7 Tiers of Data Recovery: Software Aspects

Executive Summary

Disaster recovery planning is a key component of a business' security strategy. The hardware side of such planning is well discussed in the manuals and white papers of the hardware providers. But the software side, while no less important, is often overlooked during the planning process.

CBFS Vault is a software toolkit for developers working on data storage and data integrity solutions. CBFS Vault augments your data recovery solution by:

  • Reducing recovery time.
  • Minimizing data loss and ensuring data integrity.
  • Preventing malicious tempering or destruction.
  • Reducing requirements for the highly skilled IT workforce.


Recovery Planning

Planning for data recovery is necessary for every company—every company that can't afford significant downtimes due to data loss. Statistics show that only 6% percent of enterprises fully recover after a serious software or hardware disaster, whether malicious or due to negligence, while 43% never reopen and 51% shut down within two years (Jim Hoffer, Health Management Technology).

The inevitable losses that result from interruptions to a company's activities can stem from the following:

  1. Direct revenue loss
  2. Loss of customer trust, damage to the company image, etc.
  3. Brand damage
  4. Loss of know-how, insider information leaks, public availability of privileged data, etc.
  5. Legal costs

The key to preventing these severe consequences and to ensuring continuity-of-business is to produce a meticulous, proactive disaster recovery strategy. For every business process, such a strategy must define a Recovery Point Objective (RPO) and Recovery Time Objective (RTO). As with anything, there are tradeoffs between cost, speed, and effectiveness to weigh—a zero-data-loss, zero-recovery-time solution will obviously be the most expensive.

Besides well-known hardware-based precautions, one of the ways to reduce the costs of disaster recovery is the use of custom filesystems such as CBFS Vault. CBFS Vault allows the creation of encrypted, compressed, self-contained filesystems—referred to as Vaults—that can hold any kind of data and grow to any size. This white paper analyzes the possible application of CBFS Vault on each of the seven tiers traditionally identified for business continuity solutions.

Tier 1: Data Backup with No Hot Site

Businesses with Tier 1 continuity solutions are those that make backups at specific time intervals, and then physically ship those backups off-site for storage. CBFS Vault can be a very convenient solution in such models. By placing all data and documents into a Vault, you get not only the ability to quickly restore the entire vault at once, but also the ability to quickly locate and restore individual items within your backup—no more wasted time winding through tapes.

Moreover, the fact that CBFS Vault has built-in cryptographic protection allows the company to entrust the backups to almost any third-party service provider without the risk of information leaks. In this case, the keys or passwords used for encryption should be safeguarded and stored separately from backups. The loss of the key or password will not affect the feasibility of the vault restoration, but will make it impossible to access the stored data.

CBFS Vault also allows the use of incremental backup systems working on a sector-by-sector basis: there is no need to update the whole Vault file when minimal changes have been made to the data. The practicality of this approach depends on the frequency of the stored file changes, i.e., on the specific application.

In addition, CBFS Vault supports native data compression. If a Vault contains data amenable to compression, the use of CBFS Vault's built-in whole-vault compression mechanism is much more time- and cost-effective than the use of regular compression tools applied to separate files or folders.

Finally, CBFS Vault uses journaling for self-integrity checks. If part of the physical backup medium becomes physically damaged and unreadable, the whole vault saves the damaged file(s), which remain intact and functional.

Tier 2: Data Backup with a Hot Site

This tier has the same provisions for disaster recovery as Tier 1; plus, it provides a backup computer system (commonly referred to as a "hot site") at a remote physical location. The hot site is capable of handling the same data processes as the main system. If a disaster event occurs, the backups can be restored on this backup system. This approach allows faster system restoration as only the data, and not the system itself, has to be restored.

The use of CBFS Vault provides significant advantages over traditional backups. Since the backup data copies are stored separately from the system, they can be deployed in new places faster and by less-qualified personnel. The remote site will be able to start working in less time, thus significantly reducing RTO.

Tier 3: Electronic Vaulting

Tier 3 has an additional provision for some mission-critical data to be constantly copied to a remote server (electronic vault) through a dedicated channel. Since the bandwidth of such a constantly open channel is limited, only predefined data of the utmost importance can be backed up under these provisions.

CBFS Vault allows you to partition critical data into a separate Vault, which will significantly simplify its transfer and later recovery. Furthermore, CBFS Vault's functionality can be extended so that changes to data deemed critical will automatically trigger a data transfer through the aforementioned dedicated channel to the electronic vault.

Tier 4: Point-in-Time Copies

This level is different from the previous three in that businesses employ faster storage mediums for backups—e.g., hard drives instead of tapes. The drives have faster access times, but still need to be shipped to a remote storage location through the same means as tapes would.

The advantage of CBFS Vault in this case is that Vaults are single files, and recording a single file takes much less time than copying all files in a directory tree one-by-one. The same applies to during recovery. As in the previous cases, the remote facility receives encrypted Vaults, making data tampering impossible; and native use of compression increases the speed of writing data to the backup drives and, even more importantly, speeds up recovery.

Tier 5: Transaction Integrity

Retail and service organizations are often centered around transactions—rounds of interactions between the company and its customers, vendors, suppliers, etc. Applications used by these enterprises are also centered on transactions, so preserving transaction integrity between their initiation and completion is critical.

CBFS Vault supports transaction integrity by default. All transactional files remain in their original context and preserve their links and interdependencies. The recovery process from a Vault returns all the transactions to the time point immediately preceding the disaster. The application generating/managing the transactions can therefore be restarted exactly where it left off with almost no data loss.

To increase security and efficiency, all files changed during a transaction may be singled out in a separate vault for real-time immediate backup to a remote electronic vault. The feasibility and practicability of this approach depends on the logic and design of the transaction-generating application.

Tier 6: Near-Zero Data Loss

This level presumes the existence of an application that is doing constant synchronous or asynchronous mirroring of data to a geographically remote location. Such a solution is, by necessity, independent from the software used for everyday business operations. CBFS Vault is fully compatible with such applications; additional advantages include faster compression and encryption and full control over data access and authentication.

Tier 7: Highly Automated, Business-Integrated Solutions

In the seventh tier (the highest) the disaster event is automatically detected by devices separate from the mainline business systems. The disaster event triggers the system restoration and activation of a backup hot site without any human input. The advantages of CBFS Vault in this scenario are similar to those described above.


Regardless of the specific data recovery tier your company chooses, the use of CBFS Vault is a solution with the following advantages, all of which generally reduce the requirement for a highly skilled specialists.

  • More efficient data storage
  • Faster recovery time
  • Data integrity preservation
  • Protection from inadvertent or malicious destruction and tampering while in storage

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