The new backup tools you can't live without

These tools monitor and report on backups across multiple vendors' backup products, and in doing so, ease the auditing process

Getting a charge out of backups

While that remains to be seen, heterogeneous backup-management software is turning into a salve for many other enterprise pain points. Take chargeback and billing, for example. Because the tools provide an enterprise view and offer customizable reporting, it's much easier for IT executives to figure out whose data is taking up how much backup space.

At CHP, Witsken intends to use a new reporting capability in the latest version of Bocada's backup-management software to institute a chargeback program for backup storage, he says. Because Bocada Enterprise 5.0, which began shipping in April, reports on server occupancy, Witsken will be able to use it for an at-a-glance view of how much data each business unit is occupying on the backup storage system, he says.

"We are responsible for a certain amount of data. So, if we set total occupancy on our server at [1TB]; anything over that we will be able to charge back to the customer," Witsken says, noting that CHP hopes to have a chargeback program implemented within six months.

At TD Banknorth, Frewin says centralized backup reporting has slashed the time it takes him to run a monthly virtual chargeback report from three days to a half-hour. While he doesn't use the reports for billing, he says they are critical in helping him understand the data center demographics. "The reports help me figure out on an annual basis what it costs to maintain the data-protection infrastructure and to assess how the business units are using those resources," he says.

Those assessments are quite useful for planning, Frewin says. "The reports highlight who my big users are, and so if I have a change that's coming up or some other data-centre activity, I know to look at the resources for those users first because they're the hardest to move. This doesn't necessarily mean they're any more or less important than others, but if you've got a job that runs longer, it's harder to move," he adds.

With the trend, use and volume reports he gets from his Command Central software, Frewin says he acts proactively rather than reactively. He also is beta-testing a stand-alone backup manager: Symantec's recently introduced Veritas Backup Reporter. The specialty software should give him more advanced reporting capabilities than the broader SRM package and help him grapple better with the company's capacity planning needs, Frewin says.

TD Banknorth is expanding its business rapidly, increasing its territory, customer base and types of services offered. As the business has grown, Frewin says he has witnessed 130% year-over-year growth in data backups.

"With a growth curve like that, I have to be able to plan when I'm going to need more equipment, know what backup windows are available, and readily put a finger on problems in the data protection and backup environment. I couldn't just write scripts manually like I used to do," he says.

Better troubleshooting also was a selling point about backup-management software for Peter Amstutz, chief of network design for the Defense Contact Management Agency (DCMA), in Virginia, U.S. "We wanted to take as much of the human element out of backups as possible," he says.

For that, he selected backup-management software from CommVault, CommNet Service Manager (until recently named QNet Service Manager).

Sophisticated backup management was a must if the agency was to benefit fully from its move from tape backups to disk, Amstutz says. That 100 per cent migration -- unusual as a full-out tape replacement -- occurred over four months beginning in October 2005. Today, two 64TB Network Appliance NearStore R200 Advanced Technology Attachment disk arrays house backup data at the agency's two main U.S. data centres, which support 11,000 users.

Data is replicated for off-site backups using NetApp's SnapMirror software, and backed up locally on disk using CommVault Galaxy. As of this spring, Mimosa Systems' NearPoint continuous data-protection software handles backups for the agency's Microsoft Exchange environment, Amstutz says.

"We set QNet up so that if any jobs fail, it notifies a local administrator. If a job fails more than three times, then it notifies a larger group, including supervisors. That's been quite effective," Amstutz says. A year into the new backup scenario, "we have just one person, on a very part-time basis, monitoring and controlling the entire backup infrastructure from one location," he adds. Previously, DCMA spent eight hours a week on average just handling tapes, he says.

Peace of mind

Perhaps the biggest benefit, however, is the peace of mind centralized, heterogeneous backup management brings. As Amstutz says: "I can certainly say that our backups are a lot more reliable now. Before we overhauled the backup infrastructure, we were very uncertain as to whether things were getting backed up at all -- and in some cases, we found that they actually weren't. Now we know for sure."

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