Backup AS400: A Guide to Data Backup & Disaster Recovery

Jan 07, 2021 Rima Dutta

AS400 backup and disaster recovery are two critical components in ensuring the continuity of business operations. In case of unforeseen circumstances such as natural disasters, hardware failures, or cyberattacks, having a robust backup and disaster recovery plan for your AS400 system is paramount.

This involves regular backups of data and applications stored on AS400 servers, coupled with strategies for swift recovery and restoration in case of an emergency. By implementing proactive measures and establishing efficient protocols, organizations can minimize downtime, mitigate risks, and safeguard their valuable data and operations.

Here’s a guide that will help you backup AS400 and implement effective disaster recovery strategies to ensure the continuity of your business.

Difference Between AS400 Backup and Disaster Recovery

AS400 Backup

Purpose: Designed to prevent data loss due to system or hardware failures, accidental deletion, or cyber-attacks. It ensures data can be restored to the last backup point.

Implementation: Involves scheduled creation of data, applications, and system configuration copies. It's a crucial routine practice for mitigating risks associated with small-scale failures.

AS400 Disaster Recovery (DR)

Purpose: Aims to maintain business continuity during significant incidents like regional disasters or total system collapses, focusing on production applications to minimize downtime and data loss.

Implementation: Relies on a standby system for continuous data replication from the primary system, facilitating swift recovery and operational resumption with minimal impact.

These strategies play distinct roles in AS400 system protection, highlighting their importance in comprehensive IT planning.

AS400 Backup Strategies

Regular Full System Backups

Definition: A full system backup creates a complete snapshot of the AS400 system at a particular point in time. This includes all data, applications, user profiles, system configurations, and integrated file systems.

Process: The process involves using AS400's dedicated backup utilities to capture every aspect of the system environment, ensuring no component is left unprotected. Full system backups are typically scheduled during periods of minimal system use, such as weekends or during scheduled maintenance windows, to minimize disruption.

Frequency: The frequency can vary based on the organization's data turnover rate and risk tolerance but is often performed weekly or monthly. It's essential for scenarios requiring a total system recovery, such as after a catastrophic system failure or when migrating to a new hardware platform.

Incremental Backups

Definition: Incremental backups capture only the data that has changed since the last backup, whether that was a full backup or a previous incremental backup. This approach significantly reduces the amount of data that needs to be backed up at each session, saving time and storage resources.

Ideal Usage: Ideal for daily backups, incremental backups offer a way to keep the backup dataset current without the overhead of full system backups. They are best used in environments with regular, moderate changes to data, where the priority is minimizing backup windows and storage usage.

Differential Backups

Definition: Differential backups capture all changes made since the last full backup. Unlike incremental backups, each differential backup grows in size until the next full backup resets the baseline. This method simplifies restoration since only the last full backup and the last differential backup are needed to restore the system.

Suitability: Differential backups strike a balance between the thoroughness of full backups and the efficiency of incremental backups. They are suited for environments where recovery speed is crucial, as they require fewer data sets for restoration.

Tailored Backup Scheduling

Process: Tailored backup scheduling involves analyzing the organization's operational patterns and data criticality to determine the most opportune times for backups. This strategic planning ensures backups are conducted with minimal impact on business operations and system performance.

Ideal Timing: The ideal timing for backups depends on the organization's workflow, system load patterns, and operational requirements.

Backup Verification and Testing

Verification: Verification involves checking that the backup process successfully captured and stored the data without errors.

Testing: Testing takes this further by restoring a sample of the backup data to a separate system or environment to ensure it is complete and usable.

Frequency: Verification should occur immediately following each backup operation, while testing frequencies can vary based on the criticality of the data and system changes.

AS400 Disaster Recovery Solutions

Cloud-Based High Availability (HA) Replication

For businesses where continuity is critical and both RTO and RPO are minimal, cloud-based HA replication is the premier choice. Utilizing real-time logical replication, this strategy ensures that a mirrored copy of your IBM i environment is always ready to take over, providing seamless failover in the event of a disaster. While offering the fastest recovery times, this option comes at a higher cost due to the sophisticated technology and infrastructure required.

Storage Area Network (SAN) to SAN Replication

This method provides a middle ground, offering quick to moderate recovery times without the need for additional logical replication software. SAN-to-SAN replication is dependent on compatible external storage arrays at both the production and DR sites. It leverages the IBM i's built-in OS and DB2 recovery mechanisms for data integrity, making it a cost-effective alternative to full HA replication.

Online Backup with Daily Replication

A more budget-friendly option, this approach involves replicating changes from your IBM i system to a cloud-based virtual tape library (VTL) on a daily basis. While this reduces upfront costs, it also means accepting a longer RTO and RPO, as recovery is dependent on the last successful replication. This strategy is suitable for non-mission-critical applications where some downtime is acceptable.

Tape Backup with Off-Site Storage

The most traditional and cost-effective method, tape backup involves periodically backing up your IBM i environment to physical tapes, which are then stored off-site. Although this method offers significant cost savings, it also presents the longest RTO and RPO. Physical media can degrade over time, and recovery times are extended by the need to physically retrieve and restore from tapes.

Facing challenges in AS400 data backup and disaster recovery?

