Article

Get your backup problems fixed remotely

Jo Maitland, News Director

Advanced Digital Information Corp.,(ADIC), is proposing to fix its users' backup problems over the Web with a new service called iSurety.

Instead of adding more bodies to its already over-stretched 2,000 field service engineers, ADIC has decided to use technology to reach out and troubleshoot user problems.

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User quotes

A recent tape reliability survey conducted by "Storage" magazine reveals the key problems. These users agreed to be quoted on condition of anonymity.

"It can be a crap shoot. A lot of times it might look to be a tape/media problem but it's a problem with the software."

"The problems aren't necessarily with the tape vendor, but have to do with the complicated environment. Backup client, API client, DB client, tape sharing software."

"I find it hard to sort out media problems from tape drive problems from software problems."

"Tape drives are the most unreliable form of back up that there is, with the exception of no back up!"

"There needs to be tighter support between tape vendor, tape library vendor, and backup software...toss in SAN backups and you'll want to puke."

A key component of iSurety is iLink, a software application that gives the ADIC service team remote access to ADIC's diagnostics inside its tape libraries and to diagnostic data from the surrounding storage devices. The service, which launches in March, requires no software at the user facility. Instead, interested parties simply go to ADIC's Web site, log on to iLink and pay a one-off $1,000 setup charge. The service is established via the ActiveX control in Windows.

Steve Whitner, corporate marketing manager at ADIC said the company has no plans to retain or mine the data it receives on customer problems. "This is purely a service initiative," he said. In other words, ADIC is not about to dispatch a sales rep to your site to sell more products.

ADIC will run the service out of its two customer support centers in Denver and Germany. It claims it will be able to diagnose problems in libraries, disk-backup systems, backup software, host bus adapters (HBA) and storage switches. iLink service personnel will initiate corrective actions or recommend additional steps where necessary.

Analysts agree that the offering is well overdue as the No. 1 problem at most user sites involves backup. However backup issues tend to be complicated and there's a lot of finger-pointing that goes on between the tape library vendors and the backup software companies. "It'll be interesting to see how they tackle these situations," said Bill North, software analyst with International Data Corp.

ADIC said it plans to work more closely with the HBA and software vendors to ease this pain. "Quite often we'll be at a site and we'll call the backup software provider who will help fix the problem," said Whitner.

In addition to the iSurety program, ADIC announced new capabilities for its Scalar i2000 tape library. It now supports hot swap drives, drive firmware auto-leveling that automatically picks up the new drive, native SMI-S support, and integrated drive utilization reporting. The company also increased its total capacity to support 100 to 3,492 tape cartridges in a single system.

Extra diagnostic features in the i2000 include, logging traffic between the host and the library, as well as increasing the amount of diagnostic data that can be stored in the library. Relational diagnostics, ADIC's approach to library diagnostics, automatically selects, gathers, synchronizes and analyzes library log data, reducing service calls by 50% and shortening the time it takes to fix the problem by 30% compared to conventional libraries, ADIC claims. It declined to give out the absolute numbers on how many calls it receives.

Related articles:
Seven ways to minimize tape failure
Reliably reading bar code labels on tapes
Shrinking backup windows
How to ship your tapes off-site

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