Clearly the topic is on peoples’ minds, and we can see it displayed prominently in, for example, ESG’s recent Brief on “NetApp Modernizes Backup” (registration currently required, but we are working on making this more widely available soon).
Rather than re-iterate the points I made originally, I wanted to focus on one particular value that snapshots can deliver (I will blog on a number of such values in the upcoming weeks). Snapshots are the most efficient way of getting a small amount of data out of a big amount of data. This is specifically the case for recovering objects.
In the context of NetApp Syncsort Integrated Backup, I am talking about Microsoft Exchange objects (emails, contacts, calendar items, etc.) or SharePoint objects (normally documents, but you could consider a site as well). In a traditional backup model, there are ways to get objects back. Most vendors provide some level of tools and techniques that get you to your goal… eventually. The problem is the “eventually”!
If you’re backing things up at a file level you are storing them in a format that is not immediately accessible. To get at the little things (objects) contained in the big thing (database file) you have to stream the entire database back to a disk somewhere. Then you poke around in it and find what you want. Waiting for that restore process can take hours (we’ll assume the source for the restore happens to be on hand – if not you could be looking at days). Then you have to hope that what you’re looking for happens to be in the database you just restored. Given the often vague information provided by users, it may not be, meaning you get to start all over again, giving you ample time to conquer many more levels of Angry Birds while the restore progress bar makes its slow crawl across the screen.
Wouldn’t you prefer to get your lost objects restored in about five minutes? Enter snapshots.
The big magic you get from snapshots is that data is available immediately in a useable format. No waiting for data to be copied back to a disk somewhere. You just mount your snapshot to a server, access it via the proper application-specific tools, and recover your objects in minutes. If you picked the wrong backup…no problem. Just take another few minutes to do it again with a different backup (and if you’re like me, a few minutes is plenty of time to fail on another Angry Birds level).
Another nice benefit is that you offload the process from your primary application environment. A lot of Exchange tools, for example, require you to restore the database to an Exchange recovery group. If you don’t happen to have a spare Exchange server around, that means you’re asking your production Exchange system to mount a new database in order for you to find the object. That’s going to add impact and load to the system. With snapshots, everything happens outside the Exchange environment except for the final copying of the objects back to the production mailbox.
Without snapshots in place, getting little things back can often mean big things: big time, big impact, big waiting. Snapshots get you where you need to be fast and reliably. Really, if you’ve never had the pleasure of a snapshot-based restore, you may not even be able to grasp just how simple it is. To see an Exchange item recovery in action, follow this link and view Demo Video #5.