April 22, 2009

Keeping your data safe: Axanna’s black box for corporate data.On an airplane, the black box is one of the most essential pieces of equipment. In the event of an accident, it records all the facts investigators need to understand what actually went wrong. But to survive the impact of a crash, the box protecting the flight data has to be tough.

Protecting corporate data is just the same, according to Alex Winokur, chief technology officer of Israeli data storage solution company Axxana.

Axxana (an Anglicization of the Hebrew word for storage, hachsanana), sees protecting data as its mission, and it takes that mission to the extreme – ensuring that corporate data is safe under the most extreme circumstances.

‘Data protection’ is a term that has taken on several meanings, with the most common use of the phrase referring to the protection of computer systems from damage by hackers, crackers, viruses, etc. But Winokur says that protection isn’t just a digital thing; if your computer system is physically damaged, the data in the system will be in just as much peril as it would be if a hacker had full access to it. In fact, a “black box” protective system – one that will ensure the physical “health” of your data – is just as important as a data protection system, if not more so.

“Most companies have a backup or mirror of their data, so in the event of data corruption, they can be up and running in a short time. But if your servers are physically incapacitated, all the backups in the world won’t help you get the data your company needs,” Winokur tells ISRAEL21c.

If a company’s servers are damaged or destroyed in a fire, earthquake, or other mass disaster, your company is out of business until you get new hardware – and all the off-site tape, disc, or hard drive backups in the world won’t make things right.

What counts is now

Not only that; even if your company does backup religiously, that data is at least a day old. In many industries – such as insurance, finance, medicine, and others – what counts is now. Reconstructing a morning’s worth of information after a disaster, is expensive and time-consuming, and, in many cases, virtually impossible.

To ensure that data is protected even in the event of a physical disaster, Axxana makes what has to be the toughest Enterprise Data Recorder (EDR) system in the world; layers of hard-shell material protecting hard drives with no physical moving parts, wi-fi transmitters and priority cell-phone data transmissions.

“Even if you have an off-site backup, your company could still lose critical information it needs to continue operating,” Winokur says. “Axxana’s system seeks to at least somewhat mitigate the effects of a major disaster, ensuring that the data gap between the last backup and the time of the disaster is filled.”

Axxana’s EDR, called Phoenix, is a 150 kilo heavyweight that can hold its own – and remain in place – even under the shock waves of an earthquake. It can withstand a shock of up to 40 G’s, and in the event that the box gets buried under a pile of rubble, will remain intact under as much as 5,000 pounds of weight.

The Phoenix is designed to be fire resistant, as well; covered in metallic fiber (used by NASA for its astronaut programs), the Phoenix can withstand direct flames of 2000° Fahrenheit for one hour, followed by 450°F for an additional six hours.

It will also remain in one piece under as much as 30 feet of water pressure, meaning that it’s covered for major flooding – and, in the event that it’s struck by sharp flying objects during a catastrophe, the Phoenix can withstand a pierce force of a 500 pound rod dropped from 10 feet. Not surprisingly then, Winokur, asserts that data will be protected even under the most severe conditions.

So how did corporations handle data emergencies due to natural or manmade disasters until now? Generally, Winokur says, they had an off-site backup that would synchronize the updated data on the main servers daily, or even more often. Most companies use archiving systems that record and update data, with the data stored safely off-site. Backup methods include archiving on CD, tape, or over a network. A plethora of archiving software systems allow system administrators to mirror the data that remains on a server at the end of a work session.

Restart business just where you left off

But for many companies, says Winokur, that’s just not good enough. “Incremental backups are fine for the end of the workday, but if disaster strikes at, say, 2pm, businesses are practically guaranteed to lose the data in the system that wasn’t recorded in the last archive,” says Winokur. “With the Phoenix EDR, the data that is ‘active’ in the system gets recorded, so the organization can restart operations right where it left off at a new location.”

The data recorded on the organization’s servers is automatically mirrored on the Phoenix, on a state of the art 200 or 300 GB flash drive (a new model coming out next month will feature a 600 GB drive), which allows databases and other critical data that got updated between the time of the last backup and the disaster to be recorded.

The system features all sorts of communication protocols, from wi-fi to “priority 3G service” – the cell phone service provided to critical government and private organizations allowing their cell phones and data connections to take bandwidth priority in the event of a disaster.

“Between the archive backup and the Phoenix EDR mirror, there’s a minimum of data loss. And as a result, organizations don’t have to spend precious money and time trying to reinvent their wheels,” asserts Winokur.

Axxana’s system has been tested by some of the top labs in the world, replicating extreme field conditions, and it has come through with flying colors. So far, says Winokur, the main customers for the system have been top organizations in the finance and medical field, as well as a top on-line retailer; companies where up to the minute data backup is crucial.

It’s not cheap, says Winokur – but for companies that have been struck a blow by a mass disaster, Axxana’s Phoenix can help avert a secondary – financial – disaster.

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Jason Harris

Jason Harris

Executive Director