The education sector remains abuzz with cost-cutting expectations despite pressures to increase services. Automation of costly manual tasks could save funds for many of these institutions, specifically in data protection.
The IT departments of schools and universities can take advantage of a proven cost-savings opportunity in data protection that also will increase their new data recovery expectations and school safety.
Data recovery solutions always should include all three major areas for ensuring restores: backup, archive and disaster recovery. Buying technology to perform these three key functions separately creates huge divides in management and implementation. And, skipping out on any one of these areas will leave a facility vulnerable and out of compliance with school safety measures.
All three functions of data recovery have taken a giant leap in automation over the past few years as a result of a single technological development: backup appliances. Beyond bundling all of the components needed to handle data recovery, IT shops now can purchase all-in-one data recovery designed for enterprise-class operations.
Universities are not the only enterprises in education. Even the smallest school districts take on the school safety requirements of enterprises: multiple platforms, remote offices, large numbers of users (at every level), separate retention expectations from different departments and a host of legal rules to follow.
The net result of an appliance is automation for all of these enterprise requirements and the inclusion of every data protection technology an IT department could want. The largest savings come to schools and universities, though, in the areas of pricing (sizing and configuration), implementation and operation. Not only can these facilities save money in adopting an appliance strategy, but also they will get all of those new technologies and enterprise capabilities at incredible savings.
Granted, costs are not the only thing IT is thinking about when buying data protection. Sizing for an appliance shifts conversations from hardware and software (compatibility and preferences) to simple decisions around how big and how fast (scalability and performance). Users should be able to see the prices upfront. Consider the life cycle for such a purchase, typically three to five years, and decide based on how much the current data backup solution costs.
When configuring and pricing an appliance, think about the following details. Rather than giving the appliance vendor only the "ideal" expectations, give them a minimum and maximum. This will help immeasurably during appliance manufacturer comparisons. Do not let a manufacturer or their reseller undersize or oversize your solution:
How much data does the facility have?
- Data files in terabytes.
- Databases that are run in terabytes.
Software licensing structures:
- Pricing by the amount of data backed up or archived, or pricing by the number of machines or databases being backed up.
- General retention policies.
- Number of days to be able to restore everything.
- Number of machines to be able to restore immediately.
- Number of years to keep archives.
- Size and number of each remote office.
- Some facilities will not need a localized appliance, just software.
- Remote office solutions are based primarily on network pipes.
Based on the above, it is easy to see that the configuration and sizing for an appliance shifts from talking about server size, storage arrays, etc., to the practical details of the environment, which is good news.
In the details
When comparing appliance offerings from different vendors, concentrate on the implementation issues during decisionmaking rather than cables and connectivity, including:
- Stability of the appliance manufacturer.
- Delivery schedules.
- Installation impact.
- Support references.
Once these details turn into specific choices from different appliance manufacturers, the comparison of options now turns to how the appliance will run in a facility's specific environment. At this point, consider technologies that should be available, including:
- Data de-duplication offerings—both cost and methodology.
- Replication capabilities—replicating the appliance itself, as well as backup copies.
- VMware backup options—each customer is different, and virtual environments will change over time, so look at the options for both reasons.
- Policy-driven design—rather than just making copies of data, IT should be able to set rules that drive the automation.
Operations of the selected backup appliance should bring the largest savings to IT shops. Because automation of manual tasks should remove hours spent on backups each day, and even days a week, expect that the appliance now simply will be a monitoring job rather than a constant flurry of data movement and tracking tasks. Users will be setting policies rather than looking for data and worrying about what did not get backed up.
Although "soft" costs, such as staff time and skills, are difficult to calculate when figuring savings for an IT purchase, in an appliance, these calculations become moot. The entire purpose of an appliance is to reduce a "parts and pieces" purchase, eliminate the expensive consulting cost to drive the solution and minimize the operations through automation, therefore eliminating the need to add in the savings of the soft costs.
In essence, an appliance will save huge dollars upfront on a purchase, and over time the automation built into appliance designs relieves managers from having to increase their annual budgets. The savings in hard-to-calculate soft costs eventually will take place. They should end up as an added benefit to the more obvious savings in equipment, software, integration and installation.