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By: Michael Johnson, Technical Writer, Rocket Software

logoA common fact within the IT sphere is this:  backup and restore failures are inevitable.  With failure comes the fact that expense and possible data loss soon will follow – something no one likes to hear.  Do you want to do your best to avoid this?  Below, you will see how you can reduce your chances of failure and strengthen your backup environment in 5 easy points.  Though these points will not guarantee constant success, you can be sure that if certain concerns are addressed, you are much more likely to experience high backup success rates and more favorable restore performances.

The 5 Points to Improve Backup Performance

The 5 points below discuss the main areas of concern for most backup professionals.  Like many problems, after addressing the areas directly, professionals will be better equipped to achieve the high results they want and need.

POINT 1 -The Monitoring Process

Monitoring in and of itself doesn’t cause failures during the backup process, but it can certainly make a failure more difficult to spot and unravel when it is happening.  As the world of IT becomes more and more vast, backup systems need to be altered in order to view and manage many backup servers.  As it stands today, most systems were not designed to monitor so many servers at once, and if an issues DOES arise, the whole unraveling process can become tedious and difficult.

The Solution?

What is needed is a monitoring system with automated capabilities that will compile data and graphically provide a user interface, offering a comprehensive look at the whole environment.  Also visible should be individual servers and clients.  In order to streamline the system even further, this system must also be able to monitor the multi-vendor backups at use in a particular business.

2. POINT 2-Missed Alerts!

Though email alerts sent to the proper administrators are generally a reliable way to communicate a problem, life doesn’t always stay the same.  Things such as servers, applications, backup devices, and people change as time goes by, making it a necessity to frequently verify and ensure that alerts are getting to the right people quickly.

The Solution?

A real-time alert is a great solution.  This type of warning could be sent to a variety of people through email, SNMP integration, and SMS, which would pinpoint the appropriate person to receive the information and communicate quickly and efficiently.

POINT 3-Consistent Errors with Command Line Driven Operation

Though this interface may be preferred by many administrators to finish a job quickly, it is prone to errors!  The reason behind this is because of a lack of consistency in backups among various administrators when using this method.  Though best practices should be reinforced and codified through timely updates, this is not always the case, making errors a common occurrence.

The Solution?

A user interface which allow GUI operation of backup features must be added to the backup systems of reputable IT departments.  This way, there is less chance for human error and more repeatability of current operations.

POINT 4-Reports and Planning Are Given Insufficient Attention

As tempting as it is for backup professionals to focus mainly on the report of the system that sent an alert, it is vital to remember that this information is only one piece of the puzzle in managing the backup environment!  It is all too common for administrators to miss many other important reports which are specific to their department and procedures.

When the backup server begins to hold the transferred alert and monitoring data, problems can soon follow!  Generally, the data on the primary backup server is only saved for a short of amount of time, making it possible for it to be no longer accessible, thus making it next to impossible to understand and prevent the failure.

The Solution?

Following the recommendation of best practices, it is prudent to compile the data from primary and distributed backup servers into individual databases, which will help to keep daily backup operations running smoothly.  This way, the data can be analyzed and used in various reports which relate to your department’s specific needs.

5. POINT 5-Misconfiguration

Though IT departments are well-versed in backup and recovery systems, sometimes things can go wrong.  Misconfigurations are an example of that, and often occur because of enlarged data and server environments.  Here are some common problems:

  1. Recovery logs are not size accurately:  For recovery logs that are not sized accurately, information can be lost, because it will no longer be recorded into the log.  This special space must be manually enlarged and restarted to avoid disaster.
  2. Miss match from disk to tape:  With a small disk pool, there is a chance that new data won’t be accepted, delaying backups and causing missed backup windows.  From a disk pool to a tape device, only one thread can be written, and if tape can’t handle the speed that data must be written from disk, the disk pool won’t be able to take backup data.
  3. Overload of simultaneous backup sessions: It is easy to exceed the maximum client number with regards to backup systems, not to mention, also miss the window of backup.  This problem can occur as data environments grow, and backup clients continue to get added.

The Solution?

Regardless of mistakes, larger monitoring systems – which offer a more comprehensive view, are being used by many IT professionals.  This view grants an immediate way to find errors and identify a changing factor in the environment.  Backup software and monitoring systems used TOGETHER are the solution for IT departments, in order to accurately assess the needs of the backup environment.

A Good Backup Environment-Art or Science?

A good backup environment is composed of many things, in the spheres of both art and science.  Some of these things include tools which assist administrators to be aware of trends and predict the possibility of problems that are ahead.  Another thing that a well-functioning backup environment has is monitoring and reporting tools that work well with backup software, as well as the usage of a variety of vendors.  Along with these more science-based factors, keep in mind that backup administration is also an art that is perfected over time, and the knowledge of it needs to be appropriately shared in order to keep the art alive and well throughout time.