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5 Major Reasons for Backup Failure

Published on 22 August 16

There is a huge misconception floating around the IT world and that is the myth of five nines. What this stands for is the ability to get a 99.999% rate of success when it comes to backup rates. The reason the five nines is not possible is because while data environments are continuing to grow, failures occur when it comes to error-prone humans, as well as power and network issues. Another cause is aging servers holding static data and storage equipment that must be decommissioned.

Interestingly enough, most business only reach an 80% rate of success! To be clear, those that claim success rates that are higher are generally viewing one point in time, or have manipulated the data to make the rates appear higher than they really are.

So, the question is, how can companies enhance the performance of their backup environments? Below, you will see the 5 main reasons that your backup may be failing and how to effectively solve these problems.

1. Poor Monitoring Procedures: Routine and inefficient monitoring can make it difficult for administrators to prevent and fix a failure when it comes to the backup environment. Though it certainly isn't the cause of failure overall, it can create a ripple effect, ultimately leading to more failures. The problem is, many backup systems were designed to monitor a much smaller number of servers. In this technologically advanced era, there needs to be a way to manage the server system so that all information is collected and integrated. As it stands, managing the each server is a manual process, where the backup information is sent to a database and is searched over by that server’s particular administrator. A huge issue which can inhibit successful monitoring is in trying to monitor and integrate the systems from different vendors. Consistent policies and efficient resource use becomes difficult when there are individual management centers. The solution is to invest in a system that will automatically aggregate data and offer a holistic view of the entire backup environment, as well as one that can function well with various vendors.

2. Missing Alerts: In the event of inadequate protection of a client’s data, many backup systems will alert an administrator through email. The issue with this method of communication is that often times there are changes in staff, programs, severs, and backup systems which can easily bring about incomplete direction on various policies. It is of utmost importance that teams safeguard their processes of sending alerts so that these inconsistencies don't happen. It is vital that alerts go to the appropriate person so the cause can be determined. A great way to ensure this happens is to invest in tools which send alerts in real-time to a command center where a group of managers can get the information in varied formats such as email, SNMP integration, and SMS.

3. Reliance Upon Command Line Operation Which is Prone to Errors: Though this interface is still a favorite among many administrators, it would benefit everyone if modern GUIs were the standard choice. Problems arise when the command line operation is used during the standardizing process. As stated above, when there are changes in staff, inconsistencies can occur. Operations are generally manipulated to suit each administrator, and when directions are not passed along appropriately, inconsistencies in policies ensue. It is essential to follow best practices so that operations get successfully carried out, despite a change in staff. The command line interface must be made an option instead of the standard, so updating your backup environment to grant GUI operation is a must.

4. Planning and Reports are Not Given Enough Time: Often times, only one reporting system is given time and attention, when in reality, administrators ought to be focused on the whole picture regarding a well-running backup environment. To do this, those in charge must spend time making alert, trend, and forecast reports, as well as custom reports which are meant for specific department needs. If an administrative teams fails to do this, and they only focus on the most vulnerable servers, they are ultimately failing to keep operations in line. Another thing to keep in mind here is that problems can pop up with respect to alerts and data in the secondary servers. In the secondary sphere, there is a constant flushing to keep space open for new information. On the primary server, data is generally only saved for 14 days. If questionable data gets moved or flushed, trying to figure out the cause of a failure could take a lot longer or be impossible to understand. The way around all of this is through diligent collection and storage of data from both primary and secondary servers into their own databases.

5. Problems During Misconfiguration: Misconfiguration can cause a host of operational problems in a backup and recovery system. The issues arise as data and servers expand in size, ultimately changing the overall environment. Here are some common challenges that occur:

-Recovery logs aren't sized correctly. These logs hold important backup data, which then goes into a database. Recovery logs continually get flushed to make room for new data, but problems occur when the log fills up before the database can be backed up. If this happens, information can no longer be logged. It there is a failure, the stage is set for a likely emergency that is unfixable.

-Disk-to-tape errors. Generally, departments write backups to disk and then copy them to tape. Challenges occur when the disk pool is too small and can't process data in time. In turn, backups become delayed and missed backup windows occur.

-Multiple overlapping backup sessions. As new clients are added, it is easy to exceed the limit on a particular backup system. As a result, backup windows are missed.

Many question how they can get around these issues, and the answer is simple. By implanting a large monitoring system, administrators can successfully keep an eye on the whole backup system. This way, errors can be quickly identified and remedied. Teams must remember though, that mistakes happen and you can never really walk away and rely fully on a system to protect your environment on its own. Monitoring systems must be paired with a good backup system in order to successfully protect data.

In the end, operating a backup system is both an art to be mastered and a science to be understood. Administrators need the right tools and vast knowledge to navigate their spheres well. Many teams opt for monitoring and reporting tools that can work side-by-side with their backup software. It is also a benefit for administrators to use various vendors when it comes to backup software. Overall, to operate successfully, teams must become well-educated on both the art and the science behind effective backup environments.

Author :

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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