There are times in the course of everyone’s day, week or month when you suddenly feel a rush of panic and ask yourself the dreaded question: do I have a backup or did I just lose my data ? This question comes up when you forget when your last backup was made, where your backup data is or if you don’t have a professional backup solution that simply works without you doing any manual work.  When that moment comes, you swear you’ll make sure to do it right in the future, so it doesn’t happen again.

Sooner or later, you reach the conclusion that the most important thing is to have an assurance that your data is safe and you can rollback or restore from your backup. That’s always a great first step in the right direction. The next obstacle is determining which backup holds the data you actually need, both time- and otherwise. Well, if you are a Prominic customer, this is where we step in and tell you “Don’t worry”, we have an automated procedure that backups your data 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. You can rollback or restore any of these snapshots at any time by using Prominic Native application or just tell us what you need, and we will do it for you.

What is behind Prominic Native?

Well, the short answer is ZFS. What is ZFS ?

ZFS is a combined filesystem and logical volume manager designed by Sun Microsystems. The features of ZFS include protection against data corruption, support for high storage capacities, efficient data compression, integration of the concepts of filesystem and volume management, snapshots and copy-on-write clones, continuous integrity checking and automatic repair, RAID-Z and native NFSv4 ACLs.

What is the difference between ZFS and the other filesystems ?

ZFS uses copy-on-write and the advantage is that, when ZFS writes new data, the blocks containing the old data can be retained, allowing a snapshot version of the file system to be maintained. ZFS snapshots are created very quickly, almost instant since all the data composing the snapshot is already stored. They are also space efficient since any unchanged data is shared among the file system and its snapshots. Therefore, there is no need for a large additional storage to handle all these backups.

Writeable snapshots (“clones“) can also be created, resulting in two independent file systems that share a set of blocks. This is how we manage to restore the data from a snapshot without rolling back and loosing all the data between the time when the snapshot was created and the present. It is the most rock solid filesystem we have ever used in our data center.  It has never failed us over all these years. 

What about the automated part that is actually doing the backups ?

This is a piece of software that we created and is now part of the OpenIndiana and OmniOS package repository. It is that package that gets installed first and it builds the foundation of our infrastructure. A server is never going into production without having this package installed.

What about on-demand snapshots ?

Yet another functionality that every data center should have is a way to permit users to manage their own backups. They can create point-in-time snapshots and restore or rollback when needed. This is part of the Prominic Native application and it is free to be used by our customers.

Now that you know all of this,  I hope you will not ask yourself the most frustrating question – “Do I have backups ?”