The Fire Department was able to make us check our Smoke Alarms twice a year (‘Check your smoke alarms, when you change the clock!’), so let’s try to start a new tradition and use tomorrows World Backup Day as our once a year Backup Alarm Reminder. Make tomorrow ‘the day’ that you will carve out some very much needed time and really look at your backups and the health of them. So go ahead put it in your calendar before you do anything else or someone else slides something that is not nearly important into your calendar.
Do you feel confident with your backup?
That’s probably one of the most important questions. If you don’t feel confident with your backup, nightmares of failed backups and restores could haunt you even in your time off work.
Imagine having supper with your family. You are wrapped up in conversation when your eyes wander over to the clock at the wall. 8PM on the dot, and suddenly you’re breaking out in a sweat. The backup job just started, the one that fails all the time, but you promised your boss that today’s job will run correctly since he has the auditor coming in next thing in the morning and a failed backup job will cost him. What type of person are you? Will you jump up, run to the next computer and remote connect to your backup server or drive directly to work to sit next to your machine and watch the files passing? You are not familiar with situations like this? Congratulations, your backup software seems to be perfect for you and you can enjoy the rest of the day doing something else (don’t forget to give your backup server a hug though). Everybody else who is heavily nodding while reading the last paragraph, is more than welcome to read on.
Do you really want to feel scared, frustrated or anxious every day because of the lack of backup reliability? Backup should work as an insurance, so you can live your IT administrator life worry-free and not as a version of Freddy Kruger movie, haunting you in your dreams. If your backup doesn’t make you feel confident take tomorrow as a catalyst to really start a list as to what needs to change in order to trust your backup and restore again. Feel free to use the questions asked in the following guideline for your new backup plan.
Does your backup still work properly?
Can you answer this question easily? Or do you have to check if the backups are still running? When was the last time you had a look at your interface?
Do you run restore tests to check if the backup actually worked? The backup software shows a green bar for your last backup. Are you 100% sure that the data transferred is not corrupted or if it actually transferred data at all? Regular tests help to eliminate frustration during restores, because not properly saved data can be identified immediately, monitoring can be put in place, and a new backup can be initiated directly.
Do you rely on email reports for your backups? How did you setup those reports? Do you get an email every day with all information about your backup jobs and the status of the backup server? Or do you get emails only when a backup is failed? If it is the latter you should think about changing this setting. Just imagine the email proxy had a failure and your emails from the last 2 weeks are stuck. A setup with one email per day, lets you know directly if something is not working with your email server. You also need to make sure to actually look at the emails. One thing our system administrators here at NovaStor do is to set a calendar event every morning to check the backup logs. That way there is always time and a reminder to at the very least look at the backup logs.
Does your backup software support all your systems and applications?
How many backup solutions are you using? Do you have a single solution that does everything you need, or are you utilizing many different solutions to attempt to protect the systems that you are running?
I can’t tell you how often potential customers tell us during the first call, that they are using two or three data protection solutions for their environment. One for their physical servers, one for their virtual environment, and perhaps one more to back up all the data from disk to tape. We’ve heard it all, even things that don’t make any sense (at least to us). For example, when I back up my data from the client to a disk storage, backup software A uses a proprietary format. Using a backup software from vendor B to back up the data to tape requires a full back up every time, because the backup software B is not able to read the data format from vendor A. There will be no compression or reduction whatsoever. Also to restore one file, you have to restore the whole backup from Software A with software B and then restore your single file with software A. I don’t want to go out a limb regarding my conclusion, but why would someone want to do that?
Are you able to upgrade your environment to the newest technologies? Or does your backup software dictate your upgrade cycle? I remember the whole Windows Server 2012R2 debacle for several backup vendors. An unnamed data protection software that has a very large share of the market took almost 18 months to fully support the latest Microsoft server OS release. Why is the backup software forcing us to wait with important upgrades to your infrastructure? I always thought the backup software’s biggest task is to protect our business critical data.
