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Server-Less or LAN-Free Backup SAN Comparison

By August 7, 2013SAN Backup Systems

In many instances, SAN’s can provide a myriad of benefits to the users; having a backup SAN provides added security, but can also prove a complex process if not approached in the proper manner. Utilizing any backup mechanism, whether SAN-based or otherwise, requires a great deal of specialized knowledge of the key steps to take, as well as full awareness of any additional costs that might be levied according to backing up multiple servers. Thankfully, there are many helpful resources available to provide users with information on the backup process, as well as many capable companies who can assist with the process itself. For the tech-savvy, a simple guide on the ins and outs of how to go about selecting backup architecture and utilizing it might be enough to successfully complete the process.

When it comes to LAN-free backup, the most common process involves the sharing of a SAN connected tape library between all of the various SAN node connections. The purpose of the backup SAN server is coordinating user access to all the tape resources, and allows for each server to run its own data engine copy in order to relocate individual data to individual tapes. The backup server plays a very important role in this process; it allows for all the connected tapes to take control of their own data pathways, rather than having an additional backup agent to pull the data over the LAN and then transfer it to connected backup server tapes. This is a common way to approach the server backup process, but there are other ways to go about it; server-less backup, for example.

Server-less backup involves the backup server acting on behalf of other hosts connected to the SAN in order to connect to data storage; this allows it to directly backup the host’s storage without any other involvement by further agents. This process usually involves image copies in the backup SAN, whereby these copies are given access in the SAN that allows the backup server to send the data to tape. If this seems too complicated a process there is also the option to use ECopy (an extended command alternative to image copies), whereby the backup server does not have to be involved in the data backup path. In this case, data simply moves from disk to a tape, with the usage of a data router.

Server-free backup has gained a reputation as the more popular route, carrying with it the promise of faster and more efficient performance, however both LAN-free and server-free backup utilize high speed connection and provide better performing tape backups. Unlike traditional backup processes, any newer technology utilizing a backup SAN, should perform at a higher speed and high reliability level. LAN-free backup may even allow for a higher speed connection than some, given its direct connection from backup to disk system using a Fibre Channel loop. This also tends to be the less expensive backup strategy; a large part of which stems from the possible re-use of existing tape drives.

With a server-free backup process utilizing backup SAN, an alternative device is used for the data transfer, also usually with the aid of Fiber Channel routers. With this in mind, the server can simply coordinate data transfer rather than be a direct pathway or have to produce the access commands; this is why some have touted it as more reliable and higher performance. The improvement in comparison to LAN- free backup does exist, but in the grand scheme of things, does not equate a hugely significant difference. In addition, server-free backup is more complex and expensive to put in place. To reduce costs in server-less backup, some choose to use a lower quality server. There are some advantages of this process that other options cannot offer, but since it is more complex, all individuals and businesses should take the time to look into other backup options first.

Depending on one’s cost and IT priorities, deciding which backup SAN based process can be a bit daunting. There are many advantages to a server-less backup, but many of the same benefits can be accomplished via a LAN- free backup process, with the added bonus of a lower cost. Before making any decisions, consider hiring a professional to look into the best option for your individual or business IT needs, in order to ensure the best performance. is a great resource to learn more about backup SAN options and what is best suited to one’s individual needs.

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