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Why the pain?
Companies today are struggling to manage data associated with a slew of new applications that in many cases didn't exist in even as little as five years ago. The types of these applications range from 24x7 online transaction databases (OLTP) applications to spreadsheets to the growing use of imaging. This diverse bag of applications creates a complex environment that requires at least a general understanding of each application to match it with obtain the right backup solution.

Going hand in hand with backup comes the necessity to restore data in the event of error or data loss. The requirements of restores vary as widely as that of

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backups in that they may range from recovering the data from a snapshot to a best-faith effort to recover the data from tapes archived off site.

Backup reporting and performance monitoring remains an often neglected component in backup software administration. This stems from a lack of tools, time and information about the backup environment. While companies may assume their administrators monitor backups closely, reality paints a much different picture.

Today's quick fixes
To address the growing need to eliminate backup and restore windows, technologies such as windowless backup and instant restores have arisen. To facilitate this, hardware and software storage vendors are cooperating to enable this functionality. Vendors such as EMC, HP, HDS, and IBM now provide the APIs of their storage arrays to vendors such as CA, Veritas, and Legato that lets these products to snap the data to the same vendor's disk arrays and restore it again from the snapshot.

Backup software vendors use these hardware vendor's APIs and automate the functionality through their management consoles. This eliminates the need for the end user to learn how to use and program these specialized functions into the software. Learning the ins and outs of a major backup product is a time-consuming task.

In the area of reporting on backup failures and successes, start ups like Bocada have answered the call. They provide a central interface to monitor the success and failure of backups of multiple vendors' products without putting an agent on every device on the network (see "Bocada clarifies backup picture").

Another challenge administrators face is when they try to document and understand the environment they need to manage. Here's where more advanced SAN Management tools such as AppIQ's Manager, EMC's Control Center, or Veritas' SANPoint Control can help users see what data lies where in the SAN as well as visualize and identify problems within the SAN environment that the backup traffic traverses.

These products help pinpoint problem areas in LAN and SAN environments, such as data traffic contention and performance issues. They gather and analyze data from the disparate storage devices, operating systems, applications and switches or directors, and report their findings in simple to read formats.

This was first published in March 2003

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