Life as a backup administrator: A before-and-after story

By August 28, 2019 Legacy Challenges

The life of a backup administrator is all about data. Storing data, protecting data, managing data, and of course, restoring data (quickly) when needed.

So why does data need so much protecting? What is the threat? Data has many predators, including nature (fire, flood, lightning, tornado, hurricane) and humans (cyber-attacks, disgruntled employees, and good old-fashioned mistakes), just to name a few. The process of protecting the precious data while making it easily accessible to all who need it is a complex job. 

In my life as an IT professional, and specifically as a backup administrator, I have a clear before-and-after story.

The “before” part of my story is one I think many of you will recognize. It took place when I worked as a backup administrator for a health services company, where it was my responsibility to set up and maintain the backup server environment. This job included selecting the backup software and working with the vendor to define and purchase the hardware along with the correct version of the operating system required to run the software. Once all the parts arrived and were assembled, it was time to install and register the operating system, verify the hardware maintenance contract, download the most current code to upgrade the operating system, install the backup software, register the backup software, configure the backup software (with guidance from an 847-page manual), and test the software by backing up the sparkling new backup server. In my company, we supported 1 backup server that protected 120 systems in the data center. (Very large organizations might have hundreds or even thousands of backup servers managing data loads over numerous locations.)

After the server was configured, it was time to install and register the software on the clients. This process required some quality time with the 117-page client configuration manual to determine how a single client should be backed up. Multiply that times the number of clients. The clients also had to be tested for proper function. Only then was the system finally ready for business and the data being backed up. At that point, I just needed to go to every server, every day, to check the log files and make sure everything went as planned. If I was lucky, the backup server software had a simple way to indicate a success or failure, but often that was not the case.

If a backup job failed, I had to log in to the client, check some log files, identify the reason for the failure, and correct the problem.

Additionally, there was an ongoing need to upgrade the server operating system, monitor for server hardware failures, upgrade the backup solution software, upgrade the server machine code (BIOS), distribute and upgrade the client software, and coordinate with the Help Desk for end-user issues and restore requests.

Never a dull moment, as the saying goes.

The “after” part of my story began when I learned about a different approach to backup – Cobalt Iron’s Compass. Sizing, configuring, and building servers was replaced with a plug-and-play server — or even a cloud server if I chose. The command line console I logged in to each day was replaced by a consolidated, easy-to-use web interface that I could access from any device anywhere in the world 24/7. 

Through this dashboard, I could quickly determine the cause of a failure, which could be as simple as an open file that got skipped. (In that case, the system would give me the full path and filename, of course). The dashboard also gave me troubleshooting steps, backup event details such as how much data was transferred on a client-by-client basis, and the ability to adjust the backup parameters (also on a client-by-client basis). From the dashboard, I could modify schedules, schedule emails to system owners when an event was missed or failed, and assign restricted report capabilities for business owners. 

And there’s more. From that same web interface, I could download code specific to the operating system of each client. As if that weren’t enough, the system installed and configured the code, then configured the services required. Updating all my client code was dramatically simplified compared to the process I followed in my “before” story. 

Finally, I eliminated several hours each day of hardware monitoring and maintenance, server software upgrades, web interface updates, server BIOS upgrades, server operating system upgrades, and client software upgrades. This new way of working eased the pressure of my daily activities and gave me the chance to take on some interesting new projects.

That, in a nutshell, is what Cobalt Iron is all about — taking the complexity out of data protection. Compass provides easy-to-use tools to monitor the health and status of data protection and a simple way to adjust the backup environment as needed.

However, that’s not quite the end of my story. I was so impressed by the Compass technology and the team that’s building it that I decided to join them. I now spend my days assisting companies who want to make that same transition from before to after. 

If you would like to learn more about simplifying your life as a backup administrator (or the life of a backup administrator you know), click here to read more.

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