With the release of the Windows Server 2003 R2 operating system and System Center Data Protection Manager 2006 last year, Microsoft gave Windows administrators two new choices for data backup and restoration.
Picking between those two options may come down to knowing the nature of the corporate data and how employees are using that data.
"If you ask any business, they will say their data is important. But some data is more important than other data," said Ric Opal, with Peters & Associates Inc., of Elmhurst, Ill., a technology business systems design company.
Once you identify the important data and you know how, when and where it is being used, making a choice between products like Microsoft's Windows Server 2003 R2 and System Center Data Protection Manager (DPM) 2006 becomes much simpler.
Both products allow workers to copy or restore their data without IT personnel, saving huge amounts of time for IT departments, which can be devoted to bigger projects. Windows Server 2003 R2 works in the operating system while DPM works at the application level.
"There are no IT administrators involved and there can be better performance," said Peter Pawlak, an analyst with Directions on Microsoft, a Kirkland, Wash., consulting firm.
If quick data accessibility by users is of prime importance, particularly in branch offices, then Windows Server 2003 R2 is the way to go, according to Microsoft. Its technology replicates data quickly and uses Remote Differential Compression technology to compress files that use less bandwidth, making access to them faster.
It also uses two distributed file technologies: DFS Replication and DFS Namespaces. DFS Replication uses a replication engine that is designed to be used with Wide Area Networks. DFS Namespaces, formerly known as Distributed File System in Windows Servers 2000 and 2003, allows users to access folders no matter where they are stored.
Windows Server 2003 R2 uses Volume Shadow Copy Service, or VSS, to replicate the data, which can be done even as workers continue using applications. "The big benefit is fast access to files," Pawlak said.
Smile: Snapshops make for quick file restoration by users
DPM builds on this technology, taking up to eight snapshots of the system a day, storing them on disks instead of tapes. These snapshots can also be stored on tapes.
If quick restoration of files is the most important factor, then DPM is a good choice, Opal said. Instead of IT staff having to pour over the daily tapes, which include a day's worth of data from across the organization, the user can restore the data immediately without help.
Opal recommended DPM to a customer after determining that being able to restore critical, complex files was the company's priority.
Hoist Liftruck Mfg. Inc., in Bedford Park, Ill., is one of Opal's customers, and the company has complex blueprint files for its products -- trucks and carriers that lift heavy items such as boats. If those files were lost, recreating them would be a nightmare, eating up huge chunks of time and manpower in accessing tape records, Opal said, assuming all the data remained intact.
"The nature of [Hoist Liftruck's] business and its files is engineering-laden, so it's really important to protect the data completely. There just can't be any pieces missing," he said. "We've all had that unfortunate experience of, oops, I just deleted the file I was working on. With [DPM], you, the user, can just click on the file and it's OK, without any technical talent."
But while the DPM protects data, it does not protect the operating system. "There are multiple ways to protect data, and there should be layers of defense for data," Opal said. "Some companies have to learn that the hard way and then protection becomes a priority after the data is gone."