Rich Vining

How Much Does the Backup Window Cost?

Blog Post created by Rich Vining Employee on Oct 22, 2014


This blog series examines the business costs associated with backup and recovery, with a focus on the costs of downtime caused by both backup and restore operations. This entry examines the costs associated with the time spent performing backups.


Many of my colleagues in the data protection and recovery market refer to “backup window” as the amount of time that it takes to complete backup operations. Technically, that isn’t correct. The real backup window is the amount of time, and the start and stop times, that the organization has allotted for performing the backup for a particular system or data set. The backup window is one of the 4 goals that are used to measure the effectiveness of the data protection process; the others are the recovery point objective, the recovery time objective, and the overall cost.


If it takes longer to perform a given backup than the allowed backup window, the potential costs to the business are fairly evident: either the backup is stopped before completing, leaving important or even critical data at risk of loss; or the backup is permitted to run longer, impacting the availability of the system being protected, and therefore impacting operations.


In many cases, the backup window is a necessary evil. The business concedes the need for this amount of downtime because creating the backup is recognized as being important to the survival of the organization, even though it may be at the expense of operational effectiveness and profitability. If you could reduce the amount of time that it takes to perform backups, and reduce or even eliminate the associated backup window, the business would be in position to recoup those lost opportunity costs.


The other time-related cost in backup operations is administrator time. In the “old days”, backup was a fairly manual, labor-intensive operation. The backup administrator needed to:


  • Make necessary installation and configuration changes for each new system or user
  • Label the daily tapes, then perform and monitor the backup operations
  • Remove tapes for transport to the off-site disaster recovery site or vault
  • Erase expired backup tapes for re-use
  • Troubleshoot problems and re-run the backup (if the backup window allowed it)


And of course, this needed to be done for each system that required protection, often using different tools, agents and processes based on the type of operating system, application, location and service level objectives for each set of data.


Intelligent policy engines, system automation, auto-discovery technologies, the use of disk-based backup storage, and replication to the DR site have provided the opportunity to eliminate most of the manual effort and reduce the time-related costs of performing data protection operations. However, a large number of organizations are still living in the old world, or have given up and outsourced their backup operations to third-party service providers.


Advanced protection functionality, using hardware- or software-based snapshot technologies, can be an effective way to eliminate the need for a backup window, and greatly improve your RPO and RTO results. But as with everything in IT, there are limitations and trade-offs to consider. A trusted partner in this area can help you navigate the choices and decide on the best solution for your particular needs.


Shameless Plug


The goal of Hitachi’s data protection software solutions is to drive the costs of backup and recovery toward zero, by reducing or eliminating:

  • the time to perform a backup (defined by the backup window objective);
  • the amount of data at risk of loss (defined by the recovery point objective);
  • and the time to restore operations following an outage (defined by the recovery time objective).


With data protection and recovery solutions from Hitachi Data Systems, the backup window can be minimized, or even eliminated, using fully integrated technologies such as block-level continuous data protection (CDP) and application-consistent, hardware-assisted snapshots. Both of these approaches eliminate the need to scan the file system for incremental changes and reduce the time to copy the data to mere seconds.


Taking control of the backup window is the first step in reducing the costs, and risks, of data protection and enabling more effective operational recovery and disaster recovery. To learn more:



Rich Vining is a senior product marketing manager at HDS and has more than 25 years in the storage industry. The contents of this blog are the author’s.