Nick Hardiman explains how Asigra is meeting the enterprise challenge of backing up data when it exists on multiple devices, in the cloud, and on the network.
Backup, along with upgrades and security patches, is one of those services every enterprise needs. But now that BYOD will put enterprise data absolutely everywhere, how do you stay on top of backups?
Asigra is a Canadian company that provides enterprises with backup and restore software. Asigra don't provide a backup service to customers - they supply the tools needed to build a backup service (If you want to see an example of a company offering an enterprise backup service, have a look at this Zetta article). The toolkit is called Asigra Cloud BackupTM v12.
It was all so simple in the olden days
Decades ago, when Asigra were getting going and the client-server model was the new big thing, everyone knew where the enterprise data was and how customers would view it.
Enterprise applications were arranged in a three-tier architecture, with the data at the rear.
- The customers ran thick clients on their desktops and connected with a front-end presentation tier.
- The business brains were codified in the business logic middle tier.
- The data sources were internal, kept away from the customers in the back-end tier.
The three tier model was handy for explaining how all this new distributed IT worked. This three tier model, like the project management waterfall model, was a simple way of explaining how things worked but it didn't really mirror reality. Data was never really restricted to one set of servers — it was scattered across all the clients, servers, desktops of the enterprise's IT estate. It was a complex reality then, and it's a much more complex IT world now.
Now there's cloud and BYOD
In the modern IT world, enterprise data is scattered around the organization's network and elsewhere. Asigra has grown its business adding tools to cover emerging technologies such as BYOD, private clouds, and SaaS. Want to back up your phone? OK. Want to manage VM snapshots? Sure. Want to restore to Salesforce.com? Fine.
Backing up from devices
The emerging BYOD trend means a lot more sources that require backing up. There's data on business desktops, personal laptops, business phones and personal tablets.
Asigra provide applications to securely back up and restore data on devices. IOS fanboys can install Asigra's cloud backup app from Apple'sApp store. Android users can get their equivalent from the Google Play store. Sorry, Blackberry users — RIM may be Asigra's fellow Canadians, but you're out of luck for the time being.
Backing up from servers
Asigra's cloud backup toolkit provides ways of pulling the data off physical servers, virtual servers, and SaaS and PaaS vendors. Asigra cloud backup has to cover a variety of operating systems, applications and storage types. There's data on all the enterprise's servers. There's data in the new private cloud. There's data held by service providers in their public clouds.
The traditional way of backing up enterprise systems is to install agents to copy data and forward it to a central backup service. Different types of agents are required for different types of applications - for instance, a virtual server system may run agents for Microsoft Hyper-V, VMware ESX, or Citrix XenServer. A database system may have agents for Microsoft SQLServer, IBM DB,2 or Oracle. Managing a fleet of agents is complex and expensive.
Asigra cloud backup uses agentless backup. The central service uses all sorts of tricks to connect to the applications it is backing up and restoring, such as mounting file systems, interfacing with APIs, and using directory trust. The complexity of this system is left to Asigra to figure out, rather than the enterprise using the software.
Backing up to the cloud
Network bandwidth usage is minimized. Asigra have been optimizing data transfer since 64k lines were outrageously expensive and clouds were only in the sky.
All the data is backed up to a single centralized repository. The enterprise can put this store in a private cloud or out in a public cloud. The enterprise may go the way of the hybrid cloud, keeping a primary backup repository on-premise and a secondary repository off-premise.
The data is encrypted in transit and when stored. Asigra software is certified using NIST's FIPS 140-2 security standard.
Restoring to devices
Backup is a means to an end. What's important is access to data when you need it most.
Running a restore test is not the most exciting job in the world. It's long been a dull manual maintenance task for computer operators. Asigra cloud provides automated R2A (Recovery and Restore Assurance). It performs proactive and non-intrusive checks on the data in the central store.
Innovation isn't just for startups
Asigra has been around since 1986 and has supplied cloud backup software by the bucketload (over half a million bucketloads, to be precise - more than 550,000 installs on six continents). Asigra's trying hard to cover all the bases. It's nice to see it isn't just the start-ups that can innovate.