PCD / Converge blog

Are Your Backups Giving You Nightmares?

Everyone needs a good night’s sleep. Are your backups giving you nightmares?


Today, few network administrators can claim to have full control over their environment and backup practices. There have been so many changes in recent years that it has become almost impossible to keep a company’s infrastructure up to date. IT budgets have often not kept pace with their organization’s growing needs, creating a dangerous gap and causing backup problems to increase rather than being addressed. As a result, the reliability of the backup process in many companies is at best doubtful, and more likely very fragile.

The problems most frequently encountered are:

• Aging backup infrastructures that result in frequent breakdowns
• Capacity of the backup infrastructure is no longer sufficient because of the rapid growth of storage volumes
• Backups cannot be completed in the prescribed windows
• Backups take too long and so does the data recovery process
• To reduce backup time, priority is given to some more critical servers or directories are trimmed
• As a result, the quality and reliability of completed backups is inconsistent

Coexistence of Virtual and Physical Environments

Then virtualization arrived on scene, which, because of its many advantages, has quickly become the main way to operate today. How have backup practices adapted to these new realities? Although all companies are now working to virtualize their environments, several physical server environments still remain and they too must be protected. Furthermore, a physical server is still required to control tape libraries that cannot be directly controlled by VMware. What should we do with these remaining physical servers?

The situation becomes complicated when:

• It is almost unthinkable to make complete copies of virtual environments on a regular basis
• Several people have to combine different tools and means to protect both their data and their virtual environments
• It is not enough to rely solely on Snapshot backups
• Various approaches must be adapted depending on the applications that, once virtualized, often require backup procedures for the data and the linked VM components to preserve the application logic and thus guarantee real service recovery capability
• Software agents for specialized applications are a viable option, but quickly become expensive
• The choice of media strategy is equally complex (volume/capacity, location, with or without deduplication, compliance of practices)

In short, many companies are simply unable to test the effectiveness of their data recovery. And this is what is most worrisome. If this sounds all too familiar, fortunately, we can help you starting today.

Where Do You Start?

Empower the right people at the right level of the organization
Perhaps the main reason for the problem is that most companies today do not have anyone formally assigned to or solely responsible for backup management. Data protection is, however, one of the most basic functions for which the IT department is responsible. Backups are often a secondary responsibility of systems administrators who are already overburdened with many other duties. Everything starts by empowering the right people at the right level of the organization. Next, set up a definite plan to review infrastructure and backup and disaster recovery practices.

Determine the organization’s needs
A review of backup practices involves several disciplines and implies a lot of reflection and work on architecture as is the case when managing storage or the network. This exercise should lead to adopting an overall philosophy and choosing a corporate architecture for managing and protecting the company’s data long before questions about the tools and technologies that should be used are considered. Its aim should be to reflect on the company’s needs and obligations as regards recovery time objectives (RTO), recovery point objectives (RPO), and legal compliance requirements. It should then specify the responsibility structure and the various tasks that can be centralized or shared among the teams in the context of concerted, coordinated planning.

Optimize the data environment
Before tackling the choice of tools, consideration should be given to the possibilities of optimizing and reducing data volume. Part of this exercise should be done in direct collaboration with the business groups. They can assess the relevance of some data, help set priorities among the various applications and services, and dispose of data that is no longer useful to the company. Then come the various technical means, such as deduplication, to systematically reduce the volume of data to be processed and backed up. Again, there are significant differences between the deduplication approaches proposed by manufacturers. Understanding them in detail lets you make the right investment choices based on the types of data processed and the potential gains that will come from using the right technology. This deduplication will be just as beneficial to the efficiency of backup operations as replication is to business continuity and disaster recovery.

Choose the right tools and technologies
There are many backup software suites, and their prices and features seem to be comparable. Our experience enables us to guide you through the strengths and weaknesses of the many options available. Our advisory approach helps you optimize your choices and your decision criteria by guiding you through the various aspects that you should assess.

These usually include:

• The targeted RTO/RPO
• The types of applications backed up, and the integrations built specifically for them
• The use of hypervisors for system virtualization and the granularity of backup management
• The volume of data processed and projected growth
• The number of sites and their locations
• Communications links between sites
• The type of technologies to which the solution must be grafted (servers, storage, deduplication, replication, etc.) and the integrations specifically built for them
• The type or combination of media preferred (tapes, disks, cloud providers, etc.)

Each step taken in this integrated approach helps you refine your company’s data management strategy (i.e., disaster recovery mechanisms, information lifecycle management, data archiving).

Support in Choosing and Implementing an Adapted Backup Strategy

PCD Solutions has helped numerous companies through short-term consulting and by implementing backup and disaster recovery strategies. Our team’s expertise lies primarily in the strategic thinking and architecture that will enable your company to achieve its objectives. Many mandates start with a simple HEALTHCHECK of your infrastructure and your backup practices. This is an easy way to assess your company’s situation to clearly identify risks (if applicable) and the necessary corrective measures.
Rest assured knowing that we have carried out a large number of mandates with VEEAM, Commvault, HP DataProtector, IBM TSM, and VMware Data Protection technologies, as well as various deduplication technologies, disk-based backup, and enterprise backup libraries.