One of the most difficult problems with managing storage--especially for small-to-midsized businesses (SMBs)--is assuring that the network is consistently backed up. This includes allowing enough time to perform data backups, rotating tapes properly, and operating with little to no interruption of the normal business workflow. These tasks can easily overwhelm an SMB and can often result in a failure to perform regular backups.

HP, which is traditionally known for its enterprise-class storage systems, is making a serious effort to get the attention of SMBs through the release of its HP StorageWorks D2D Backup System. For less than $3000, SMBs can implement a comprehensive disk-to-disk backup system that supports 1TB (D2D110) or 2TB (D2D120) of storage and up to four Windows servers, while integrating with existing tape-backup methodologies. Unlike other SMB-targeted storage systems that HP has released since third quarter 2006, HP D2D Backup System is the first product that's really suitable for the small business. Other products have been targeted at the mid-tier SMB with a focus on storage arrays and entry-level dedicated network storage.

The HP D2D Backup System provides an automated backup mechanism that gives SMBs all the benefits of disk-to-disk backup at a reasonable price. Users can employ their existing tape backup software with the HP D2D Backup System because it presents itself as an HP Linear Tape-Open (LTO) tape drive or autoloader, which means the appliance simply becomes the backup device on the user's network. Ideally, the HP D2D Backup System backs up the network to the backup system's hard drives, then backs up itself to tape for archival and offsite storage.

This nearline-to-offline backup strategy greatly simplifies the most common backup-related task: recovering individual files for users. IT can find files on the disk backup and restore them for an end user in a matter of minutes, rather than the hours it often takes to find the right backup tape, mount it, and track down the needed file. Because the HP D2D Backup System can back up as many as four Windows servers, you need apply the traditional tape backup only to the HP D2D Backup System itself and can do so without interrupting the business workflow on the protected servers.

Both models of the HP D2D Backup System support RAID 5, although it reduces available storage by 25 percent. And for users looking for a complete solution, you can purchase the HP D2D110 Backup System with the HP StorageWorks Data Protector Express software (for an extra $1000), which provides agents for file and application servers and Windows-based client computers. The only additional backup device a small business might need is a tape device to back up the HP D2D Backup System--which although not a necessity, still remains a good idea.

Given the time and complexity that often accompanies installing, configuring, and using tape-based backup, the ability to drop a disk-to-disk device into a small network and have complete data protection in place quickly--and at a very reasonable price--means that HP has likely found the sweet spot of the SMB data protection market with its first try.