Managing and Reporting Backups Tips for CIOs

by Guest Author on January 9, 2016

in Articles, Guest Posts

tape_backupThere are many factors in the IT world today that contribute to backup failure. Things such as large backup windows and various service and compliance regulations have made it imperative that CIOs truly understand the processes involved in backup management. Below you will find tips and tricks to help you better grasp your backup environment.

The Truth About Backups: They DO Fail.

Because of this truth, even high success rates aren’t enough to guarantee that administrators won’t spend hours searching for the cause of the failure. Did you know that in the wake of a significant IT disaster, most companies will actually go out of business?

Regardless of the improvements made to backup systems over the years, businesses continue to struggle with backup failure and bad performance, poor resource use, and lost data that cannot be recovered. In order to fix these common problems, businesses must incorporate a tool that offers a complete picture of the backup environment. This tool must also be able to help administrators understand all of the components of the backup process, which includes things such as backup applications, servers, libraries, drives, de-duplicating appliances, media, nodes that are backed up, and the connecting network. Talk about an important and comprehensive tool!

When it comes to backup, it is somewhat evident what is needed to help companies thrive, but what about the things to look out for? Below you will see the top areas of concern that most companies think about when it comes to managing their backup environments.

1. Protection of Data: Primary and Secondary Storage

Secondary storage holds large shares of tape-based data, making its volume relatively big. Primary storage is not expected to increase at a rate as fast as secondary storage is, which affirms why improved management tools and systems are so necessary in this particular sphere. Protecting data is a complex and challenging task, and is focused mainly around objectives such as mirroring, remote replication, snapshot/continuous protection of data, and the successful backup of tape-based systems. Since these objectives are essential to storage protection, management tools must be designed that match the pace of other system advancements.

2. Resource Management

A. Staff Productivity
Storage administrators face great difficulties when it comes to unraveling backup failures mainly because of the interconnectedness of the network, server, and the storage and application layers. To add to the challenge, there are very few good tools with which to report and analyze a backup failure. Another consideration is that data is sometimes stored on local drives by employees, making it much more difficult to protect since most data products focus on protection within the data center. Finally, with the addition of mobile devices, the need has grown greatly for storage administrators to successfully manage the backup of more than just PCs, workstations, and laptops alone. Because of the many layers within the world of backup, cost effective tools-which help to estimate resource efficiency and problem areas-are vital in terms of management of these particular environments.

B. Managing Budgets and Assets
There is a budgeting concept in the IT world called IT chargeback which many companies deem helpful. Using this method of budgeting, user departments are charged directly for what they actually use. This method creates awareness in terms of expenditure and helps users become more disciplined in terms of their usage. Often times, companies spend excessively on storage because they are lacking the information needed to help them understand what their true storage needs actually are. Chargeback is a great help in this case, and helps companies efficiently manage their resources.

3. Compliance and Service Level Agreements

With stringent government regulations and increased security threats, the amount of storage security requirements has grown regarding data protection and recovery, as well as for compliance with various mandates. Another factor to consider in terms of greater needs is in the realm of the security of virtual servers, which require the same amount of security as physical servers, thus making the backup and restore process that much more complex. It is also important to note that data center networks, applications, databases, and programs for storage and security are incredibly connected and function in an environment that is working 24 hours a day and 7 days a week. This continuous atmosphere creates a difficult situation when it comes to managing an appropriate backup window.

Hence, the complexity of managing the backup process has grown, in part because there are many options for protecting data, but also because of the many requirements, including government compliance. It is also worth mentioning that there is an increased focus on disaster recovery. These needs have caused the usual tape-based backup systems to often be replaced by technologies that offer incentives such as continuous data protection, which is certainly helpful in such interconnected environments.

Service Level Agreement compliance, also known as SLA, is something many service providers must report. What this looks like is mentioning the daily backup success rate, but it could also mention other pieces of important information. Some require specific time frames, or a certain limit that a node can miss its backup. There may also be a requirement to verify history with the size of data that is backed-up, and that the two pieces of information are in sync with one another.

Summary

To summarize, management resources have been created for the primary storage market, yet there still is a need for tools which will be able to handle the future influx of information. For example, it is estimated that digital data will grow by leaps and bounds in the coming years. Regarding secondary storage, many products are slowly improving, however, it is still necessary for better management tools for backup to be developed. Until these tools are updated, the challenge continues to exist where administrators are trying to oversee too much secondary storage data that is spread across various platforms. You can see that the need is great for advanced resources which will help to simplify and streamline the management of all backup environments.

Guest article written by: Mike Johnson is a Technical Writer for Rocket Software.  He writes on topics like data protection, backup monitoring and reporting software.  He holds a Bachelor of Science Management degree from DeVry University.

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