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Five signs you need to replace your data backup software

Here's how you can take an objective look at your backup software and determine if it's time to replace it.

Managing daily operations such as troubleshooting failed backups, swapping tapes, recovering files, scheduling new backup jobs and patching your current backup software consumes all of a backup admininstrator's time. As a result, it makes it difficult to step back and objectively analyze whether or not your backup software is still the right fit for your company's data backup environment. If you find yourself in that situation, here are five signs that might indicate you need to replace your current backup software.

Your backup software has inadequate or no application integration for specific applications.

Applications like Microsoft Exchange, Microsoft SharePoint and Microsoft SQL Server each have hooks into Microsoft Active Directory and Windows Volume Shadow Copy Service (VSS). Meanwhile, Oracle has for several releases included a native Recovery Manager (RMAN) utility that backup software can call to provide more granular backups and recoveries of Oracle databases. Furthermore, these application-specific utilities are generally needed to create crash-consistent images of the application or database. Without this level of integration, even if the backup does complete, you have no assurance that you can recover the data. If you have these applications in your environment but the backup software doesn't natively support the applications' backup features or they are so difficult to implement that they are impractical to use, it's time to start for new backup software.

You are a jack-of-all-trades but master of none.

A problem in companies that are consolidating or merging is that a number of data centers may be consolidated into fewer physical locations. As this occurs, there may be several backup software products that have to be managed in the new consolidated environment. As a result, backup administrators are forced to try to manage and understand multiple backup applications but never become proficient in one. If you find yourself in this situation, identify the best one or two for your environment and eliminate the rest so you can broaden your skill sets and become more proficient in managing that storage.

Your backup software doesn't recognize and manage the software features on disk libraries.

Disk is evolving to become the de facto standard as the primary target and source for data recoveries. But disk libraries that host this data often have software features of their own. They may present a NAS or virtual tape library (VTL) interface to the backup software, offer data deduplication as a feature and some even handle the migration of backup data from disk to tape and back again. If your backup software can't recognize and manage the different features of your disk library or your backup software precludes you from bringing in the disk library you need, it's another sign your backup software is outdated.

You can't meet application recovery time objectives (RTOs) or recovery point objectives (RPOs).

Just because you can back up and recover your data faster it doesn't necessarily mean that you're recovering your data to the point in time required by the application owner. Backups generally only occur once a day and, depending on the type of backup executed (incremental, differential or full), it may require the backup software to pull data from multiple backup jobs to restore data to a point-in-time that is hours old. If the application RTO calls for recoveries within one hour and the RPO requires recoveries to within 15 minutes of when the failure occurred, you may need backup software that offers features like support for continuous data protection (CDP) or snapshots to meet these heightened application recovery objectives.

You are told, "You are the 35th caller in the queue. Your wait time is approximately two hours and 15 minutes."

No matter how great you think your backup software is, if you are on support calls for forever, the next patch never fixes the problem and the tech support guys on the phone know less about the product than you do, it's probably a clear sign that you are using the wrong product and need new backup software sooner rather than later.

About the author: Jerome M. Wendt is lead analyst and president of DCIG Inc.

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