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The importance of backup training

Lack of knowledge about backup results in backups missing their window. Training, whether in-house or supplied by official programmes, can be beneficial.

You don't buy a car without learning to drive. If you buy a backup application, the same logic applies.

Passing the driving test gave you the keys to explore the roads on your own, but just because you gained your license didn't mean you actually knew how to drive properly. It meant you had a certain competence to control the car. Really learning to drive started on your first solo outing.

The same logic applies to backup applications. Such applications are at least as complex as driving. Granted, there is no highway code to worry about, though there are rules such as Sarbanes Oxley. There will not be any injury if backups are configured incorrectly. However, an incorrectly configured backup environment could be compared to people driving around without changing out of first gear, or only allowing one car per lane on a motorway. Incorrectly configured backups could result in tape drive damage, whether via shoe shining or a robot attempting to mount a tape in an already occupied drive in an incorrectly configured shared drive environment.

Lack of knowledge of backup applications results in misconfiguration and an efficiency reduction. A lack of understanding or appreciation of application functionalities leads to incorrect design/architecture. This is evident from the number of instances where I have witnessed companies developing what they believe is additional functionality to the backup application. Usually done through scripts, they check if a backup has failed and will resubmit a backup, while other scripts perform media management. This is like playing with fire.

Let's consider things from another angle. Compare the costs of training against the cost of the backup solution. Now consider a poorly managed backup environment where the only option to increase capacity is by additional hardware. An additional tape drive and associated overheads could cost more than training, whereas investing in the training could result in an improved configuration of the environment, eliminating the need for the additional infrastructure. Eureka! Hence, training can actually lead to cost avoidance.

At the time of purchasing a backup solution, management may not be aware of the complexity of the new infrastructure and training could be overlooked, usually due to cost, as managers may not appreciate its worth.

If you're a manager who has assigned backup administration to an untrained employee, ask yourself if you are achieving the most out of that employee and the backup application? If you are the employee, do you have the skills to perform the job to the level required?

Many times I have witnessed a lack of knowledge and misconfiguration, resulting in backups missing their window. Ultimately, the true effect results in servers not being backed up. Murphy's Law dictates these servers will fail, with the outage costing more than the training. I am not advocating all training has to be supplied by official training programmes; customised in-house training can be extremely beneficial. Nothing beats experience, nevertheless understanding the mechanics and operation of the backup application is key.

If you are the backup manager and you have just picked up your Audi RS4 keys, you would not give the keys to anyone, let alone to someone who has not passed their test. You know the car would come back in a different shape than when it was delivered to you! What you may not realise is that this could be happening to your backups.

About the author: Hywel Matthews is a senior consultant at Glasshouse Technologies (UK), a global provider of IT infrastructure services, with over with 12 years experience in the IT Industry and nine years experience in backup, recovery, disaster recovery, systems and storage.

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