SQL Server administrators pay a lot of attention to backups. When data gets corrupted or when hardware fails, at least there are those backups to fall back on. But if your entire data center burns down, your backups are gone. If you are in a large organization, perhaps you have the benefit of failing over to another site locally, over fiber optic cable across a Metropolitan Wide Area Network (MWAN) or, less effectively, over longer distances. Another, more affordable solution is called data vaulting.
Generally, an outside company performs data vaulting and creates a copy of your database off site. Sometimes the original data is copied at your location, then moved to the location of the data vault, where it is reconnected across slower WAN links and resynchronized. The process isn't all that different from creating a branch office with a local copy. The data is off site, current and protected.
Next, the data-vaulting software creates a link that captures your database transactions as they occur. The link is slow but sufficient enough to capture new data, and the vaulting service is never very far behind having an up-to-date snapshot of your data.
Good data-vaulting solutions work on live SQL Server databases, not on a BCV (business continuance volume -- what EMC Corp. calls a mirrored clone of data) that has been disconnected from the database management system (DBMS). That is, data vaulting should be doing hot backups of your data, which is not an easy
Although you can buy vaulting software for SQL Server, which is essentially modified backup software (e.g., CommVault Systems Inc.), there are some strong advantages to using an outside service provider to perform the vaulting service: mainly that their copy is not only redundant but independent as well. Also, a data-vaulting company specializes in this application and will have more experience and specialized equipment. Chances are they will check the data set more carefully than an operational administrator would.
A number of companies are in the data-vaulting market, including Allegra Systems Inc., AmeriVault, @Backup, DataAssure, EVault Inc., Pro-Softnet Corp (iBackup), IBM, LiveVault Corp., Global Data Vault Inc., Storagepipe Solutions Inc., SwapDrive Inc. and others. LiveVault InSync Corp. holds some specific patents in backing up active SQL databases that I liked. My advice is to try to use a local or regional service provider as they are likely to be faster to respond to your needs for recovery.
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Barrie Sosinsky is president of consulting company Sosinsky and Associates, in Medfield, Mass. He has written extensively on a variety of computer topics. His company specializes in custom software (database and Web-related), training and technical documentation.
This was first published in April 2005