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10 basic steps for better backup

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Regardless of the backup application you use, there are fundamentals that need to be in place to ensure better backup operations.

10 basic steps for better backup

In the newspaper business, bad news sells. When it comes to backup, it's easy to focus on the bad news. There's simply so much of it: nightly failures, lost tapes and unrecoverable data.

But the news isn't all bad. There are shops where backups are completed successfully, where data is restored and backup operations run smoothly. The most evident common denominator in well-functioning backup infrastructures is effective process and control. Well-run environments have a clear understanding of the tasks to be performed and a consistent way to accomplish them.

How does your organization measure up in regard to the basics of backup operations? Here's a checklist of 10 areas you should focus on to build a more effective backup practice.

1. Plan ahead. Backup is one strategic component of data protection; others include mirrors, snapshots and replication. In most environments, traditional backup serves as the last resort for data recovery. But as a strategic element, backup planning should be a fundamental part of the overall storage plan.

Your backup infrastructure needs to be factored into the planning process for rolling out apps, servers and primary storage growth. Too often, changes in the environment aren't taken into

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account until the eleventh hour. This causes disruptions and has a detrimental impact on the overall backup operation.

Proper planning enables the backup team to fully understand an application's business requirements and design characteristics with respect to data protection. The backup policies and approach necessary for a database application that employs split mirrors and replication is considerably different than those needed for a file-based environment having no additional data protection. Similarly, a large enterprise application deployed across multiple servers may have complex data interdependencies that require proper backup synchronization to enable a usable recovery.

2. Establish a lifecycle operations calendar. An effective backup operation requires certain tasks to be completed successfully every day. There are also weekly, monthly, quarterly and even annual tasks that are as important as daily tasks. While short-term tasks are highly tactical, long-term tasks tend to be more strategic. In an effective backup operations environment, all tasks should be documented and performed on schedule (see "The backup operations lifecycle," next page).

Daily tasks are the operational fundamentals that most backup administrators are familiar with and include items such as:

  • Job monitoring
  • Success/failure reporting
  • Problem analysis and resolution
  • Tape handling and library management
  • Scheduling
Weekly, monthly and long-term activities focus on:
  • Performance analysis
  • Capacity trending and planning
  • Policy review and analysis
  • Recovery testing and verification
  • Architecture planning and validation

This was first published in November 2005

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