4 incredibly useful steps to better backups

Love backups? Didn't think so. To make the process less painful, consider the following steps when creating or changing backup environment

In all my years in IT, I can't think of an everyday task that is more universally loathed than maintaining good backups. Depending upon what size environment you're running, setting them up in the first place can be a massive investment in capital and manpower, but that's just the tip of the iceberg. Daily monitoring and troubleshooting often end up making the initial deployment look like a walk in the park.

But it doesn't need to be that way. Backups can be almost a set-it-and-forget-it affair, although reaching that utopia requires careful planning and a solid understanding of what you want to accomplish. Here are some design tips to help you avoid the most common backup pitfalls.

Step No. 1: Set expectations

As is often the case, the first step is the most important. Before you even begin to think about what kind of hardware and software you'll use to back up your environment, sit down with your business stakeholders and come to a consensus on what RTO (recovery time objective) and RPO (recovery point objective) you're trying to achieve. The RTO is the time it will take you to recover a given resource; the RPO is the maximum age of the data that you'll be able to recover at any given time.

In my experience, IT pros who take the time to have this discussion with management discover that what management finds important bears little resemblance to their pre-conceptions. Either management has nearly impossible RTO/RPO objectives or -- surprisingly enough -- cares far less than you might think about how quickly you can get certain services back in production.

Either way, building a consensus on what you need to deliver will provide you with two invaluable assets: nearly automatic budgetary justification (after all, this is what they've asked for, not what you're trying to sell) and adequate breathing room to get things rolling again in the event of disaster.

Step No. 2: Define technical requirements

Once you have an idea of what management expects, you can start figuring out how you'll meet those requirements. One way to make this a bit easier is to spend less time thinking about backing things up -- and more time considering you'll restore them when you need to. Too many times, I've seen design decisions made to shrink backup windows that have the unfortunate effect of dramatically increasing restore windows (a frequent side effect of certain types of dedupe and some commonly used tape rotation schemes).

Also, it's not just about how quickly you can restore a given resource -- but how it will be restored. I can't tell you how much money I've seen wasted on application-level backup agent software that doesn't stand a chance of being used in an actual work environment. Do you really need to be able to restore individual Exchange email messages to a user's mailbox? How about SQL tables and rows? I can count on one hand the number of times I've seen either of these features used in real life.

Most often, a disaster big enough to need your backups also requires a full mailstore/database restore. You may well end up needing more features, but avoid blindly buying features you may never use -- and, worse, that will make your solution unnecessarily complicated.

1 2 Page 1
Page 1 of 2
How to choose a low-code development platform