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New backup strategies
The volume of data that agencies accumulate each day can push backup processes to the limit, expanding nightly backup windows so  they overlap with the daytime hours of productive work. But faster chips, bigger hard drives and speedier networks are creating strategies for backup and restoration that can reduce the backup window to zero, minimize the size of backups and let agencies choose almost any time to restore — even continuously.

“Even agencies that aren’t 24/7 shops can benefit from strategies to reduce or eliminate this backup window,” said Agnes Lamont, co-chairwoman of the Data Protection Initiative at the Storage Networking Industry Association. Some organizations are beginning to question whether once-daily backups are sufficient.

Snapshots are one popular new strategy. A snapshot consists of a collection of time-tagged pointers to data, and some of that data could be ordinary production data in use. Some might be saved versions. If you want to recover file X as of noon Thursday, you simply search through the pointers for the one that indicates the version needed. The result is a nearly immediate recovery.

The ultimate logical extension of reducing the time between backups is to continuously make backups — what’s known as continuous data protection. Real or true CDP saves everything — every change to data — with no gaps in the backup data, and it has the ability to restore to any time necessary.

Near-CDP, without the real or true label, could have gaps of minutes or hours. For example, the latest version of Microsoft’s Data Protection Manager offers near-CDP at intervals of 15 minutes.

“The advantage of CDP is that there is no backup window,” Lamont said. In addition, depending on implementation, it has little effect on production.

How does CDP work? When data changes — a user saves a file, for instance, or an e-mail arrives — that change is automatically recorded on the backup, too. Faster chips reduce the overhead to nearly nothing, while capacious hard drives provide the necessary storage space. 

Open Document Format advances
The Organization for the Advancement of Structured Information Standards has approved Version 1.1 of the Open Document Format for office applications.

ODF Version 1.1 adds support for users who have low or no vision or who suffer from cognitive impairments.

The format can preserve structural semantics from other file formats, such as headings in tables, and associations between drawings and their captions.

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