A method in a computer system for retrieving data from one of multiple copies of the data is provided, referred to as the data management system. The data management system receives a request identifying a data object to be accessed. Then, the data management system queries a metabase to locate data copies that contain the identified data object, wherein the data copies are created from similar source data, and wherein for each data copy the metabase contains an indication of the availability of the copy relative to other copies. Next, the data management system determines one of the located data copies to use to access the identified data object, wherein the determination is made based on the indicated availability contained in the metabase for each of the located data copies. Then, the data management system accesses the identified data object using the determined one of the located data copies.