How to select the proper backup reporting tool

Backup reporting tools can show a backup administrator how the backup environment is actually performing, rather than relying on perceived performance. But how does one select the proper reporting tool?

Most backup products now come with some kind of reporting tool, as do some third-party backup products. So why do so many companies get backup reporting so wrong?

Because backup generally trundles along in the background and is left to its own devices, IT managers tend not to worry about it too much. So how can they ever know if there any major concerns related to backup? How can they really understand backup success rates? How do they know whether the billing system or the CEO's mail file was backed up?

In my experience, once a backup system begins to have issues, these issues breed quickly and can spiral out of control. There may be no fast or easy way to get the system back on track. It can eventually take months of investigation, remedial fixes and outages to fix the problems. All this pain and time could have been prevented if a small amount of time had been invested up front. As they say, an ounce of prevention is better than a pound of cure!

This is where backup reporting tools can be of value. They make the backup administrator's day more organised and productive by providing a quick and easy way to identify issues. They can potentially eliminate unsupported in-house scripts used to provide limited reporting on backup performance. In addition, the products' web-based dashboards and reports can provide a clear view of what is happening to the organization's data.

Once a backup system begins to have issues, these issues breed quickly and can spiral out of control.
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When deployed correctly, these tools can report on a wide range of Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) within the backup estate. Some can even integrate with other reporting tools to provide a holistic view of the entire estate. Furthermore, it is possible to integrate some of the more advanced tools with monitoring software to report on thresholds and issues, providing another means of alerting should issues arise.

But before you rush out and buy the newest all-singing reporting tool, you'll need to consider the requirements of the business and backup team. Factors to consider include:

  • Ease of deployment
  • Ease of management
  • Training and licensing costs
  • Web-based reporting
  • Email reporting capability
  • Compatibility with existing tools and monitoring solution
  • Whether the backup reporting tool delivers the required KPIs to both the business and backup team, e.g., backup success rates, backup volumes, etc.

Considering these requirements can have a large impact on how well the backup reporting tool performs. Once the right tool is deployed, is it imperative that the metrics and KPIs be used to assist in the day-to-day management of the backup estate.

Previous tasks that may have required ad hoc scripts can now be managed via a supported reporting tool that provides instant access to key indicators, such as backup failures. The business will now benefit from the ability to view how the backup environment is actually performing, rather than relying on perceived performance. This will make it easier to make decisions on future investment and/or savings on backup infrastructure. Above all, the metrics must tie into SLAs that exist between IT and the business.

About the author: Spencer Huckstepp is a technical consultant at GlassHouse Technologies (UK), a global provider of IT infrastructure services. He has 11 years of IT industry experience, eight of which have been in the enterprise storage arena. Spencer's role includes involvement with various virtualisation, storage and backup strategy engagements.

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