Performance & Failure: How to Enhance the One & Prevent the Other


In a technological world, failure is bound to happen.  In light of this fact, companies must keep in mind the reality of loss and the costs inevitably associated with it.  Many wonder how they can boost performance and prevent failures with respect to their backup and restore processes. The truth is, getting a rate of success that is above 98% just isn’t a reality if you factor in human error with power and network failures.  The bottom line is, most businesses can barely reach 80% success rates!  It is also interesting to note that those who boast of 100% rates of success are likely only looking at a single moment in time, and not the whole picture.  This over generalization does not do anyone well, and actually leads clients to expect unrealistic percentages.  If you want to know how to boost performance and achieve realistic success rates, as well as how to avoid future failures, keep reading below to learn how to achieve the results you want and avoid the failures you dread.

1. Monitoring: The problem here is that the IT world is getting huge and there are vastly more systems present than were planned for initially.  This makes monitoring them all a difficult task, and creates confusion with respect to understanding backup failures.  To ease the challenge, IT departments need an interface that displays holistic graphs, as well as individual clients and servers.  Ideally, the interface would work across the vendor spectrum and would have the ability to automatically combine data.

2. Don’t Miss Those Alerts: Because of the changing nature within IT departments, there unfortunately exists a very real possibility that alerts will be missed.  Generally sent through email, these alerts could potentially be overlooked if the staff or rules change.  That is why it is vital that enough time be spent training in procedures to ensure no alerts are ever missed.  When alerts get received in time, proper investigation can be carried out, which is a time-sensitive task and absolutely essential in the world of backup.  It is also vital that technology is used which can send alerts through email, SNMP integration, and SMS.   This way, the right person will be able to follow through on addressing the errors within the backup system.

3. Errors Easily Occur with the Command Line Driven Operation:
Many administrators opt for this interface to complete a task quickly, but the problem remains when it comes time to backup.  The command line interface creates inconsistencies with respect to backup operations, and this is dangerous because operations often change with the staff.  One can likely understand why best practices and thorough training must be adhered to, especially within IT spheres.  It is also of utmost importance for GUI operations to be utilized within the user interface of backup systems, and for the command line operation interface to be less accessible so it won’t be used as the standard.

4. Administrators Are Not Spending Enough Time on Reports and Planning:
Recent alerts generally get the most attention, which is why administrators end up generating reports from the system that sent the last alert.  Though important, it is also wise to focus on generating reports for other alerts, to analyze trends, and to anticipate the forecast.  Those within various IT spheres must also keep in mind that old data is constantly being flushed to make room for new information.  Because of this, valuable information regarding the reasons for a failure may be within the flushed data, which ultimately creates a longer process when it comes to analyzing problems.  As a result, data must be collected from the backup servers in each individual database.

5. Misconfiguration:
Many problems can arise when the misconfiguration process occurs, mainly because of the rapid growth of data and server environments happening today.  Here are a few issues that are commonly encountered during misconfiguration.

  • Inaccurately sized recovery logs. Backup information starts in a recovery log and eventually goes to a database.  After a time, the log is flushed.  This way, there is room for new information, but issues arise when the log is being enlarged and is thereby unavailable.  This is especially problematic during a failure.
  • Errors during disk to tape transfer. It is a common occurrence in the tape-using  world to transfer from disk to tape, but problems occur when a small disk pool exists, as well as mismatched speeds between disk and tape.
  • Various backup processes in session. In the day of rapid technology growth, it is common for too many clients to be accessing the backup systems at any given time, ultimately creating missed windows for backup.

The good news is, it has never been easier for IT administrators to keep an eye on their backup environments.  This is because the monitoring systems that exist today are superior to those of the past and allow for immediate identification of errors.  These systems are also excellent at pinpointing changing environments.  However, mistakes are inevitable, and even though being able to walk away from a system in peace would be ideal, this is not a reality.  Backup software must be paired with an excellent monitoring system to be truly efficient and effective.

Many people question if the world of backup is an art to be learned or a science to be observed and understood.  The truth is, effective backup systems are both an art and a science!  Backup systems are continually under pressure and constantly changing, and that is the science side of them.  However, management of this world is truly an art because one must depend upon appropriate tools which help forecast trends and future problems.  This fragile art ought to be shared carefully through great instruction and attention to detail.  After all, the learning curve is high!  Future administrators must be aware that backup software is only truly effective when paired with a good monitoring system and proper tools for reporting.  By following these tips, there will likely be high completion rates and successful restore processes.

Article by:
Jason Zhang is the product marketing person for Rocket Software’s Backup, Storage, and Cloud solutions.  Learn more about Rocket Servergraph.

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