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Famous nightly news broadcaster Warner Wolf coined the classic sports highlight line, “let’s go to the videotape,” about 50 years ago. Back then, everything was stored on tape. Believe it or not, many credit unions using IBM Power systems (IBM i, AIX) still rely on tape-based backup and restore technologies that are as old as one of Warner’s highlight reels.

Tape-based backups are extremely vulnerable. They can get lost, stolen, or mislabeled. Tapes are delicate, susceptible to physical damage, and degrade over time. Usually, there’s only one copy. As a physical disaster recovery (DR) resource, tapes are often kept in a facility close to the primary system for fast restoration. But that also means backups might be wiped out along with original data in the event of a regional disaster.

Even if everything goes according to plan, restoring data and applications from tape is a time consuming, arduous process that greatly affects recovery times. Who’s to say a mechanical failure in a tape drive or accidental exposure to magnetic interference won’t cause a record to be skipped or corrupted? Plus, there must be a cheaper way to store legacy data that is rarely accessed.

The truth is, tape backups won’t cut it anymore. Organizational growth, the sheer volume of data, the pressures of keeping up with evolving technologies and new compliance requirements, and the constant vigilance needed to defend against cybercrime and ransomware demand modernization.

But for IT resellers and managed service providers (MSP), this cloud has a real silver lining. Credit unions still employing tape-based backup and restore strategies present tremendous opportunities for modernization services. This is a chance for resellers to strengthen their trusted advisor position by helping existing clients transition mission-critical legacy workloads to the cloud and to attract new business by offering modernized backup and restore services to credit unions with IBM i and AIX workloads.  

What A Good Backup And Recovery System Should Do

In a few words, a good backup and recovery system should enable business continuity — the ability of the credit union to continue or resume normal business operations as quickly as possible after a crisis, be it an equipment failure, power outage, natural disaster, or cyberattack. A good backup and recovery system will:

  • Maintain operations during and immediately after a disaster.
  • Protect data integrity and restore data and applications to their last known good state.
  • Maintain SLA commitments and regulatory compliance to limit exposure to legal penalties and fines in the event of a security breach.
  • Insulate and encrypt data and applications from unauthorized access to prevent theft or corruption of valuable backups.
  • Create multiple copy sets for storage in different geographic locations so a backup is always available.
  • Identify metrics such as Recovery Point Objective (RPO), Recovery Time Objective (RTO), and Recovery Time Actual (RTA) to minimize data loss based on organizational needs.

Building A Backup And Recovery Roadmap For IBM i Systems

CloudFirst has developed a detailed backup and recovery roadmap for credit unions using IBM, Windows, and Linux systems to ensure business continuity. A synopsis of our nine-step strategy follows. IT resellers and MSPs should use it as a framework to guide discussions with credit union clients about modernizing their antiquated tape backup and recovery systems.

Step 1: Locate all tape-based backups.

Where does data live? Inventory and document all backup tapes, including the exact location and contents of each tape. The storage facility should have the means to safely transport tapes to the primary site as well as backup tape drive units.

Step 2: Recognize the tape backup strategy must change.

Step 1 often identifies gaps in backup strategies. It usually serves as a wake-up call for the credit union that this method isn’t working anymore. Sometimes, though, it takes a disaster to spur change. Waiting until after an outage occurs is a recipe for disaster. Start planning now.

Step 3: Implement multi-tiered backups using the 3-2-1 strategy.

A 3-2-1 multi-tiered backup strategy ensures the credit union has quick access to clean data. The first copy should be saved to connected drives for instant failover. The second saved to a different device in a different location. The third copy is produced on tape and stored in a secure, vaulted facility.

Step 4: Improve efficiency by moving to disk backup.

The next step is to transition away from tape media to disk-to-disk backup. It’s faster, easier, and provides the ability to re-create backups from different points in time. Technologies such as data deduplication and compression — not available to tape-based backups — can significantly drive down costs and reduce the amount of storage required.

Step 5: Improve security through encryption.

Next is to mix in encryption — not only for added data protection but also because encryption is required to meet today’s banking compliance standards. Encrypting and decrypting data is much easier when done on disk versus tape.

Step 6: Improve recovery time through local backups replicated to the cloud.

Now we’re moving into the 21st century. The 3-2-1 backup strategy requires at least one copy to be stored off-site. Cloud backup satisfies this while offering vast improvements in speed plus access to advanced deduplication and compression.

Step 7: Consider improving recovery point objectives through replication.

Real-time data replication takes place as data is written to the primary system, creating a mirror-image of the original data set and shrinking RPO to near zero. However, any errors in the source system will be copied over to the backup system. Replication is excellent for DR purposes but should not be used when error correction is required.

Step 8: Provide availability through the cloud.

When a complete set of compute, storage, and network infrastructure assets are replicated in the cloud, credit unions can instantly switch workloads in the event of an outage to the primary system. Internal and external customers will be unaware of any change in the network environment or performance during the outage or switchover back to the primary system.

Step 9: Eliminate organization-hosted resources through cloud deployment.

The final step is to eliminate all locally hosted resources, instead using infrastructure as a service (IaaS) to deploy the entire production environment in the cloud.

In an IaaS scenario, the MSP takes over all aspects of the IT environment previously performed by internal staff, including hardware lifecycle management, data and applications management, security and maintenance, and internet access as well as backup and restore functionality complete with availability options

Take The Next Step: Join The CloudFirst Partner Program

These are nine steps for credit unions to follow on their backup transformation journey. Are you ready to take the next step? Join the CloudFirst Partner Program. It’s a simple, easy way for IT Resellers and MSPs to increase profits and build sustainable recurring revenue by transitioning credit unions still using IBM Power systems to cloud-based hosted backup and recovery solutions.

To learn more about the CloudFirst Partner Program, contact Chris Annese at 212-564-4922, x111 or cannese@cloudfirst.host


CloudFirst, a unit of Data Storage Corporation (DTST on Nasdaq), is a provider of data protection and business continuity services that help organizations secure their data, minimize downtime, and recover and restore data within their objectives.

This article is sponsored by a recognized solutions provider in the credit union industry. Callahan & Associates does not endorse vendors or the solutions they offer, and the views and opinions offered here might not reflect those of Callahan. If you are interested in contributing an article on CreditUnions.com, please contact the Callahan team at ads@creditunions.com or 1-800-446-7453.
December 5, 2022

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