A backup offers much more than something to restore from. It’s also a collection of all the data that has ever been created, providing it isn’t set to be destroyed after a set amount of time. This data isn’t usually used for anything more than an archive, something to use to restore from if the main data source gets deleted or corrupted. Of course, it’s vital that it achieves this aim because it’s the primary reason that a backup should exist. But it’s possible to turn a backup into an even more useful resource as something to use for analytics and added value.
It might not be possible to achieve that on your current backup plan. Many backup applications store their data in a proprietary file format, often encrypted, meaning the data has to be converted before it can be properly accessed. There’s nothing inherently wrong with this because it allows the backups to be run quicker and often to take up less storage space. But there are some backup providers, including Hewlett-Packard and CommVault, who are looking to take advantage of those wanting get added value from their backups and are including more advanced search and archiving features.
For example, CommVault uses a single-pass process and then stores the data in a repository. The backup and archive are stored together in one index, meaning that the data can be searched entirely through the same function. This can be used to fit compliance requirements, but it can also be adapted for data access and analytics. The same is true of snapshots, which provide an exact capture of data at a specific moment in time. Some backup vendors have started to provide snapshot index-and-search facilities in order to provide data access across potentially hundreds of snapshots.
Data continues to grow at an impressive rate, but it can be hard to get a control of it when a lot of it is unstructured data. Large files that might rarely be edited, like images, videos and audios, could get a single use and then be filed away and never used again. Those files may have been significant investment, so it seems senseless to not capitalise on their potential. They can be stored in archive for reduced cost, but making this searchable at file level would unlock value. Customer data can exist within these backups, too. This is hugely valuable data and shouldn’t be filed away without a second thought – it might have great analytic and market research potential.
Something that might be suitable for your business is copy data systems. These provide a single centre of data storage that combines data protection, disaster recovery, analysis and more. One method of achieving this is to create a golden copy of all the data and update it using incremental change tracking. Virtual copies can then be created for applications like data protection. Most importantly, though, unstructured data and databases are supported, meaning files are stored in their native format and remain searchable.
Have you thought about the type of data you store and the hidden value that might be in them? Consider data that can be reused or mined for analytic value – you might find you can unlock a whole host of opportunity in your archive.
Using Backups for Analytics and Added Value
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