Backup and ITaaS – Your Business Depends on It

While companies now understand that information drives their business, many have yet to consider the impact backup can have on their bottom line. IT organizations that drive a service-provider approach to backup can accelerate both IT and business initiatives. To deliver backup in an IT-as-a-Service (ITaaS) model, however, the team must transform both their approach and their technology.

Backup Matters to the Bottom Line

Why does backup matter to the business?

At a recent manufacturing conference, the head of a cosmetics factory lamented: “With my virtualized environment, IT can set up a new application in 48 hours. Everything is set up automatically in one hour… except backups. This delays everything, and that’s unacceptable.” Conversely, organizations with service-oriented backup teams innovate more quickly because everybody is confident that, even if something goes wrong, their data will be safe and accessible. Backup affects the velocity of IT and business.

IT organizations need a new service-provider approach. Unfortunately, legacy backup solutions tend to be architecturally monolithic, labor-intensive and absolutely centralized – the exact opposite of how to deliver anything as a service.

Attitude Is Everything

One step in transitioning to an ITaaS model is for the backup team to embrace a service provider mindset. This can be a huge shift for backup administrators who, for years, have had one mode of customer interaction: “What do you need backed up/restored? We’ll let you know what we can do.” As a result of this shift, backup teams worry about additional complexity, loss of environmental control and organizational irrelevance.

Moving to an ITaaS model requires the backup team to change its approach. DBAs want to run their own backups and recoveries. Storage teams want to use snapshots, clones, and replicas. Virtualization teams want virtual machine-specific protection tools. These teams want more control over protecting their data because it gives them confidence to accelerate their innovation. The backup team’s concern is that if all those teams run their own protection tools, the organization will be plunged into chaos.

In reality, it’s too late to try and stop the diversity of protection tools. When your backup team does an assessment, they’ll find that they don’t have to worry about losing control… because they already have. Every organization already leverages multiple protection technologies.

The backup team has a new mission: to be service providers to the business. As backup teams adjust to their new reality, they understand the expanded value they can bring to their customers – application teams, virtualization teams and end users. Their focus now is not IT-centric: “How can I force fit you into my one-size-fits-all monolithic backup solution?” but business-centric: “How can the backup team help you?” They can develop a catalogue of service offerings (e.g., central reporting, cataloging, replication, and management) aligned with business goals.

From Vision to Execution

How can the backup team deliver their value-added services to drive the business forward?

By shifting to an ITaaS-oriented protection storage architecture, the backup team can deliver the high-value services organizations need today while evolving to meet future requirements. This type of architecture leverages consolidated protection storage as a repository for the data; integrates across the IT environment (physical and virtual servers, applications, and storage); and is tied together with consolidated data management as a way to deliver a catalogue of services to application owners, business partners and other stakeholders.

While much of the focus to date has been on the consolidated protection storage layer, data management will become increasingly important as organizations look to deliver backup in the ITaaS model.

Data management services focus on visibility and value-added services. First, the backup team needs visibility across the environment. With a centralized view, the backup team can identify the challenges and opportunities for optimization across the environment. Visibility helps them understand their customers. Second, the backup team can then design and deliver the value-added services that the business needs.

Companies who have taken this type of approach can:

  • Deploy applications faster and more efficiently, while ensuring that they meet their SLAs – with consolidated protection reporting.
  • Scale globally, across distributed environments, and be confident in the safety of their information assets – with consolidated backup management.
  • Reduce costs by optimizing the capacity, performance, network bandwidth, and system management of their backup storage – with consolidated protection storage management

When this happens, backup stops being an organizational tax and becomes a service that accelerates business.

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About the Author: Stephen Manley