Backup Is Broken – But Why?

“Well, at least you brought lunch.” – Every CIO’s reaction after I tell them we’re going to talk about backup.

Backup is broken. Backups are slow and restores are even slower. Even worse, application administrators assume they’re unprotected because they have no visibility into backup processes. To compensate for these limitations, IT teams deploy point data protection products. Snapshots, clones and replicas can improve backup and recovery performance while giving the data owners more control. However, they can also lead to internal chaos, which can have significant business and IT performance side-effects.

Executive indifference, not data growth, is the biggest challenge for data protection. Most CIOs and IT directors acknowledge that they spend too much money on their backups and that the services they offer are inadequate for the business, but they don’t see it as a strategic priority on the level of cloud, big data or mobile computing. They don’t see the connection between backup and business acceleration or deceleration, whatever the scenario.

Data protection matters to your business. It can accelerate application development, improve productivity and drive revenue… as some successful companies have discovered.

But It Can Be Fixed…

In my keynote at EMC World, I talked about three customers who have successfully leveraged data protection to accelerate their businesses. While I encourage you to watch the keynote to hear their full stories, the common themes were:

    • Connecting IT to the Business: Each success story began with a leader focused on transforming IT from a disconnected cost-center to a strategic business asset.Robert Dillard, Associate VP of Technology Services at Healthcare Realty Trust, had a mission – connect IT and the business. He renamed IT to Technology Services and translated the business’s needs into a clear goal: “Get the right data to the right people at the right time, in a fiscally responsible manner.”Great Western Bank hired Mike Strenge, a self-confessed technology neophyte, to be SVP of IT Infrastructure, because of his ability to connect to the business.When Teach for America hired Thomas Licciardello, VP, Technology Operations, he convinced the non-profit organization that technology could accelerate their mission. This was no small achievement, since nonprofits are usually synonymous with outsourcing and antiquated infrastructure.
    • Recognizing the Backup Problem: Initially, none of the leaders made data protection a top priority of the transformation process.Healthcare Realty Trust made a tactical investment in a “good enough” backup solution. They moved two weeks of backups to their standard SAN disk storage platform. As data growth accelerated, they could not store enough backup data on disk to service the recovery requests. As recovery performance slowed, so did application development and deployment; if you believe you’re unprotected, you become afraid to move.At Great Western Bank, Mike Strenge discovered that all the bank’s backups sat in a drawer, that successful recoveries were rare, and that his lead backup administrator was nearly ready for institutionalization from the stress.Teach for America paid an exorbitant monthly fee to protect data in 20+ remote sites. Meanwhile, in their data center, the DBAs stored Oracle dumps on whatever spare capacity they could find. When it came time to recover, however, they often discovered that somebody had unintentionally overwritten or destroyed their stash of backups. In short, backup was compromising their ability to deliver technology services to the business.
  • Accelerating the Business with a Data Protection Strategy: Rather than merely trying to band-aid the backup problem, all three leaders made data protection a strategic business priority.Healthcare Realty Trust created a comprehensive data protection solution – tying together backup, disaster recovery, and archive. The results: rapid access to data at any of their sites, confidence in the protection solution and accelerated application development. In other words, it allowed the company to get the right data to the right people at the right time, in a fiscally responsible manner.Great Western Bank completely transformed their protection environment – investing in best-of-breed technology instead of whatever-was-lying-around. This dramatically increased IT productivity and improved customer access to everything from check images to bank statements. The solution helps Great Western Bank grow by acquisition – they flip each new organization into their standardized, simple, scalable technology model in 48 hours or less!Teach for America consolidated their data center and remote office protection. They can afford to centralize all of their protection, which ensures that all of their teachers have access to the same technology services. Furthermore, the application administrators now know that they can get to their data when they need it, enabling them to develop tools and processes to help find and train the best teachers in the country. By investing in data protection, each company laid the foundation for accelerating IT and their business.

Data Protection Matters

While data protection may not be as high-profile as mobile computing or big data, it does matter to your business. As Healthcare Realty Trust, Great Western Bank and Teach for America demonstrate, the right data protection foundation can accelerate your other investments. But I understand your organization may have budget and energy for only a limited set of initiatives. So, you need to decide if it’s worth the investment. You can always start with lunch – I’m buying!

For more from Stephen Manley and all things backup and archive, check out his latest series on The Backup Window Blog.

About the Author: Stephen Manley