Backups at Christmas

Here are some tips for making sure your backup environment works through the holidays when staffing is at a minimum and your normal backup administrators may not be working.

The festive season is nearly upon us and with it comes a time of reduced staff cover and change freezes. Ensuring that your backup environment is ready to cope with the holidays is an integral part of being able to relax.

So what needs to be done to ensure your data is protected during periods of reduced staff levels?

While you may have fewer administrators on-site, your organisation is likely to have fewer users around as well (retail organisations being an exception). Backup environments that are reasonably stable tend to cope well over Christmas because they are not affected by changes made elsewhere, e.g. large increases in data volumes, additions/removals of hosts, alternations to SANs and LANs.

But you must not depend upon everything in your backup environment running without a hitch. There's nothing worse than, just as you're carving the turkey, getting a page which states that you've run out of backup tapes.

That is the most obvious thing to watch out for. If you manually remove tapes from your libraries, it's essential to make sure you have plenty of empties to carry you through the time when you are not about.

However, if your standard procedure is to remove tapes regularly, don't get caught foul of your disaster recovery protocols. Decisions to leave tapes on-site for an extended period of time that compromise your ability to restore in the event of a disaster shouldn't rest with anyone less then IT management.

To assess how many tapes (or how much disk space) will be required over this time, you will need to know what you will be backing up. Many organisations run year-end backups that could consume far more resources then you might anticipate if you don't suspend your normally weekly/monthly backups.

Lastly, if your normal backup administrators are not working, determine who is and if they have sufficient skills to run restores and debug any problems that may arise. If sufficient cover isn't available, your organisation could be at risk.

The Christmas period can be a great time to effect change. If staff cover are of good quality and change management allows, then this time of year offers a rare opportunity to make large changes with minimal impact to the few users out there. If you aren't too concerned about the threat of missing out on the festivities at home, then plan properly and get rid some of those big ones on the to-do list.

About the author: David Boyd is a senior consultant at Glasshouse Technologies (UK), a global provider of IT infrastructure services, with more than seven years experience in backup and storage, with a major focus on designing and implementing backup solutions for blue chip companies.

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