IBM FlashCopy Vs. Backups and Disaster Recovery


IBM Storage Area Networks (SANs) come standard with powerful, enterprise-class technology, which is now priced competitively in the SMB market. We identify IBM products as a great opportunity for our clients to obtain sophisticated, professional IT solutions at an optimized cost.

FlashCopy comes standard on IBM SANs. The protocol behind this feature unlocks Thin Provisioning, but this brief article will discuss FlashCopy as a part of disaster recovery and backups.

What is FlashCopy?

FlashCopy allows you to take a copy of the entire data array at a particular instant in time. The process occurs so quickly that it literally feels like taking a picture.

At any point in the future, you can move back to that copy, restoring all the applications, files, and settings from the snapshot. Lest you think that FlashCopy is a free backup feature, we should inform you of some key limitations, which make FlashCopy a useful supplement to, but no replacement for, backups.

Does FlashCopy Replace Backups?

The short answer? No. FlashCopy allows 4 copies per controller only. Access is also limited to complete transfer. For instance…

Let us say that an employee accidentally deleted an important but noncritical file. FlashCopy would allow you to restore the file, but doing so would require a complete transfer back in time to the old snapshot of the SAN. You would need to sacrifice all of the changes to the SAN in order to access the lost file.

That is a substantial sacrifice and puts you in a frying pan/fire scenario. Backups would allow you to go back and choose the file to restore. Flashcopy does not replace backups.

Does FlashCopy Replace Disaster Recovery

If the SAN experiences a global threat, FlashCopy is an easy, convenient way to restore the system to health – even if some of the changes you have made to the data would be lost.

Because FlashCopy allows you to save the system from some internal threats, it supplements a Disaster Recovery Plan. However, physical threats to the SAN will still knock out the system. If you are concerned about power outages, storms, or any uncontrollable environmental problem, then another copy of the system should be kept isolated in a secure location, such as a data center.

FlashCopy has its limitations, but make no mistake: this feature is an extremely powerful and useful addition to an IT configuration.