When to Backup AS400 and Execute Disaster Recovery Plans?

When deciding on the optimal timing for performing backups of your AS400 system and disaster recovery, several factors come into play. Here's a more detailed look at them:

Understand Your Data Turnover Rate

Strong High Turnover: If your organization deals with a high volume of data changes daily, consider more frequent backups to minimize potential data loss.

Strong Low Turnover: For lower data turnover, less frequent backups may suffice, though critical data should still be backed up regularly.

Identify Low-Usage Hours

Strong Nightly Backups: Many organizations opt for nightly backups when system usage is at its lowest, reducing the impact on system performance and ensuring data is current each day.

Strong Weekend Backups: For comprehensive backups, such as full system backups, weekends can offer an extended window of low activity, making it an ideal time for longer backup operations.

Before and After Major Updates

Strong Pre-Update Backups: Always perform a backup before implementing major system updates or software installations. This ensures you have a restore point should the update cause issues.

Strong Post-Update Backups: After a successful update, perform another backup to capture all changes. This backup will serve as the new baseline moving forward.

Regulatory Compliance and Audit Cycles

Strong Compliance Requirements: Certain industries have specific regulations (HIPAA for healthcare, the Sarbanes-Oxley Act for publicly traded companies, the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) for data of EU citizens etc.) dictating how often data should be backed up. Align your backup schedule with these requirements to ensure compliance.

Strong Pre-Audit Backups: Before undergoing any form of audit, ensure your data is backed up. This protects against accidental loss or corruption during the audit process.

Seasonal or Cyclical Business Periods

Strong High Activity Periods: During times of increased business activity, consider increasing the frequency of backups to capture the heightened data activity.

Strong Off-Peak Periods: Use slower business periods to perform more extensive, comprehensive backups, such as full system backups.

Event-Driven Backups

Strong Significant Transactions: Following significant business transactions or events, perform a backup to secure these critical data points immediately.

Strong Disaster Recovery Planning: Part of your disaster recovery plan should include scheduled backups following drills or tests of the system's resilience.

Unlock the full potential of your AS400 system with our comprehensive guide to system optimization. Dive into expert tips and best practices for conducting thorough AS400 health-checks.

Challenges in AS400 Data Backup & Disaster Recovery

When it comes to backup & disaster recovery, navigating the landscape can present unique challenges. From ensuring data integrity during the backup process to maintaining system availability and addressing compatibility issues with modern disaster recovery solutions, the complexities are vast. Here's a list of possible challenges you might encounter:

Complex System Environment

The AS400 (IBM i) system presents a complex environment for data backup and disaster recovery due to its support for both legacy RPG, COBOL applications, and modern Java-based applications. This diversity demands a comprehensive backup solution that covers all types of data and applications. The challenge lies in ensuring compatibility across different data formats and managing application interdependencies without disrupting business operations.

High Availability Requirements

Mission-critical AS400 systems are pivotal for operations demanding 24/7 uptime. The challenge lies in achieving high availability, where systems must quickly recover from disasters with minimal downtime and data loss. Meeting stringent Recovery Time Objectives (RTO) and Recovery Point Objectives (RPO) necessitates sophisticated replication technologies and significant investments. This involves not just financial resources but also time for planning, implementation, and ongoing management to ensure continuous system availability.

Data Volume and Growth

The challenge with AS400 systems is managing the backup of growing data volumes efficiently, without compromising system performance or data integrity. As data accumulates, traditional full backups become time-consuming and storage-intensive. The solution lies in adopting incremental and differential backup techniques, which only capture changes since the last backup, significantly reducing backup time and storage needs.

Regulatory Compliance and Data Security Challenge

Adhering to stringent data protection regulations (like GDPR, HIPAA, SOX) while defending against modern cyber threats is a significant hurdle. A layered security approach incorporating data encryption, secure transmission, and strict access control is essential to meet compliance standards and protect sensitive data, necessitating sophisticated security measures and ongoing vigilance.

Cloud Integration Challenges

Leveraging cloud services for backup and disaster recovery offers many benefits but introduces complexities, especially for AS400 systems. Challenges include ensuring system and cloud service compatibility, efficient data transfer, and cloud security. Overcoming these obstacles is crucial for secure, effective cloud-based disaster recovery solutions.

Nalashaa's AS400 experts developed an efficient three-step automated backup process for a valve manufacturer, significantly enhancing data backup reliability and minimizing downtime. This innovative solution ensures seamless operations within a crucial 40-minute window, reducing manual intervention and boosting productivity. Read the blog to know more about how they tackled this challenge.

Why Count on Nalashaa’s AS400 Expertise?

When stakes are high, it’s better to have an industry specialist by your side. We, at Nalashaa, are experts in end-to-end IBM i/AS400 services including disaster recovery, migration, modernization, integration, and support, and have helped multiple businesses to benefit from our plan of action. If you're wondering about devising a backup & recovery plan for your AS400 setup or want to dive deeper into the What's and How's surrounding AS400 Backup & Recovery, we’d be happy to assist.

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Rima Dutta

Made my favourite sandwich using the best of both worlds - Technology & Writing. The girl next door who talks to the camera, cries watching K-dramas and has an unhealthy obsession with momos & fictional characters.