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New Year's resolutions for data backup administrators

To make sure you start off the new year right, here are W. Curtis Preston's New Year's resolutions for backup administrators.

2008 was a huge year for backup administrators. To make sure you start off the new year right, here are W. Curtis Preston's (a.k.a. Mr. Backup) New Year's resolutions for 2009.

Data deduplication is the biggest game-changer in backups since database agents.
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I will stop thinking of data backup as a stepping stone to a "real job." Data backups are the last line of defense, and people often think of them the same way that the infantry thinks of "protecting the rear." They think it would be so much more exciting to be "in the front." Ask an infantry officer how important it is to have a working final protective fire (FPF) consisting of crew-served and indirect weapons. If things are so bad that you have to fire the FPF, it better work. If it doesn't, you will lose the command center, and with that goes decision making, statistics, supply chain and communications. Sound familiar? If you're a backup administrator, be proud of your extremely important position. So stop thinking about how quickly you can get a "real job."

I will learn all there is to learn about data deduplication. Data deduplication is the biggest game-changer in backups since database agents. The industry has mature products that meet the needs of a variety of types of companies, and companies who have not deployed a data dedupe system are missing out. This is not to say that all (or even most) of the products in the space are mature. In fact, the popularity of this space has caused some vendors to prematurely release their products and sometimes exaggerate product claims. That's why it behooves you to learn everything you can about this technology from independent sources.

I will test any and all backup systems before I purchase them or deploy them in my data center. The BackupCentral.com forums are littered with posts that say, "I purchased product ABC. Can you tell me how to do XYZ?" or "I just upgraded to version 10.0, and something broke." Whether you're buying a new backup product or simply upgrading an existing one, you must test new things before deploying them in production. If you don't do that on a regular basis, you will inevitably buy a product that doesn't do what you want it to do. The answer to the question "How do I do XYZ with product ABC that I already bought?" is often, "You don't. You buy another product." Don't let that be you.

I will make a big posterboard with the words "Documented RTO & RPO" on it and stand on my desk like Norma Rae until it happens. When the recovery time objective (RTO)/recovery point objective (RPO) is not documented, the customer always has a more aggressive requirement in their head than the backup staff. Without a documented RTO/RPO, you'll only discover what the real RTO/RPO is when you perform a restore. Resolve now to make sure this doesn't happen to your company.

I will recommend third-party verification of our backups to my boss. When you need the backup system is the wrong time to find out if you've been doing your job correctly. Therefore, a responsible person in your position should be OK with having a third-party audit or data protection management software that lets your boss know that backups are working. Don't be the next journalspace.com where someone overwrote their production database and put the company out of business in seconds. Proactively saying to your boss that you want to prove you're doing your job is a good thing to do.

Don't be a statistic, be a defender of your company's data. You're the FPF. Act like it and test those guns already.

Related resource: Podcast with W. Curtis Preston

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W. Curtis Preston compares CDP to traditional backup in this podcast.
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About this author: W. Curtis Preston (a.k.a. "Mr. Backup") has been singularly focused on data backup and recovery for more than 15 years. From starting as a backup admin at a $35 billion-dollar credit card company to being one of the most sought-after consultants, writers and speakers in this space, it's hard to find someone more focused on recovering lost data. He is the webmaster of BackupCentral.com, the author of hundreds of articles, and the books "Backup and Recovery" and "Using SANs and NAS."

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