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Changing data backup software applications: Tips and recommendations

Are you getting ready to change data backup software applications? Make sure you read our tips and recommendations to prevent common problems.

Adopting a new data backup software application is not a task to be taken lightly. After all, when problems occur,...

your backups are your safety net, and you need to make sure that you are not put in a position in which you are forced to go without backups during the transition from one product to another. In this article, I will discuss some recommendations for making the transition to a new backup product.

Documentation is crucial when switching backup apps

Once you have determined you want to switch to a different backup application, the first thing that you should do is to begin documenting your current backup configuration. In other words, you need to make note of what gets backed up, how it gets backed up, when it gets backed up and where the backup is written to. This documentation is extremely important because you will need to ensure that your new backup application continues to back up all of the data that your old backup application was protecting.

Review your current backup strategy

Once you have documented your current backup configuration, now is the perfect time to decide whether or not you want to make any changes. Perhaps it would be more efficient to back up certain resources to a different

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tape, or maybe you want to start using some of encryption or compression features that you were not previously using. In any case, this is a good time to review your current backup strategy and determine whether or not any changes need to be made.

Coexistence

One of the most important factors in the transition process is ensuring that you continue backing up your data during the transition process. This can be trickier than it might seem. Most backup applications depend on agents, and you may find that you are unable to deploy both backup application's agents to the same server at the same time.

Before you even try to deploy the new backup application's agent to your protected servers, I recommend setting up a couple of test servers. Try backing up those servers with your old backup application. Now try installing the new backup application's agent. If the agent installs, find out if you can still back the server up. You need to be able to back the server up using either backup application (though not at the same time). You also need to ensure that the server remains stable if you uninstall the old backup application's agent.

Training and test labs

Another critical part of the transition process is training. Even if you don't opt for formal training, you should at least set up a test lab and experiment with the new backup application. You need to make sure that you know how to back up and restore network resources before you even think about putting the new backup application into a production environment.

Plan for long-term retention

Eventually, the day will come when you complete your transition to the new backup application, and your new application proves itself to be reliable. But that doesn't mean that you are done. You probably have several months worth of backups that were created using your old backup application, and odds are that the new application probably isn't going to be able to restore those backups should the need arise. Therefore, I strongly recommend keeping an instance of your previous backup application available until there is no longer any chance that the old backups will ever need to be restored.

One thing to take into account during the planning process is that if you have chosen to use your old backup server for the new backup application and you are forced to install your old backup application onto a spare computer, your service-level agreements may be impacted. Removing your backup application from the backup server could destroy your backup indexes. This doesn't mean that you can't restore a backup but it does mean that the restoration may take longer because the tapes need to be reindexed. You should therefore plan to keep your old backup application installed on its original server, or you should warn everyone ahead of time that restoring data from the old backup tapes may take longer than it normally would have.

As you can see, phasing out your backup application and adopting a new backup application is not a simple process. It is absolutely critical that you perform the transition in a way that ensures that network resources will not be left vulnerable to data loss during the transition process, and that means that you are going to have to do lots of planning and testing before the actual transition.

About the author: Brien M. Posey, MCSE, has previously received Microsoft's MVP award for Exchange Server, Windows Server and Internet Information Server (IIS). Brien has served as CIO for a nationwide chain of hospitals and was once responsible for the Department of Information Management at Fort Knox. You can visit Brien's personal website at www.brienposey.com.

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