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Four Tips for Managing Your Troublesome Backup Environment

Four Tips for Managing Your Troublesome Backup Environment


Maybe you have never before considered the shoulders you stand upon when it comes to ensuring backup environments that run smoothly. It is a little known fact that the backup, network, and system administrators are the forgotten heroes and proverbial backbone of the IT world. After all, these people are in charge of some of the most difficult tasks around, such as keeping auditors happy, keeping critical business data secure and updated, and being resourceful and creative with their current hardware. It is important to remember that these employees are the ones who keep all the “ducks” of the IT world in a row.


It might not come as a surprise to those reading this that the job descriptions of these unsung heroes have shifted in recent days. Technology has evolved and grown, and so has the scope of what needs to be managed for these administrators. Factors such as the new virtual tape libraries (VLTs) and virtual machines (VMs) – transformation in technology has greatly increased the complexity of the job. Another factor that has caused an increase in responsibility is the fact that all departments want reports that give them vital information about their sphere. To make matters more confusing, each finance departments requires individual departments to pay for their own storage usage and of course, there is always the intense task of compliance reports. With all of this, you can see why administrators might seem like they have a lot on their plates – it’s because they DO!


The good news is that most administrators are able to take on this huge work load that is expected of them these days. Let’s not forget their humanness, however. With all of these avenues to focus on, their attention is divided and so they are not able to spend an abundance of time in any one area. Unfortunately, this means that they are not able to spend the time they should be in managing the backup environment. This isn’t surprising, especially in light of the list of tasks above. If this situation describes what you are going through, you don’t need to fear. Below you will learn 4 essential tips in order to manage an overwhelming backup environment.  


1. Make sure you have a client backup status created daily. It is essential to create the backup status of your clients everyday. To aid you in doing this, you must establish what job information to use as your base. Indicators will be supplied by your applications that will make this a smooth process. After this, look into your backup window timeframe. You will generally see a pattern along the lines of 7pm to 7am, which means that your daily backup status won’t follow the days of the calendar. You must not forget the jobs that are missed, and you may be informed that everything is “ok” since there is no job to report. This is misleading however, since these missed jobs should be marked as “missed.” You can do this by looking on the scheduler rules, and if you have an external scheduler, you can associate data with the client data in the backup product. Simple enough, right?  Don’t forget to take the time to address how you will handle many jobs at once.


Asking yourself questions such as “how will I view failed jobs during many running jobs?” Would you call something like this a success, a failure, or a partial?  Factors such as this must be thought through prior to creating a daily backup status. After all the preparatory work is done, you can begin the programming process. Next comes the task of aggregating data and finally, saving the results for the purpose of creating the desired reports. 


2. Ensure individual business units are reported on. If you are reading this, you are likely someone who is managing several PCs, servers, and  databases. The issue with managing such a large sphere of machines is that sometimes  they end up simply becoming names on a screen. What this can cause is the devaluing of  the data in the eyes of the administrator. This is not a good thing! The question is how  can administrators make those names on the screen more significant? The answer is to  pair the backup clients with the company configuration management database. In doing  this, you will have the ability to gather facts such as application names that will make  them more memorable.


An added benefit is being able to report at the application and/or  business unit level, which ultimately allows you to share the information you obtain with  end users. With the influx of CMDB tools, it can be a challenge to extract the right data  programmatically. What many have found is that by getting an extra copy of the CMDB  in a CSV file, the information is shared in an organized way. The hostname, business  unit name, and application name will all appear in columns when this copy is obtained. The benefit of having this information is that administrators are able to map it to the  storage group or backup status for individual clients, and as stated above, it can also be  shared with end users.


3. Make sure you report on your storage. Generally speaking, knowledge about your storage sphere is beneficial, so it should come as no surprise that both managers and users alike appreciate obtaining this information. Teams benefit by acquiring these facts because they are then able to forecast storage needs that might arise in the future, as well as possible storage purchases. A good rule of thumb is to keep a daily log of your data points for key elements of your storage report. If you are going to do this, you must view the raw data, compress it, and if necessary, de-dupe it.


When proceeding with this task, granularity should be kept low, and you should start with the storage, then the pools, files systems, and shares- if applicable at all. On a side note, this data will only be useable for a few months after you create a report on it. Additionally, keeping a close eye on the deduplication ratio is a good idea in light of the VTL or other deduplication devices. After all, degradation generally causes extra costs per TB in relation to storage, as well as added processing cycles on the device that reduplicates.


4. Lose the stress by automating! Don’t fret over the possibility of manual work you think might be headed your direction after reading this article. In fact, you can instead take a sigh of relief over the fact that many solutions exist to help people accomplish the processes mentioned above. Do you know what the best part is? These solutions, which are in the form of software, can make many of the tasks automated. You can rest easy knowing your system will be prepared to perform proactively instead of reactively! When you make the right investments regarding software, you will be well on your way to having the best backup reporting system around.


Amedee Potier joined Rocket Software in 2003 and is currently Senior Director of R&D, where he oversees several Rocket products in the Data Protection space. His focus is on solutions for data protection and management in heterogeneous multi-vendor and multi-platform environments.


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