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Blog Post

Simplifying Server Backups: Reducing Operator Intervention

Best practices for overcoming backup and recovery challenges

by Gary Sevounts, VP Marketing at Zetta

72% of IT directors we surveyed recently think the biggest server backup challenge is complexity. Maintaining an effective backup process for critical data is a priority for many organizations, but despite rapid changes in technology in the last 10 years, the backup process has evolved little.

What makes backup such a challenge?

  1. Backup Operator Intervention
  2. Finding the Right RPO and RTO
  3. Keeping Up With Data Growth
  4. Inability to Validate Backups

This article is the first in a series that will offer some perspective on overcoming backup challenges. If you're interested in seeing specific best practices being applied, attend the Simplifying Backups Webinar on Thursday, March 8, at 9am PST.

Backup Operator Intervention
The first major problem with backups is that they require significant amounts of operator time. In many organizations this means having a dedicated individual or team managing backups. Even if the backup software itself is operating flawlessly, there are still the tasks of:

  • Changing the tapes
  • Packaging them for offsite storage
  • Retrieving the tapes
  • Finally, restoring the data

Of course, backups don't often execute smoothly, and most backup systems frequently require human intervention, sometimes on a daily basis. The most common reasons for operator intervention are:

  • Servers exceeded their backup windows
  • Some files failed to backup properly
  • Patches and upgrades need to be made to the backup system

Since there is a tangible business risk associated with the data contained in the backups, these issues tend to receive outsized attention from executives. For example, the backup system itself has a negative impact on the production systems, consuming disk, networking, and processing resources that increase database transaction latency during backups. The backup software may be set to give priority to transactions over backups, but if the database is very busy, it may be impossible to back it up without operator intervention. This manual task may then become urgent depending on your company's RPO or RTO.

Specific remedies to the manual intervention cycle described above will depend on your environment, but given that the ideal backup system would "just work," moving away from tapes and toward online backup solutions is recommended:

  • Analyze what steps require manual intervention and automate those functions
  • Utilize disk-to-disk technologies, where feasible, to minimize tape usage
  • Choose backup software that allows for automation and automated reporting.

These steps will also allow for more rapid recovery from the most common types of failures, including deleted or corrupted files and server failures.

Backups are important, but IT teams have a long list of similarly important things to focus on, so removing repetitive and time-consuming tasks related to backups is a logical way to free precious staff time for other critical items on the agenda.

The next article in this series will focus on the topic of finding the right RPO and RTO for your organization.

To view this article and more about online backup and disaster recovery, visit

Learn about best practices for overcoming backup and recovery challenges by attending the Simplifying Backups webinar on March 8, 2012 at 9 a.m. PST (Noon EST) and March 15, 9 a.m. PST (Noon EST).

Tweet this: @ZettaNet Article on Simplifying Server Backups: Reducing Operator Intervention

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For parties interested in online backup, online data backup, online server backup, enterprise online backup, server backup, cloud server backup.

More Stories By Derek Kol

Derek Kol is a technology specialist focused on SMB and enterprise IT innovations.

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