Why we love backup administration

First and foremost, a company is nothing without its data. This puts the people who protect that data at the top of the food chain.

Here's a short list of simple reasons you should appreciate (if not love) your backup administrators. First and foremost, a company is nothing without its data. This puts the people who protect that data at the top of the food chain.

Second, who else gets so much exposure to such an array of different technologies? To be good at securing your Oracle database, you need to know database terminology and perhaps even have basic DBA skills. If you've got a mixture of operating systems, backup admins will be expected to know how to administer all of them (even though they refuse to give you administrative/root privileges).

There is no way you can run an effective network backup environment without knowing where network bottlenecks are or how routing can cause problems, and if you don't know the basics of firewalls, then you'll never convince the security team to open those ports you need to reach the servers in your DMZ. You need to know how applications handle their data and which ones are business critical. And of course, understanding disk storage, disk arrays, RAID layouts and physical data locations can be invaluable in debugging performance issues. Consequently, the backup administrator is at the heart of the department.

Third, nothing stands still. Every time an important piece of data is created, it needs to be secured. Everyone in the organisation, including customers, affect the way we work. Every day produces a new challenge: data volumes grow, retention periods extend, RPOs and RTOs become tighter…all of these affect the way we design and operate our environments.

Of course, no one really likes the backup guys. We are overhead (an expensive one at that). We sometimes insist on service outages to obtain a consistent copy. We are sneaky and run backups during the day, crippling performance whilst others are trying to work. We demand that build standards are adhered to, regardless of whether they fit with the application designers plans. And naturally, it is our fault the server that unexpectedly died last night can't be restored, despite never having been informed of its existence. But you are everyone's best friend when they've accidentally dropped a database table or lost the in-house fantasy football spreadsheet. Only the backup administrator can offer the comforting words, "Don't worry I'll get it back for you, and no, I won't tell anyone".

So, when you are crawling into a taxi at 4 in the morning to remove a stuck tape, just remember: You are not only the most experienced person in the department with the most varied job, you are also the most important. January is a time for new budgets, and revised salaries. Get over to your CIO and remind him just how important you are.

About the author: David Boyd is an analyst at GlassHouse Technologies Inc.., an independent consulting firm with an emphasis on IT infrastructure.

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