Creating storage tiers for backup services


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Getting started
The following steps briefly explain how to start a tiered backup services program:

  1. Take an inventory. Identify, document and place a cost on deployed hardware, software, agents and staffing.

  2. Interview your customers. Discover what's most important to them in terms of the technology you have to offer. Ensure your questionnaires are in language that can be understood, so user feedback is meaningful. Pose questions in terms of cost/benefit tradeoffs so users appreciate that there's no "free lunch" in deploying different types of data protection solutions.

  3. Craft some pro-forma storage tiers. Stratify the features and functionality of data protection technologies currently in place. Identify the gaps where users want what you don't have. Present the services in each tier in business language, not arcane vendor verbiage.

  4. Develop formal OLAs that reflect these tiers. Convert the feature and service list, including things like "guaranteed incident response time," and extract the requirements most in need of codifying in a signed document.

  5. Build in iterative review. Make it clear to business units that your first attempt to build a tiered-backup service program will likely need modifications. As frequently as necessary, update

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  1. the OLAs and the underlying service tier documents.

  2. Expand your services over time. As part of the review process, expect to gradually expand the number and types of services in each tier, as well as improve the cost-effectiveness of those services.
Changing tiers
After your program is up and running, the tier levels will most likely require tweaking or perhaps even a major overhaul.
  • If it's in the OLA, measure it. One of the biggest mistakes organizations make is to agree to OLAs and defined service levels, but fail to measure compliance with the agreements. Storage groups should not only detect events that breach the OLA, they should develop reports that analyze trends and try to detect problems before they become OLA violations.

  • Formalize customer feedback. You may meet OLAs, but still fall short of expectations. The best way to ensure that this doesn't happen is to sample your key customers regularly to look for ways to improve the OLA model or the services offered.

  • Connect OLAs to the procurement process. Organizations often keep vendors and their own purchasing department at arm's length when deploying service tiers. This is a mistake. These two groups can greatly enhance the success of your rollout or imperil the program's future by not backing your choice of tier levels or making it more difficult to purchase the products you need to support the various backup-tier service levels. It's therefore best to include them in the tiering scheme from the beginning.

  • Service tiers for backup aren't a fad. If implemented wisely, different backup-tier levels will save your organization money and better protect data. As the lines of business become more involved in how data and applications are protected, the storage group will become more visible and recognized for the important service it delivers.

This was first published in May 2006

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