Storage Informer
Storage Informer

The Big Lie in Backup

by on Aug.13, 2009, under Storage

The Big Lie in Backup

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In our return to fundamentals we first discussed the difference between Archiving (Data Management) and Backup (Data Recovery), then introduced the idea of improving Data Recovery with the use of Data Management or in short form Archive before Backup.

In this fundamentals entry we’ll cover The Big Lie. There are many variations of this but the scam always works this way at it’s core.

You: How well is the backup environment working?

Them: It’s working great.

An answer like that is a lie. One of the most repeated lies in Backup. A truthful answer will always be structured as follows..

Them: The metrics show that it’s working great.

Yes. Metrics.

Backup is supposed to be an infinitely repeatable process, like screwing caps on tubes of toothpaste or stamping bottle caps out of sheet metal. The reason why backup environments appear to be so fragile is that they’re never scaled in step with the IT environments they protect as those environments grow. When backup breaks it’s because the equation has become unbalanced.

That being said backup is supposed be an infinitely repeatable process devoid of the poetry or artistry or soul people in IT sometimes believe their work has. And to ensure you’re performing backup correctly you need metrics.

A quantifiable measurement of what happened, where it happened, when it happened, how long it happened for, when it happened before and when it’s scheduled to happen again.

All of that sounds simplistic, but why then do so many shops fly blind when it comes to their backup environments? Do they fear what they’ll discover with an accurate timeline of events and the resultant consequences of those events? I suspect some might, it’s always easier to cancel an alarm than to explore the cause and fix the issue which triggered the alarm in the first place.

When you go for a medical checkup the doctor doesn’t look at your face and guess your blood pressure. He or she will measure your blood pressure. In the same fashion a person should not guess as to the condition of their backup environment.

If you’re not taking it’s pulse every day and at the very least collating that into metrics which give you a historical view of what’s changing and how fast it’s changing then you have no idea how well your backup environment is working.

Human memory is too fallible when there are that many moving parts and ever growing data sets involved yet human memory is the de facto measurement tool in backup environments. Far and away outstripping any automated measurement process.

We’ll rerun this conversation again showing how you’d move someone beyond The Big Lie.

You: How well is the backup environment working?

Them: It’s working great.

You: Good. Could I see the metrics?

If you don’t observe and measure it you can’t accurately tell what it’s doing or where it’s going and if you can’t do that you’re not giving an factual answer you’re just offering an opinion.

Backup doesn’t do opinions.

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