks.
Multiple agents: Agents are used to run backup jobs on various endpoints. The product selected should offer agents for all devices to be backed up.
Agnostic device support: The product should be able to work with any storage device used in the enterprise, including tape, virtual tape, optical media, hard drives, and removable media.
Scheduling: The product should support multiple schedules and should be able to run independent backups concurrently to reduce the time needed to backup and automate the backup procedure as much as possible.
While the above features are critical for most environments, some capabilities may not be needed in every environment. For example, a business that does not require 24/7 access may not need open file support or advanced scripting - while, other businesses may require a specialized feature that is not included in the above list, such as virtual machine synchronization or remote management agents.
The key to success is to match the features to the business requirements and also plan for future needs. By mapping out the existing infrastructure and applications, most IT administrators should be able to quickly develop a required features list and narrow down the product-selection process.