Backup is a Solid Foundation of Data Management

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Click to learn more about author W. Curtis Preston.

I find myself preparing for World Backup Day at a time that companies around the world are still reeling from the effects of the coronavirus. IT professionals from China to Italy and everywhere in between are having to adapt to our new normal. It seemed impossible to write something about World Backup Day and not mention this new world of IT we find ourselves in. If you are managing IT, it’s quite possible that your world looks very different today than it did just a few weeks ago.

You may be dealing with all sorts of things, like a mobile workforce that was never mobile before. I recently spoke with a colleague who lives in Italy, and his wife had been given a laptop to work from home, but the process was so rushed that the laptop wasn’t ready for her to use when she got it. He had to spend multiple days working with tech support to make it so.

Perhaps you’re having to manage your data center without ever being there. Hopefully, you have heavily adopted virtualization and/or cloud technologies that allow you to remotely do just about anything except swap a tape.

Maybe you’re using new SaaS services because they are helpful to a mobile workforce. That same colleague also told me about an IT manager who “discovered” Teams was part of Office 365, which he was already paying for. Now he’s helping them learn how to leverage Teams. (Just note that despite what you may think, most SaaS services do not include backup and recovery as part of their offering; read your service agreement to find out.)

This may seem odd at first, but when I think about all of these changes, I’m reminded of the construction of tall buildings. Did you know that skyscrapers are built in such a way that they actually move quite a bit at the top? Willis Tower (formerly known as The Sears Tower), for example, can move as much as 2 feet back and forth during a high wind. This is possible for two reasons: the architecture of the steel structure that allows for this movement and the solid foundation the building is built on.

In the analogy from my admittedly backup-centric brain, you and the hardware/software/services that your company uses are the architecture that allows your company to easily adapt to such difficult circumstances as what we find ourselves currently in. You can weather just about any storm that your IT department is hit with because your architecture can easily adapt. Add more services here, move laptops over there, etc.

The underlying foundation that enables such an architecture is backup and disaster recovery systems. They are the ultimate safety net that your company counts on when it enacts any change. They are the reason you’re able to sleep at night – if it works.

Supporting a changing IT landscape requires all kinds of data movement and change. You have to deploy a blessed OS image on every laptop you deploy. You have to configure the laptop for that user and potentially copy the user’s data onto the laptop. You might be shuttering data center-centric services as you migrate those workloads to the cloud. You might be moving a workload from an older piece of equipment to a newer one that can better support your performance requirements. Every time you do one of these things, knowing you have a solid backup and recovery system allows you to make the change with impunity. You know if something goes wrong, you can always get your data back.

If you don’t trust your backup system, or if it’s old and in need of repair or replacement, you’re not going to have the peace of mind to sway to and fro like the previously mentioned Willis Tower. You’re going to second-guess every move you make, and you will be filled with fear and trepidation because you’re not sure you can put Humpty Dumpty back together if he falls off the wall.

Unfortunately, so many people do not trust their backup system. It’s often under-powered or using ancient equipment. It might be using problematic components like tape. (Tape can be great if the system is properly designed for it, but it’s nearly impossible to maintain such a design.) It might be using traditional techniques like full backups and full-file incremental backups, instead of block-level incremental forever and source-side dedupe. Maybe your backup system works just fine, but it’s susceptible to a ransomware attack. Imagine on your worst day, finding out that the ransomware attack that just disabled your company also disabled your backup system. This can easily happen with a Windows-based backup system storing its backups onsite.

While you’re remembering World Backup Day, be sure to think about whether or not you think of your backup and disaster recovery system as a solid foundation to keep up with change – or is it yet another part of your infrastructure that keeps you awake at night. If it doesn’t help you sleep better, perhaps it’s time for a change.

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