Does your backup storage have enough space?
If your backup storage is full, you can’t write new data on it. How aware of the fact that the backup storage will be filled within the next days are you? Knowing the average storage consumption rate per backup could help your planning in setting up new storage on time to defend against lost data. How much time do you spend on checking if your storage has enough room for the next daily/ weekly/ monthly backups? Is it more than a few minutes? That would mean you actually have to connect to every machine with backup storage on it and manually request the status. Wouldn’t it be better to see the amount of empty space for all your devices in one simple place?
Do you run out of space on a regular basis? Surveys show that the amount of data stored worldwide “will grow by a factor of 10 – from 4.4 trillion gigabytes to 44 trillion. It more than doubles every two years.”
That is literally a gigantic problem. Even though storage prices are decreasing, storage investments will increase exponentially because of space requirements. For a number of years features like De-Duplication as well as information life-cycle management have been the newest trend to try to combat the increase of physical storage cost. Be aware of potential draw backs, add-ons, and further investments before diving too deep and drinking the kool-aid. Check the requirements before you purchase a new device, and make sure you do both backup and restore tests before you commit.
Is your backup strategy up to date?
What kind of backup strategy are you using? Does it fit to your amount of data? Do you really need the most complicated backup strategy or is the good old grandfather-father-son sufficient? Do you understand what your backup strategy is doing? If you don’t know exactly when, where, and how your backup software is storing the data, it is not intuitive enough. You should be able to see to which retention pool your data is going. Same for the restore. Not knowing where the specific file is located, could cost hours of time searching. Probably that time is spend better for something else.
Does your retention policy fit to your data change rate? For example, if your data hardly changes, you can prolong your retention times. What do you include in your retention pools? We see a lot of people still backing up private data from their employees. That is a waste of space. Perhaps setting up a new rule saying that every GB used for private data backup will now be charged against the salary can help? I’m just kidding, but there have to be regulations on the usage of employee data in place.
And what about the future?
A working backup software is the one side of the coin, the costs for the backup software the other side. You probably bought the software some time ago and perhaps already forgot how much you paid. And that’s not a big deal. Usually you buy the software only once. But do you remember how much you the yearly maintenance will be? What is the licensing based on? Client, tape drive, CPU, membership status? Have you put a certain amount for the maintenance renewal in your next year’s budget? And how likely will the actual maintenance fee stay inside that budget? Could you easily figure out how much you would have to pay? Or do you need to browse through several price lists and old contracts to find an estimate? Did your maintenance fee increase from one year to the next? Do you know why it increased?
Does that already sound complicated? Most backup software vendors have huge pricelists and don’t even know themselves how to calculate the maintenance. Asking three different sales managers for a quote will likely provide you with three different offers. Do you really need that extra stress and uncertainty?
I admit that was a ton of questions and please don’t be overwhelmed by the long list of to-dos you might have now. You haven’t opened Pandora’s Box. Less stress during backup and restore, no more nightmares (at least not from the data protection solution), and a smooth IT administrator life, doesn’t that sound awesome? Thus, having a plan that includes all your issues, must-haves and requirements as a guideline will help during the improvement of your data protection scenario. The goal doesn’t need to be a working backup solution till tomorrow. Starting with small tasks and crossing issues from your list helps keeping track and will end in a more enjoyable everyday life.
Is there anything we forgot? Write an email to DCinfo@novastor.com and let us know what problems you might have in addition and we are happy to discuss the issue with you. I’m not saying NovaStor’s NovaBACKUP DataCenter will solve your problem and it will never fail. There is no backup software on the market that runs 100% of the time and never has a failed backup or restore job. But in case you are not happy with your current solution, try to change something and test other backup software on the market. There will be one out there that is exactly the right one for your environment. And perhaps it is our NovaBACKUP DataCenter?! So why not giving it a try?