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EVALUATING BACKUP HARDWARE
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When it comes to actually backing up data, the performance and capacity of your backup devices will probably have the single biggest impact on your overall solution. Businesses have placed increasing importance on the needs of their data storage devices, and actual data volumes tend to grow dramatically in many businesses. Fortunately, hardware vendors have answered many of the demands associated with backing up large quantities of data. For this reason, the market for backup hardware is constantly changing. What might be considered a high-end device this year will undoubtedly be lowered to midrange status within a few years. However, the basic concepts related to evaluating and selecting backup hardware remain the same. The main goals are performance, capacity, and manageability. In this section, we ll examine these parameters and provide an overview of the various technologies available today. Rest assured, you ll be able to use the same criteria for evaluating newer technologies as they become available on the market.
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Characteristics of Backup Devices
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One of the first things you re likely to examine when evaluating a backup product is the set of features offered by the device itself. The effectiveness of your tape backup device
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will likely be one of your most important considerations. Here are several points that you should keep in mind when shopping for tape backup equipment: w Upgradability Can the current hardware be used with other technologies If not, what is the likelihood that industry vendors will provide backwardcompatible storage options in the future Although vendor promises are not worth much as far as assurance, you should choose products that are widely supported in the industry; you can be reasonably sure that compatible solutions will continue to be developed in the future. Performance If you have been surfing vendor sites for information about hardware devices, then you are undoubtedly familiar with performance claims. Usually, these are based on a volume of data backed up per unit time (for example, 500 MB/hour ). These values are important, but you should take care to determine the validity of such claims. Consider the conditions under which the device was tested (and if those details aren t available, don t be shy about requesting them). For example, if text files were used in the test, then much robust performance could be attributed to data compression. On the other hand, if the files used were already compressed, then the performance numbers would indicate the true throughput of the device. Reliability A common measurement of reliability is called the mean time between failures (MTBF). Usually stated in hours, the MTBF gives an idea of how long an average device can be expected to survive under constant working conditions. Table 5-5 lists some typical MTBF values.
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Device Backup device
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Mean Time Between Failures (in hours) 100,000 to 500,000
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Notes Environmental conditions and amount of use will greatly affect the life of tape backup devices. Failed fans can lead to CPU and motherboard damage that results in time-consuming hardware replacements.
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CPU fan
20,000 to 40,000
Table 5-5.
MTBF Values for Various Hardware Devices
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Device IDE controller
Mean Time Between Failures (in hours) ~300,000
Notes Many controllers are built in to motherboards and may be difficult to replace. Failed disks will almost always result in lost data. Failure of a RAID controller can cause data corruption regardless of the type of RAID employed. Failure of a SCSI controller can cause many devices to become unavailable. Failed disks will result in loss of data unless redundancy is configured and enabled. Look for servers that have redundant power supplies.
IDE hard disk SCSI/RAID controller
~300,000 ~300,000 to 1,000,000
SCSI controller
~300,000
SCSI hard disk
~500,000
Server power supply
100,000 to 400,000
Table 5-5.
MTBF Values for Various Hardware Devices (continued)
Average values should serve only as a reference, because claims are often made based on figures attained in a controlled environment. One way to protect yourself against damage caused by the failure of parts is to invest in hardware that can monitor itself. For example, many current motherboards include temperature sensors that monitor heat generated by the CPU. If normal operating temperatures are exceeded, an alarm will go off, alerting systems administrators. Based on these considerations, you will probably be able to find a device that fits your business requirements. Of course, the tape backup device does not work by itself. Thus, we ll next consider the types of data buses available on the market.
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