Speed of data recovery times has become critical for many larger companies today.

And it’s become pretty big focus area for Symantec Corp.

How big?

Consider this: Two key announcements emerging out Vision 2008 – Symantec’s 11th annual user conference currently on in Las Vegas, NV – have a direct bearing on this topic.

Symantec’s new data protection vision – Listen to podcast


Both have to do with crucial upgrades to NetBackup, Symantec’s “backup and recovery” software suite targeted at enterprises with large Windows, UNIX, Linux or NetWare environments.

The first announcement is the integration of a technology called Single Pass Granular Recovery in upcoming versions (6.5.2 and 6.5.3) of NetBackup (NBU).

 Getting granular


Granular recovery isn’t a new technology. But up until now its user base was mainly in the mid-market.

Until today, single pass granular recovery has been a feature of Backup Exec System Recovery, a Symantec product targeted at small businesses.

Its promise of helping “restore systems in minutes, not hours or days” has been understandably attractive to such firms, for whom even a day’s downtime could spell ruin.

Now incorporating this technology within NBU is a smart move on the part of Cupertino, Calif.-based Symantec.

Effectively in a very short time, and without spending a whack on product development, Symantec has been able to beef up NBU – its flagship enterprise-grade data recovery product – with a feature that’s proven its value in the mid-market.

What’s so hot about granular recovery?

Symantec says the technology has benefits both for the IT department and end users.

From the IT department’s standpoint it reduces admin time dramatically, said Martin Ward, director of product marketing for data protection at Symantec.

“Because it’s single pass, the IT department needs to backup the entire Exchange server just once and index it offline.”

That done, he said, recovery of individual e-mails, folders, and mailboxes is a piece of cake – possible within in seconds, with no need for separate mailbox backups.

As IT admins no longer have to run multiple backup jobs to protect Exchange or SharePoint, granular recovery cuts backup times in half, or better, Ward said.

From the end user perspective, he said, “the advantage is much faster recovery times.”

Typical recovery methods, he noted, are extremely longwinded.

“If you wanted to recover an e-mail, IT would have to first restore the entire Exchange database into an alternate server, manually parse that, find your e-mail message, extract it and then manually insert it into the Exchange server.”

This process could take anything from several hours to a day.

“But with granular recovery, you can have the item back within seconds or, in the worst case, within minutes.”

Smart synergies

The integration of granular recovery (a feature of Backup Exec) with NetBackup is a significant move for Symantec.

Over the past 15 years NetBackup and Backup Exec have been optimized for their respective markets – enterprises and SMBs respectively.

“But we now saw great advantages in sharing that technology,” said Ward.

That integration at the product level is the fallout of a structural integration within Symantec, over the past few months, between the Backup Exec and NetBackup teams.

Ward said the two teams have now been unified under a single business unit – the Data Protection Group.

“We’re already seeing dividends.”

Existing Backup Exec customers have testified to the significant time and cost savings the granular recovery option (which will be made available in future versions of Net Backup) has brought them.

Guild strikes gold?

One of them is the Screen Actors Guild, based in Burbank, Calif.

The Guild carries sensitive pension and health information about film actors – and besides obvious concerns about the security and privacy of that information – also has to watch its operating costs very closely.

In a Webcast, Kevin Donnellen, assistant CIO for the Screen Actors Guild related how the Backup Exec has helped his IT organization speed up the data restoration process.

Since the Guild’s data centre was modernized around seven years ago, its server count has grown dramatically. “We started out in 2001 with 25 servers,” said Donnellen. “Since then we increased [the count] by probably around 400 per cent.”

He said prior to the rollout of Symantec Backup Exec, admins spent hours – even a day or two – restoring servers and the all of the applications.

Now faster server restoration has brought big cost savings.

The Guild also implemented NetBackup 6.0 and the cost and time savings from that are significant as well, he said.

Donnellen contrasted today’s centralized backup and recovery with the server-centric strategy his team pursued in the pre-Symantec days.

“The product we used at the time was very operator intensive. Operators had to load many different types of media. There was offsite storage, sorting issues and tapes would get mixed up.”

The move to NetBackup and Backup Exec, he said, produced a 40 per cent reduction in backup administrator time. “We also realized cost savings in terms of operator time.”

Faster recovery through Backup Exec also generated fairly significant cost savings for Baptist Health – the largest non-profit healthcare organization in South Florida.

The organization’s data centre houses well over 600 Windows servers. “On average one server a month goes down,” noted Alan Montgomery, corporate director of systems and development with Baptist Health.

“Through Backup Exec we are able to bring systems up in 15 minutes versus [the earlier] four hour turnaround.”

Baptist Health has estimated the annual “cost avoidance” by having the systems up and running so much faster at being in the range of $6.79 million.

“This factors in the cost of my staff to rebuild the servers plus the staffing of nurses who are supposed to be doing patient care,” Montgomery said.

Magic of deduplication

As with granular recovery, integrating PureDisc into NBU is another smart move on the part of Symantec.

Up until now, PureDisc – a data de-deduplication product targeted at remote offices – used to be sold as an independent product.

Data deduplication – also dubbed “intelligent compression” – is a method of reducing storage needs by eliminating redundant data.

The integration of PureDisc with NBU, would allow Symantec’s enterprise customers to deduplicate their entire environment – remote offices as well as data centres.

The most tangible benefit is cutting down on storage and bandwidth.

According to Symantec, potential bandwidth reduction from this capability can be astounding.

“We’ve had customers reduce their storage footprint for backup environments by 99 per cent,” Ward said.

He said, depending on their needs, businesses could use all this freed up bandwidth in different ways.

“Some would enjoy the greater efficiency the storage reduction brings. Others would say, ‘now rather than having one or two days of storage on disk let me extend it out to 30, 40, 50 days.’ It’s their choice.”

Symantec has announced that NetBackup 6.5.2 and NetBackup PureDisk 6.5 are available now; NetBackup 6.5.3 will be available in Summer 2008; NetBackup RealTime Protection 6.5 is scheduled to be available Fall 2008.

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