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Centralizing Your Business Data

The proliferation of remote and branch office environments has been increasing pressure on IT infrastructures and teams for a business. Irrespective of the size of your organization, you are likely to plan for remote site management. It is quite common for large scale and multinational organizations to have more than 100 remote sites. Even mid sized and small scale organizations have remote systems that may be used in stand-alone, small office or home office settings.

While remote sites proliferate, the need to capture, protect and preserve remote data has also increased. Data recovery is essential to efficiently support day to day business operations. Besides this, the preservation of remote site data including email and end user files is a legal requirement for organizations large and small. However managing remote data is challenging and expensive, and can place a heavy management burden on already overworked IT personnel.

Most organizations have relied upon and still use out dated tape based approaches for remote site data management. These approaches are slow, expensive, and unreliable. They also require local office personnel to perform manual tasks, such as rotation of tape cartridges and data recovery. In some cases the personnel may not be well trained for the job. Preserving data for disaster recovery from these sites calls for rotation of tapes to off-site storage locations, most often by high cost services companies who charge to send trucks for tape pick-up from every site. In effect, remote data is at risk and unprotected in most cases while also being a cost drain to shrinking IT budgets.

A solution which has been available for some time but not often deployed, is to centralize data for management from remote offices across Wide Area Network or WAN connections. Rather than attempting to manage data at remote sites where data management infrastructure is insufficient, centralization brings the same data to data-center locations that have robust infrastructure. The cost savings are enormous: retiring backup equipment and service contracts from remote sites is an immediate benefit, while enabling local personnel to stay focused on their work rather than being distracted with backup typically improves productivity.

With centralized data management, data center locations more often stay current with modern data management infrastructure. In this way they can more reliably protect, manage and preserve data and typically can also restore it faster even over remote network connections back to remote sites and systems.

A business can typically enjoy the following cost savings by centralizing its data:

  • It can remove and retire backup equipment from remote sites and save upon their maintenance and upgrades.
  •  It can re-purpose backup server systems to other workloads.
  • It can eliminate the cost of tape cartridges from remote sites.
  • It does not need to spend on service contracts for tape collection from each remote site.
  • The human error in data management can be mitigated or completely eliminated.

Benefits in terms of increased productivity and service levels include:

  • Efficient use of networks through combined impact of data reduction from compression, encryption and de-duplication.
  • Ability to enforce common policies for data management across all data centers, including data created in remote sites.
  • Ability to prepare comprehensive report on management of all data, including centralized data.
  •  Higher levels of reliability for preservation of data for disaster recovery and legal discovery purposes.
  • Higher levels of data reliability and reduced cost of remote office data protection.

Centralized business data management also involves centralized data backup with automatic replication of data from remote sites and sending it over a network to a main (centralized) location for storage. Business organizations can use centralized backup to automate backups at remote sites and potentially reduce backup administration costs.

Centralized backup is a good alternative to local backup – the approach that calls for the maintenance of tape libraries at remote sites. Centralized backup solves the potential security issues associated with loose tape media. However, it also tends to make backups take longer and ties up a network's available bandwidth. To address these concerns, the backup administrator should make calculative decisions about what to back up and how often to send backups over the network to the central location.? To ensure that only minimal and most important data is transferred for the backup, some centralized backup systems can de-duplicate data in the backup stream and/or only perform incremental backups.

Ways of Centralizing Data for Backup

Centralizing business data involves data replication – the process of copying specified, file level content from one computer, the source computer, to another, the destination computer. This is done with an initial transfer of the specified data, after which the replicated copy is kept updated in nearly real time with any changes that are made to the data on the source computer.

Data replication can be done on one-to-one basis, many-to-one basis and one-to-many basis.

One to One Data Replication: This is the most vital configuration for data replication. A single computer on Local Area Network (LAN) or Wide Area Network (WAN) gets its data replicated to another computer which may be local or remote. This offers protection to the data stored on source computer against catastrophic failures.

Many to One Data Replication: In this configuration for data replication, computers on the LAN or WAN have their data replicated to a single computer, either local or remote. This offers protection of all of the source computers against catastrophic failures, while maximizing the use of resources by directing all the data to a single destination computer.

One to Many Data Replication: This configuration for data replication adds significantly to the protection offered to the source computer, because of the redundancy. A single computer on the LAN or WAN gets its data replicated to multiple computers, any of which may be local or remote. This provides protection against catastrophic failures for an entire site, as well as the source computer itself.

With the right techniques of centralizing and managing business data, small and medium enterprises can make a lots of cost savings and better business continuity even if a disaster strikes the IT systems.

About the Author:
Frank Johnson is a regular editorial contributor on technology products and services that help small to mid size businesses.? To know more about centralizing data and for queries pertaining to most effective technological strategies for the task, you may interact with him here

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