Belt & Braces

Data storage is like most other elements comprising the IT and communications sector in that development and technological achievement have accelerated in recent times. We chart the development of data back-up and storage and…

Backups have two distinct purposes. The primary purpose is to recover data after its loss, be it by data deletion or corruption. Data loss can be a common experience of computer users. Over 30% of users have lost 100% of their files and information at one time, due to a natural disaster, an accident, or a malicious virus. The secondary purpose of backups is to recover data from an earlier time, according to a user-defined data retention policy, typically configured within a backup application for how long copies of data are required. Though backups popularly represent a simple form of disaster recovery, and should be part of a disaster recovery plan, by themselves, backups should not alone be considered disaster recovery. One reason for this is that not all backup systems or backup applications are able to reconstitute a computer system or other complex configurations such as a computer cluster, active directory servers, or a database server, by restoring only data from a backup.

Since a backup system contains at least one copy of all data worth saving, the data storage requirements can be significant. Organising this storage space and managing the backup process can be a complicated undertaking. A data repository model can be used to provide structure to the storage.

Nowadays, there are many different types of data storage devices that are useful for making backups. There are also many different ways in which these devices can be arranged to provide geographic redundancy, data security, and portability.

The table we have produced showing the evolution of data storage shows, unsurprisingly, that we are in an age where the cloud has become the significant medium and model for many individuals and organisations when it comes to backing up our precious data.

As a SOHO business in my own right we have two principal forms of backup in use; an external hard drive and the cloud – in the form of Dropbox. Both are automatic and my Apple Time Machine HD offers us many revisions of files to recover if necessary. Having had major losses of unrecoverable data over the years we draw an enormous sense on well being from the set up. But we’re small fry, our whole backup is less than a terabyte.

In simplistic terms, the back-up process comprises two distinct steps; a repository model on which to base your back-up strategy and how (more likely, where) to manage the data.

The repository model may comprise an unstructured and ad-hoc set of CDs with minimal information about what data is on them and when the files were backed up. A more sophisticated setup could include a computerised index, catalogue, or relational database.

Regardless of the data repository model, or data storage media used for backups, a balance needs to be struck between accessibility, security and cost. These media management methods are not mutually exclusive and are frequently combined to meet the user’s needs. Using on-line disks for staging data before it is sent to a near-line tape library is a common example.

On-line backup storage is typically the most accessible type of data storage, which can begin restore in milliseconds of time. A good example is an internal hard disk or a disk array (maybe connected to SAN). This type of storage is very convenient and speedy, but is relatively expensive.

Near-line storage is typically less accessible and less expensive than on-line storage, but still useful for backup data storage. A good example would be a tape library with restore times ranging from seconds to a few minutes.

Off-line storage requires some direct human action to provide access to the storage media: for example inserting a tape into a tape drive or plugging in a cable. Because the data is not accessible via any computer except during limited periods in which they are written or read back, they are largely immune to a whole class of on-line backup failure modes. Access time will vary depending on whether the media are on-site or off-site.

Off-site data protection: To protect against a disaster or other site-specific problem, many people choose to send backup media to an off-site vault. The vault can be as simple as a system administrator’s home office or as sophisticated as a disaster-hardened, temperature-controlled, high-security bunker with facilities for backup media storage.

Backup site or disaster recovery centre: In the event of a disaster, the data on backup media will not be sufficient to recover. Computer systems onto which the data can be restored and properly configured networks are necessary too. Some organisations have their own data recovery centres that are equipped for this scenario. Other organisations contract this out to a third-party recovery centre. Because a DR site is itself a huge investment, backing up is very rarely considered the preferred method of moving data to a DR site. A more typical way would be remote disk mirroring, which keeps the DR data as up to date as possible.

A History of Data Storage (Courtesy of Kroll Ontrack Data Recovery)

1725-1834 Paper Data Storage
1834 Charles Babbage starts work on the first computer
1889 Herman Hollerith invents the Electrical Tabulating Machine – The 1880 US census took 8 years to count by hand. Seeing an opportunity, Hollerith developed a mechanism that counted & sorted punched cards which was used for the 1890 census, cutting counting time to 2 years.
1932-1965 Drum storage
1932 Gustav Tauschek invents drum memory storage – Working with paper tape and punched cards for input and output, drums became the first storage mainstream computer memory in the 1950s and 1960s
1943 Colossus: the world’s first programmable computer
21/06/1948 The Manchester Baby and the birth of modern computer memory – Freddie Williams realised that the biggest problem of computing at the time was the lack of storage. He enlisted the help of Tom Kilburn and Geoff Tootill to turn cathode ray tubes into computer memory and run the world’s first electronically stored programme and inventing random access memory.
31/03/1951 Remington-Rand sell the first UNIVAC – UNIVAC was the second commercial computer available in the US and was the first to use magnetic tape for input/output.
1955-1975 Core memory
28/02/1956 Jay Forrester patents magnetic core memory
04/09/1956 IBM launches a device with the first modern hard drive (approx 3Mb) – The IBM 305 RAMAC is launched featuring the IBM 350 Disk Storage component: 50 magnetic disks containing 50,000 sectors, each holding 100 alphanumeric characters.
30/08/1963 Philips debut the Compact Cassette tape at the Berlin Radio Show
1968 Memorex ships the first HDD – This was the first non-IBM HDD, compatible with the IBM 2311, to be shipped, pioneering the market for IBM-compatible peripheral devices.
23/04/1970 HDD manufacturer Western Digital is founded
1971 The floppy disk is launched – IBM launches the 8” floppy disk, which is followed by the 5.25” floppy disk in 1978 (by Shugart Associates) and 3.5” floppy disk in 1984.
1973 SCAMP becomes the world’s first laptop
1977 Oracle is founded
1978 Norman Ken Ouchi patents an early RAID array
1979 EMC is founded
1980 Shugart Technology launches the first 5.25″ HDD
1980 The first CD is developed – Philips & Sony publish the Red Book CD-DA, which becomes the standard for the Compact Disc (CD). CD-ROM then follows in 1985, CD-RW in 1990, DVD in 1995 and Blu Ray in 2003.
1980 Network Attached Storage is first demonstrated
12/08/1981 The IBM Personal Computer (PC) is introduced
1984 Dell is founded
24/01/1984 Steve Jobs introduces the Apple Macintosh
1986 SCSI is officially standardised by the American National Standards
1987 Toshiba launches flash memory
1975-2007 Magnetic hard disk drive
01/06/1988 A case for redundant arrays of inexpensive disks (RAID)
1990 Linear Tape-Open (LTO) standard developed
1994 Thin Provisioning is born – StorageTek releases their Iceberg product, with the ability for thin provisioning – the first on the market.
1995 M-Systems releases first SSD drive called DiskOnChip
23/05/1995 First release of MySQL
15/08/1996 The world’s first mobile phone with the internet access goes on sale
15/09/1997 is registered
1999 M-Systems launches first portable flash drive
02/08/1999 VMware introduces the VMware Virtual Platform
2007-2015 Cloud Storage
2005 Compellent becomes the first company to offer automatic storage tiering
29/06/2007 Apple launches the iPhone
2008 Kroll Ontrack recover data from the 2003 Space Shuttle Columbia
11/09/2008 Dropbox is launched, turning cloud storage into a commodity.
03/04/2010 Apple launches the iPad
19/04/2010 The Hybrid Parity-based Disk Array (HPDA) is proposed
24/01/2013 Scientists manage to store data in DNA
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David Dungay

Editor - Comms Business Magazine